A guy walks into a doctor’s office with a carrot in his ear and a piece of celery up his nose. The doctor told him he wasn’t eating right. Badum-bum.

Last week we looked at vitamin A’s uses and food sources. Although toxicity used to be rare, with the increase in supplements and topical creams that contain vitamin A, there is more of a risk for toxicity than previously thought.

Vitamin A comes from both animal and plant sources. The richest animal sources include organ meats such as turkey giblets and beef liver. Animal sources contain the true vitamin A which is easily and efficiently converted to its active form in the body. Plant sources contain provitamin A carotenoids which are also converted to active A in the body, but less efficiently.

When we think of carrots we often think “good vision” although it’s the night vision that gets the most benefits from a diet rich in vitamin A. However, carotenoids, even those that are not vitamin A precursors, do more than help us see at night. These brightly colored plant pigments act as powerful antioxidants in our bodies. And for the plant, the many colors of carotenoids aid the absorption of the sun’s rays. Each carotenoid color, along with chlorophylls, promote a greater wavelength of light absorption which translates into more potential energy for the plant. Additionally, this spectrum of colors attracts a variety of predators that ingest the plant and disperse the seeds.

Epidemiological studies have shown a positive relationship between dietary carotenoids and a decreased incidence of certain cancers. However, the same benefits have not been found when people with cancer are given beta-carotene supplements. For now, get your carotenoids from foods. The best plant sources of provitamin A alpha- and beta-carotene include canned pumpkin, sweet potatoes, spinach, collards, kale, carrots, beet greens and turnip greens. Beta-cryptoxanthin is also found in pumpkin, papaya, peppers, citrus fruit, carrots, corn, peaches and paprika.

For some tasty ways to eat right and get your “A” on, try these recipes.

To learn more visit Elizabeth’s Web site at www.TheKitchenVixen.com.

Salmon and sweet potato cakes

6 oz. sweet potato or yam (approx. 1 medium)

6 oz. canned or fresh, cooked salmon

3 large whole scallions or 1 shallot, finely diced

1 tbs. ground flax seed, plus 3 tbs. water (to create an egg replacer used for binding ingredients)

Grated zest of 1 lime, plus juice (use half here and half in the sauce)

2 tsp. Dijon mustard

2 tsp. paprika

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/2 cup cornmeal

Sauce 1/4 cup grapeseed based vegan or canola mayonnaise

2 tbs. Dijon mustard 1-2 tsp. fresh grated horseradish

1 tsp. each of chopped fresh rosemary, dill and mint

the other half of the fresh lime juice and zest

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix flax and water and set aside while preparing the other ingredients. Dice yams and steam sauté with a bit of water until soft, about 15 minutes. Stir often and add more water as needed. Place yams in a bowl to cool while you assemble other ingredients. Mix in salmon, scallions, mustard and half the zest and lime juice, plus salt and pepper to taste. Blend until well combined. Mash yams and add to mixture. Shape mixture into four cakes. Spread cornmeal over a plate. Dredge cakes in cornmeal to coat evenly. Lightly oil a baking sheet with canola oil or other high heat oil. Place fish cakes on baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Flip and bake 15 more minutes.

Combine ingredients for sauce. Serve a dollop with each salmon cake on a bed of spinach for additional provitamin A carotenoids.

Makes four servings. Per serving with sauce: 270 calories, 10g fat, 760mg Omega-3 fats, 15g protein, 30g carbs, 4g fiber, 127 percent DV for vitamin A 1275 RE or 4207 IU from carotenoids.

Split pea and pumpkin soup

2 cups dried split peas cooked with 6 cups water

32 ounces vegetable broth

1 onion

1 tbs. olive oil

2 (15 oz) cans Organic Pumpkin

4 tsp. dried tarragon

2 tsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. Jamaican Allspice

1/2 tsp. Cinnamon

1 cup almond milk or milk of your choice

Ground nutmeg to garnish

Add split peas and water to a medium sauce pot. Cover with a lid. Bring to boil. Cook until soft. In a large sauce pan on medium heat, add the oil and onions. Sauté until soft. Add the canned pumpkin and stir to heat. Add broth as needed to prevent from sticking. Add the tarragon, cumin, allspice and cinnamon. Add the split peas and any remaining liquid. Add the almond milk and stir to combine ingredients. Puree the soup with a hand blender or use the blender and puree in batches. Bring to a slow boil over medium low heat. Reduce the heat to low and let simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Serve warm and garnish with freshly ground nutmeg. Makes 16 cups. Per cup: 124 calories, 1.5g fat, 21g carbs, 9g fiber, 780 RE or 2574 IU vitamin A carotenoids.

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