EAT THIS

As the days grow darker, eat vitamin A for a vision boost

Posted Nov. 04, 2013, at 9:46 a.m.

Whether you are a daylight saving time lover or hater, we fell back into standard time this past Sunday.

The federal government doesn’t require states to observe daylight saving time. Apparently we have Ben Franklin to thank or blame for thinking of the original concept. There has been a lot of research on whether daylight saving time is harmful or healthy, a time saver or energy sink, and whether our Circadian rhythm ever adjusts to the change.

For Mainers, the problem I see is fewer hours of daylight, which means less time to be outside walking, biking or playing. When people are inside for more hours in the evening, they tend to snack more and exercise less.

Many commuters are driving to work in the morning in the dark and coming home in the dark. This is good reason to be sure you are getting adequate vitamin A in your diet. If you don’t get enough, you are at an increased risk of having vision problems, as well as getting infectious diseases. Large doses of vitamin A should be avoided, however.

Two types of vitamin A are found in the diet. Preformed vitamin A is found in animal products such as meat, fish, poultry and dairy products. The other type of vitamin A is called pro-vitamin A and is found in plant-based foods such as fruits and vegetables. Beta-carotene is the most common form of pro-vitamin A.

Vitamin A helps keep skin healthy, as well as teeth, the skeletal system, soft tissue and mucus membranes. Vitamin A also is known as retinol because it produces the pigments in the retina of the eye, and promotes good vision especially in low light.

Food sources of beta-carotene include many fall vegetables that you may have just harvested from your garden. Carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, winter squash, and bright yellow and orange fruits such as cantaloupe, pink grapefruit and apricots will provide beta-carotene. Green vegetables such as broccoli, spinach and most dark green, leafy vegetables are also good sources. Usually the more intense the color of a fruit or vegetable, the higher the beta-carotene content. Aim for at least four servings of high-beta-carotene fruits or vegetables a week.

The recommended dietary intake for vitamin A is as follows: Females 14 and older require 700 micrograms per day and males 900 mcgs; children ages one to three require 300 mcgs, ages four to eight require 400 mcgs, and nine to 13 require 600 mcgs.

Wondering what to do with leftover pumpkins the children didn’t carve up? Try this

recipe.

Baked Stuffed Pumpkin

from Country Living Magazine

Makes 4 servings

4 ounces sweet Italian sausage

½ cup chopped onion

1-1½ pounds pumpkin, peeled, seeded, and cut into ¾-inch pieces

½ cup chopped Granny Smith apples

¼ cup white wine

1 cup Israeli couscous, cooked

¼ cup dried cranberries

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon fresh thyme

1 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper

4 small (1-pound) pumpkins, hollowed out

Make the stuffing: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove casings from sausage and crumble the meat and place it in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook the sausage until it is almost done, about 8 minutes. Remove the sausage from the pan, increase heat to medium, and add the onion and 2 cups of the chopped pumpkin. Saute until the pumpkin begins to soften, 5-7 minutes. Add the chopped apple and sausage and saute for 3 minutes. Add the wine, cook for 2 minutes, remove from heat, and set aside.

Combine the couscous, dried cranberries, olive oil, thyme, oregano, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Add meat mixture to the bowl and toss to combine.

Bake the pumpkins: Evenly fill the hollowed-out pumpkins with the stuffing mixture and place the pumpkins in a shallow baking dish. Cover the dish with aluminum foil, bake for 25 minutes, remove the foil, and bake for 10 more minutes. Serve immediately.

Nutrition information: 4 servings, each serving 280 calories, 12 grams fat, 480 milligrams sodium, 33 grams carbohydrate, 8 grams protein

Georgia Clark-Albert is a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes educator at Penobscot Community Health Care in Bangor. She provides nutrition consultant services through Mainely Nutrition in Athens. Read her columns and post questions at bangordailynews.com or email her at GeorgiaMaineMSRDCDE@gmail.com.

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