Q: Can a person get enough vitamin A from milk, fortified cereal and other sources without eating dark green and orange vegetables?
A: You could get all the vitamin A you need without vegetables at all. But carotenoid compounds – beta-carotene, alpha-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin – found in dark green and orange vegetables are important for more than making vitamin A in the body. These vegetables have antioxidant compounds that can protect our cells from highly reactive “free radicals” that could damage cells and lead to cancer, heart disease and other health problems. In addition, dark green vegetables are a major source of folate, a B vitamin with many health-protective functions. Dark green and orange vegetables are one part of what you need for good health: these and other vegetables and fruits provide nutrients Americans need more of like potassium, a mineral that can help control blood pressure. They also supply a host of phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are natural compounds found in plant foods that seem to block several steps in cancer development. Regardless of where else you get vitamin A, aim for at least five servings every day of a variety of vegetables and fruits, and then add more for additional health and weight control benefits.