Remember when your mom used to tell you to eat your carrots to make sure you could see well? The reason was because of vitamin A. Now as you’ll see, her kindly advice was a bit misguided, but the principal still applies. Without Vitamin A, you will have a much tougher time surviving when the SHTF.
Why vitamin A is one of your essential emergency supplies
Going back to mom’s advice, Vitamin A is essential for maintaining eyesight. The scientific term for Vitamin A is retinol, which is related to retina, the layer in the back of your eye responsible for allowing you to see. Without retinol, your retina cannot function properly. This starts to be noticed in the form of night blindness, but eventually can lead to blindness.
It’s especially important for children under the age of 5, which need it for their growing bodies. Vitamin A deficiency affects 1/3rd of children worldwide and leads to an estimated 670,000 deaths and the blindness of up to 500,000 more. If you plan to survive with young children, it’s critical that vitamin A is one of your emergency supplies.
In addition to vision, Vitamin A plays a number of other roles in the body. It plays a big part in cellular health, which affects immune function, bone metabolism, and even the creation of blood cells. The fact that it was one of the first vitamins discovered is a testament to it’s visible effect on overall health.
Different forms, different sources
Brace yourself, this section is going to contain some biochemistry. As we mentioned before, the pure form of Vitamin A is retinol, which is actually an alcohol. This is not a stable form found in nature so the form you would consume is from a plant or animal source. The main animal source is retinyl palmate, found in fatty tissues and the main form found in plants is one of four types of carotene (derived from carrots, get it?).
The problem with carotene is that it is not readily converted into retinol within the body. Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin, which means it is stored in fat. The fatty retinyl palmate is much closer to retinol than the carotenes you will find in plants. In the absence of fats, the absorption of carotenes can be as low as 1/12, less than 10%!
The best way to supplement vitamin A, in home and in the field
With this in mind, there is a very easy way to supplement Vitamin A both at home and in survival situations. It is also, in my humble opinion, quite a delicious option. The best source of Vitamin A available to most people is eating liver.
Because Vitamin A is fat soluble, there is the ability for the body to store it in the fat and use it as needed. Because of this, it does not need to be taken every day. While there is a recommended daily allowance of 3,000IU, this could easily be converted into a weekly allowance of 20,000IU. This equates to about 300 grams of liver a week, or half a pound. I am basing these numbers off of beef liver but there is Vitamin A is the liver of any animal you could think of; including fish (think cod liver oil).
This jives very well with a bugout strategy of living in the wild. Vitamin A supplementation is tricky from a ‘pantry survival’ perspective because many of the plant sources simply aren’t absorbed as well as animal sources. As you know by now, all nutrients were not created equal. So if you plan on staying in one place, remember to keep hunting in mind, unless you plan on being a post-apocalyptic Ray Charles.