Vitamin A is classified essential because it is critical for vision—it is a component of rhodopsin, a protein that absorbs light in the retinal receptors, and it supports the normal differentiation and functioning of the conjunctival membranes and cornea. Vitamin A also supports cell growth and differentiation, playing a critical role in the normal formation and maintenance of the heart, lungs, kidneys, and other organs; it helps your body manufacturer hormones and is needed in order to process the protein that you eat.
A low fat diet will deplete your bodies stores of Vitamin A because this is a fat soluble vitamin—it needs the fat in the gut with it in order to be absorbed. The good news, is that if you eat meat along with that fat that it came with before you trimmed it off you will be in perfect balance. As vitamin A is fat soluble, you need fat to make this happen – and this is why you should keep the skin on your chicken!
For example. Per 100g of chicken:
Breast meat without skin contains 21IU of vitamin A, but keep the skin on and you get a whopping 83IU.
Dark meat is better: 72IU even without the skin.
Livers are best: Chicken livers have a whopping 13,328 IU vitamin A!
Why do we trim the fat?
Good question. Ask Ansel Keys.
Keys pioneered the low-fat diet in the 1950s, and he did a ton of research around food and nutrition. Unfortunately, Key’s data was flawed, but nobody new that at the time and instead, it was assumed that fat in food was responsible for rising heart disease and obesity.
Since Western society adopted the low-fat myth, obesity has grown. This is because a diet low in fat and high in carbohydrates delivers lots of calories but little nutrition—and we all got addicted to sugar.
If you are interested in learning more about this: In Love Fat, I explain the historical evolution of today’s diet culture, and also introduce the studies that prove Ansel Key’s low-fat recommendations were erroneous.