Thursday, December 1, 2011

Day 1: Vitamin A or Beta Carotene

So today starts with Day 1. Here's what I had:
6 carrots juiced
1 whole head cabbage juiced
5 green apples blended with juice from above added with:
big handful spinach
a couple leaves of kale
2 cups frozen strawberries
several sprigs of mint
whole head of parsley

5 bananas and one head of broccoli-lunch

blended soup of:
1/2 head of cauliflower
1 pint cherry tomatoes
5 sprigs of fresh basil
1 tsp sunflower seeds sprinkled on top
2 red bell peppers sliced and dipped into soup

handful of brazil nuts

A little later:

Smoothie of:
4 bananas
4 kale leaves
juice of one head cabbage
handful of spinach
a few sprigs of mint

I tell you, it was a Vitamin A kinda day! I got up at 7:10am and made myself the smoothie, drank it and then hopped on the treadmill for 1/2 hour. I got into the shower, grabbed my bananas and went to work around 9:30am.

I ate my bananas spread out during the day, but I was hungry by the time I got home at 7pm and probably ate too many brazil nuts on the drive home before my home made soup.

Each day I will be talking about a different nutrient and it's importance in health and how to get enough of it.

Today we are starting with Vitamin A--'cause "A" is the first letter in the alphabet. :)

Vitamin A can be fully formed, or in it's precursor, betacarotene, which the body converts into Vitamin A in the body.

Vitamin A is important to eyesight and can prevent night blindness. In fact, the slice of a carrot even looks
like an eyeball:

Vitamin A is an anti-oxidant, which helps protect the body from free radicals and oxidation. It also helps keep the skin supple and beautiful and prevents dry skin and hair.

Large amounts of synthetic Vitamin A can be toxic--it is a fat soluble vitamin which means it can be stored in the fat cells--however, betacarotene found in orange foods and dark leafy greens does not have this effect in the body.

The US Recommend Daily Allowance of Vitamin A is 5000. On a raw vegan diet, you can get WAY more. However, it is possible on a raw diet and a cooked vegan diet to not get enough and here's how:

Beans have ZERO vitamin A or betacarotene. This includes soybeans.

Nuts have ZERO vitamin A.

Grains have ZERO vitamin A. (All these foods also have zero vitamin C as well, but more on that in the Vitamin C blog)

So, if you are following a raw diet or vegan diet and are eating mostly beans, oatmeal, rice, wheat, pasta, and nut pate's, and not including orange fruits or dark leafy greens or are fruitarian and eating certain fruits exclusively and not a variety,--you are setting yourself up for a deficiency.

What foods are high in Vitamin A?

One Sweet potato: 38,433 .
One head romaine lettuce: 54,530
One Mango: 1262
1 cup of Spinach: 2464

If we are doing a mono-diet, however, or a fruitarian diet with no greens, we need to be very careful about our selections.

Bananas have only 87 per banana.  We would have to eat 57 bananas a day in order to get our RDA of Vitamn A. If we ate only oranges, then we'd have to juice 255 to get our day's amount.
Persimmons, being an orange food, offer 2733 and canteloupe, another orange fruit gives us 18,670 probably the most of all fruits. Papaya has 1531 per cup. Watermelon has 1627 (one wedge).

Red bell pepper's are higher, and one cup provides 4666, almost a day's worth, and 1 cup of tomato offers 2364.

When you think vitamin A, however, think CARROTS and think GREENS. They are the power storehouses of this vitamin and a host of many more as we will find out in coming days.

6 juiced carrots offers a whopping 72168.
 4 cups chard (put in a smoothie) is 8808.
4 cups kale is 41208
1 head iceburg lettuce (Yes! Iceburg): 3790
1 head romaine: 54530
1 cup broccoli: 2130
1 head cabbage: 890
1 head butter lettuce: 5399
1 head red leaf lettuce: 23152
1 head green leaf lettuce: 26655
1 cup turnip greens: 6372
1 cup collards: 2400
1 cup mustard greens: 5881
1 cup dandelion greens: 5588
1 cup beet greens: 2404
1 cup lamb's quarters: 15000

To be fair, we need to compare these foods with animal foods and junk foods. Here goes:

1 Steak: 0
Chicken: 72
Salmon: 79
eggs: 797

bacon: 2.9
toast: 0
hashbrowns: 0
butter: 475
protein isolate: 0
cream cheese: 202
ranch dressing: 30
soy yogurt: 0
pizza hut spaghetti: 2000
burger king cheese burger: 300
ham and cheese sandwich: 320
bagel: 0
bran flakes cereal: 750
old fashioned oat meal: 0
pizza hut pepperoni pizza: 750

So I hope it's become clear to you that you can eat a fruitarian diet of only mono-oranges or bananas and actually get LESS vitamin A than if you ate a Pizza Hut Pepperoni Pizza. Granted, you would be getting a lot of unwanted fat and cholesterol with the pizza, but it's important to not focus on the macro nutrients only when making food choices.

Vitamin A is only one of the vitamins and it does need fat in order to be absorbed well.

According to crono-meter, my diet today netted me: 96040 Vitamin A and 2785 in calories. Whoa!

I got all my recommend Daily Allowance for all vitamins and minerals except one: Sodium. All the other vitamins and minerals were way over 100%. My Omega 3's were about 8% short which can be easily corrected with a tablespoon of flax added to my smoothies, which I do regularly, just not today.

I am not worried about the sodium as I think we get way too much sodium as it is.

I hope this exercise was eye-opening to you and useful. I plan to continue writing each day on each individual nutrient so you can compare what you are getting in foods you regularly put into your mouth.

I found this exercise very powerful when I did it at home and it's changed forever the way I look at food.

I will never again eat pasta or white rice as they offer ZERO nutrition.

Just as we want to put optimum fuel in our car gas tanks, we also want to put optimum fuel in our bodies.
Empty calories means just that: there's lots of the macro nutrients like fat, protein and carbs, but none of the other, equally important stuff. Don't short change yourself.

If you are cooked vegan, meat-eaters can look and feel healthier than you if you do not include greens, orange fruits and sweet potatoes on a regular basis. Since we know that vegan diets are plant-based and are healthier, be a good example for your cause by not just by what you give up, but also with what you replace it with. Donuts and soy burgers are not high nutrition. Compassion for the animals needs to be balanced with compassion for yourself.

Just like you would never feed white bread to your cat or dog (or at least you shouldn't) don't put it inside yourself.

You deserve the BEST and fruits and vegetables are the best there is.

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