Vitamin A, also known as retinol, is an essential nutrient and antioxidant needed for a healthy immune system. Retinol is a fat-soluble nutrient, which means it can be stored by the body and released gradually, so it does not need to be replenished every day. The human body can also convert beta-carotene, the pigment found in many brightly-colored fruit and vegetables, to vitamin A. Why You Need Vitamin A Vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant that is needed for many different functions in the body, including healthy eyesight, bone development, and protection of the skin and other tissues. Deficiency can lead to night blindness, vision loss and impairment of the immune system. One of the most important roles of this crucial nutrient is to keep the immune system working properly. If the immune system is compromised or fails to respond properly, the body is less able to fight off infections and prevent illness or disease, which can lead to serious health problems. Antioxidants also help to prevent damage to the cells caused by a range of factors, including sun exposure and environmental pollutants. Sources of Vitamin A Vitamin A can be found in a variety of meat, fish and dairy products, including liver (if you’re game), oily fish (sardines, salmon, etc.), eggs, cheese, yogurt and milk. Vegetarians and vegans need to eat plenty of foods rich in beta-carotene, which the body can then convert and use in a similar way to retinol. Beta-carotene can be found in red or yellow fruit and vegetables, such as carrots, capsicum, sweet potatoes, apricots and mangoes. Beta-carotene can also be found in leafy green vegetables, such as spinach and kale. Eating lots of foods rich in beta-carotene, particularly carrots, can lead to skin that has an orange appearance, but it should return to normal once you reduce your intake of beta-carotene. Most people can actually get enough vitamin A from a normal, healthy diet and do not need supplements. Vitamin A is needed for a healthy immune system, good eyesight, and many other important functions. However, it’s important to note that excess intake can harm unborn babies and has been linked to other serious problems, including an increased risk of bone fractures in later life. Therefore, taking a Vitamin A supplement should be avoided unless advised by a doctor. Stay healthy into spring with a healthy, balanced and nutrient rich diet!