Welcome to a brand new series, where we look at cooking and your diet from a different perspective. Usually we emphasize the health benefits of food and how they can be incorporated into your diet. But, what happens if you do NOT include them in your diet.
We wanted to share with you what happens if your body is deprived of individual nutrients over an extended period of time.
Thankfully most of us eat reasonably well, with plenty of variety, but if you take a look at a week’s worth of meals, do you find that you are sticking to a handful of foods, all the time.
Variety is key to good health, to provide your body with as broad a spectrum of nutrients as possible that the body needs. Taking a supplement or relying on shakes and bars to provide your daily allowance of vitamins and nutrients is not in your body’s best interest. Giving it foods that the body can process and extract everything it needs is vital.
Over the next few months we are going to be working our way through the most essential of these nutrients and I will share the symptoms that you might experience if you are becoming deficient in the vitamin or mineral and list the foods where you can find the nutrient.
Carol Taylor is then going to provide you with some wonderful recipes that make best use of these foods... Cooked from Scratch.
Before we cover the first vitamin today…. a little bit about the difference between fat soluble and water soluble vitamins.
WATER SOLUBLE VITAMINS.
These include all the B vitamins, vitamin C as well as Folic Acid. They are not easily stored in the body and are often lost in cooking or by being eliminated from the body. This means that they must be consumed in constant daily amounts to prevent deficiencies. In the case of Vitamin C this could lead to poor immune system function and if you are deficient in the B vitamins you will not be able to metabolise the fat, protein and carbohydrates that you eat.
FAT SOLUBLE VITAMINS.
These vitamins include A, D, E and K. Because they are soluble in fat they tend to be stored in the body’s fat tissues, fat cells and liver. This means that they should be supplemented with care if you are already taking in plenty on a daily basis in your diet. In excess even supposedly beneficial nutrients can be toxic and this is why you always should adjust your diet first before taking in additional supplements.
A good place to start is with Vitamin A – Beta Carotene.
What is Vitamin A – Beta Carotene is essential for?
Vitamin A is essential for our healthy eyesight, especially at night, hence the name retinal from retina. The retina contains rod cells and these contain pigments that can detect small amounts of light and therefore adapt the eye to low-light or night vision or are responsible for our day time vision. Vitamin A is particularly necessary for the synthesis of rhodopsin the photo-pigment involved in night vision.
Vitamin A also helps ensure that our cells reproduce normally. It is necessary for the health of our skin, the mucus membranes in our respiratory system, digestive and urinary tracts. Our bones and our soft tissues require Vitamin A as part of the complex nutrient cocktail that keeps them from disease.
For younger people, Vitamin A has a direct influence on their reproductive capabilities. It has been shown to have an effect on the function and development of sperm, ovaries and the placenta. The growth and normal development of the embryo and then the foetus depends on a good level of the vitamin in the diet.
Our immune system is our first line of defence and it requires a combination of anti-oxidants and nutrients to be robust enough to cope with the stress of modern life and disease. Vitamin A is vital for this protection system as it stimulates the function of white blood cells within the immune system, encourages the production of antibodies to fight infection as well as increase our antiviral abilities.
It is rare to find a lack of the nutrient in someone with a varied and balanced diet but here are some of the of the symptoms of Vitamin A deficiency.
1. Dry flaky skin and related conditions such as eczema.
2. Dry eyes and difficulty in producing tears and cornea damage in certain countries where deficiency is common it can lead to night blindness and also total blindness.
3. Infertility problems for both men and women and a possible link to miscarriages.
4. A vitamin A deficiency in pregnancy can lead to developmental issues for the fetus.
5. Children who have a deficiency usually exhibit stunted growth but need to take with other nutrients to benefit from supplementation.
6. Frequent infections, particularly of the throat and chest are a sign that there is a Vitamin A deficiency.
7. The elderly or those with a compromised immune system, may be deficient in several nutrients, but Vitamin A deficiency is likely to lead to more severe respiratory infections, such as pneumonia.
If you feel that you are exhibiting the above symptoms moderately to severely then I do suggest you talk to your doctor and have a blood test.
As always it is better to consume foods that contain nutrients in a form that the body can process and use. However, where there is a severe deficiency, a supplement can also be taken to help restore the correct balance in the body.
Best food sources for Vitamin A – The most abundant source of the vitamin is found:
- fish liver oils,
- grass fed dairy butter,(cattle’s natural food is grass not grain or corn)
- free range eggs
- oily fish.
Beta carotene is the substance from plants that the body converts to Vitamin A and the best sources are:
- sweet potatoes,
- green leafy vegetables,
- orange and red coloured vegetables,
- cantaloupe melon,
I am now handing over to Carol Taylor who has devised some easy to prepare recipes to ensure you are getting sufficient Vitamin A – Beta Carotene.
A new series on Smorgasbord Health and one which I am looking forward to providing the recipes for I hope you enjoy them. Not all meals need to be made from ingredients straight out of the shopping basket. Most of us have leftovers in the fridge or freezer, such as pasta, cooked vegetables, scraps of meat etc. And they can be utilised to make delicious meals that are just as nutritious.
Let’s make a Frittata.
• 4 Organic free range eggs
• 1 tbsp Olive oil
• 3 small cold potatoes sliced
• 1 small onion sliced
• A handful of spinach
• 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
• salt and pepper to taste
• 1/4 cup of milk
• Few mushrooms sliced
• Few slices salami or chorizo
• Grated cheddar cheese
- Add oil to heavy bottomed pan /skillet and add cooked sliced potatoes cover with lid or foil and cook until golden. If you are using uncooked potatoes then cook for about 10 minutes until tender but firm.
- Meanwhile cook the salami/ chorizo…I like mine a little crispy.
- Add onions and mushrooms and cook until onion softens.
- Add any other vegetables you are using I added sliced tomato and Thai spinach which has finer leaves than the spinach I used in the UK but you could add anything else finely sliced peppers, asparagus leftover cooked vegetables anything you fancy.
- Beat the eggs with milk and season well.
- Pour over your potatoes and vegetables and lower the heat.
- Add the grated cheese.
- Cook for 5-7 minutes until the eggs are set.
Turn out onto a plate and cut into portions. Serve with stir fried greens or red peppers, some sweet potato wedges or crusty bread.
Stir Fried Vegetables.
Before I came to Thailand I was absolutely the worst at making any stir-fry and they tasted awful…Learning how to cook the Thai way has been a revolution for me and taught me so much about cooking and tasting…
Stir fries are not as easy as they look… Thais eat a lot of stir fried vegetables and this is one such dish.
Stir-fried Morning Glory or Pad Pak Boon Fai Daeng is also known as water spinach…It is a very popular vegetable dish in Thailand. A very quick dish to cook once you have all your ingredients prepared…5 mins at the most.
• 1 bunch of Morning Glory (spinach)
• 4-6 cloves of garlic
• 3 or more Thai Chillies
• 2 tbsp of Oyster Sauce
• 1 tbsp of Thai Fish Sauce
• 1 tbsp of fermented soybean paste or oil with soya beans( Optional)
• 1 tsp sugar
• 1/2 to 1 tbsp of oil
• 1/4 cup fresh vegetable or pork stock
- Wash and cut your morning-glory/spinach into 4-6 inch pieces.
- Bash the chillies and garlic in a pestle and mortar
- Heat the oil in a pan until very hot.
- Add the garlic and chillies and stir-fry (stirring) for 15-20 seconds be careful not to let garlic burn.
- Add morning-glory/spinach and all other ingredients except for the vegetable stock.
- Stir-fry for 40 seconds and add vegetable stock and stir-fry for another 10 seconds.
N.B. Experiment with your own stir fries using any of the vegetables listed as good sources of Vitamin A.
Fish is another source of vitamin A.
Salmon is a fish that is packed with Omega 3 oils and Vitamin A as well as other vitamins…
It can be cooked in foil which is my preferred way and easy to do. Quick and easy to do and cooks while the rice is cooking…
• 180 gm Trout or Salmon fillet.
For the topping:
• 1 spring Onion finely chopped.
• 2/3 stems Coriander chopped finely… I use the stem as well.
• 1 red birds eye chilli finely chopped.
• 1 tbsp Fish Sauce.
• A cheek of lime.
- Mix all the ingredients together.
- Put fish on foil and spoon the topping on. I reserve some of the topping to add when serving.
- Seal foil and put in the oven on 180 for 10/15 mins until cooked.
This is lovely eaten with rice and some stir fried morning glory or spinach.
Sweet potatoes also contain Vitamin A and one of my favourite sweet potato recipes is this one…
Sweet Potato with feta, honey and roasted grapes.
• 4 baked sweet potatoes
• 2 cups of seedless red grapes
• 1 tsp of coconut oil or olive oil
• ¼ tsp salt and freshly ground pepper
• 4 oz of feta, goats cheese or ricotta
• Cinnamon and nutmeg to taste
• 2 tbsp honey plus more to drizzle.
- Put the 2 cups of grapes on a baking tray and drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper then roast at 350F for about 20 mins or until the skins start to burst…Make sure to check them as we don’t want them to burn.
- Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
- Take your cooked cooled sweet potato and gently remove the flesh as the skins are softer than normal white potatoes. I normally leave some of the flesh attached as it is easier and just scoop out the middle.
- In a bowl mash the potato with 3 oz of the goat’s cheese, honey, a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg, to taste then put the potato back in the skins and crumble some more goats cheese on top …
To serve: add the grapes and drizzle more honey if desired…
Some tips on how to enhance your dishes with Vitamin A.
When layering your lasagne, pop some spinach between the layers. If you have some picky eaters in the family who don’t normally eat green vegetables, they will hardly notice the spinach mixed with the cheese and tomatoes.
Stuffed peppers (and other vegetables) are another way to get your Vitamin A and easy to do…
Peaches in season are another good source of Vitamin A, and again there is nothing better than a lovely stuffed peach. Just mix some oats with brown sugar, cinnamon and diced butter fill the middle and bake until soft…To die for…
One of the best sources of Vitamin A… liver.
If your family are not keen on eating fried liver which is a great source of Vitamin A, make it into a lovely pate with some crispy melba toast or chopped red, green and yellow peppers…and just don’t mention it is liver.
• 220g/8oz butter.
• 4 shallots chopped.
• 2 cloves, crushed or finely chopped.
• 450g/1lb chicken Livers, trimmed and cut in half.
• 1 tbsp Brandy.
• 1 tsp mustard powder.
• salt and freshly ground black pepper.
• 1 bay leaf, to garnish.
• 2-3 fresh cranberries, to garnish.
- Melt 110g/4oz of the butter in a pan over a medium heat, then add the onion and fry until softened, but not coloured.
- Add the garlic and chicken livers and fry the livers until golden-brown all over and cooked through.
- Add the brandy and mustard powder and season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Place the liver mixture and 55g/2oz of the remaining butter into a food processor and blend until smooth. Season, to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
1. Transfer the pâté into a serving ramekin or small dish and decorate with a couple of cranberries and a bay leaf….. I use lime leaves as I cannot always get fresh bay leaves.
2. Melt the remaining 55g/2oz of butter in a clean pan. Skim off the froth and pour the butter over the pâté. Transfer to the fridge to chill, then serve from the ramekin when ready.
Mackerel and salmon also makes a lovely pates.
©Recipes Carol Taylor
However busy your lifestyle, your health has to come first. You can prepare many dishes in bulk, freezing a portion for the following week. And is eating the same meal two nights in a row really such a bad thing?
As Carol has demonstrated, including sufficient Vitamin A in your diet is very tasty, and all these foods do not just have Vitamin A but a combination of others that will contribute to your overall requirement.
Please join us again in two weeks for the next post in the series when we will be looking at all the ways you can introduce Vitamin B1 into your regular diet.
You can find out more about Carol and catch up with her Food and Cookery Column HERE
Connect to Carol via her blog: https://carolcooks2.com/
Additional images – Pixabay.com