Vitamin A is a fat-soluble nutrient that plays an essential role in numerous bodily functions. It’s good for healthy skin, bones, vision, and the immune system and is essential for growth and development. Although important to overall health and well-being, the human body cannot make vitamin A, and it must be obtained through diet.
Vitamin A naturally exists in many foods we eat, but it can also be consumed through vitamin A supplements. In this article, we take a closer look at the best vitamin A foods to eat to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Different Types of Foods High in Vitamin A
There are two types of vitamin A you can get from food:
Preformed vitamin A: This is an active form of the vitamin that can be used as-is. It’s found in animal products, like meat, fish, poultry, and dairy produce.
Provitamin A: This is an inactive form of the vitamin found in plant-based foods, like fruit and vegetables. The compounds are converted to an active form in the body.
Preformed vitamin A does not need to be converted to become active since it’s “preformed.” This group of compounds is known as retinoids. On the other hand, Provitamin A is a precursor to the vitamin; this group of compounds is known as carotenoids.
Preformed vitamin A does not need to be converted to become active since it’s “preformed.” On the other hand, Provitamin A is a precursor to the vitamin.
As discussed above, there are a few different types of vitamin A-rich foods. However, many packaged foods contain excess salt, sugar, and fat, all of which could have a negative impact on our health. Following a plant-based diet is a good way to eliminate these concerns.
That said, it’s still important to ensure you’re getting a good balance of nutrients. Fortunately, there are plenty of fruits and vegetables high in vitamin A.
How Much Vitamin A Should You Take?
Before we look at where to find vitamin A, we need to discuss how much of the vitamin you should consume on a day-to-day basis.
The recommended daily allowance of vitamin A is 900 mcg for men and 700 mcg for women. The daily value (DV) is often reported on nutrition labels as IU (International Units), equating to 3,000 IU for men and 2,300 IU for women. It’s important not to exceed 3,000 mcg (10,000 IU).
As a fat-soluble nutrient, vitamin A is more efficiently absorbed when fat is included in your diet. Since animal-sourced foods that are high in vitamin A also usually have a high-fat content, they’re generally believed to be a better source of the vitamin than plant sources.
However, you can improve the absorption of vitamin A obtained from plant sources by adding a dash of oil to your meal.
Vegetables High in Vitamin A
The body produces vitamin A from carotenoids found in plants. The most well-known carotenoids include beta-carotene and alpha-carotene, and as a group, these compounds are known as provitamin A.
Here is our list of vegetables with vitamin A that can make a good addition to your daily diet.
Rich in antioxidants and beta-carotene, carrots are an excellent source of vitamin A. One cup of cooked carrots is said to provide 1,329 mcg (148% DV) of the vitamin. This is part of the reason carrots are touted as being good for your eyesight.
One cup of baked sweet potatoes contains 1,096 mcg (122% DV) of vitamin A. Sweet potatoes are also low in calories, high in fiber, and rich in vitamin B6, vitamin C, and potassium, making them an excellent addition to most diets.
All forms of squash contain some vitamin A, but butternut is particularly rich in the vitamin. You can expect 1,144 mcg (127% DV) per one cup serving of the vegetable. Butternut is also high in fiber and potassium and may help lower blood pressure.
There’s a good reason spinach is considered a nutrient powerhouse. A one-cup serving of spinach contains 943 mcg (105% DV). Whether you consume it raw, in a smoothie, or cooked, spinach is an excellent source of both fiber and vitamin A.
Red Bell Peppers
Red bell peppers contain a considerable amount of vitamin A, with 198 mcg (22% DV) per one-cup serving. It’s worth noting that the color of your pepper matters because green peppers only contain 18 mcg of vitamin A.
Fruits High in Vitamin A
Typically, vitamin A is more abundant in vegetables than fruit. However, there are a few kinds of fruit that provide significant amounts of the vitamin.
Here are some vitamin A-rich fruits that can be added to your diet.
Mangos are a fantastic source of vitamin A, vitamin C, minerals, and fibers. One medium-sized mango reportedly contains 181 mcg (20% DV) of vitamin A.
One cup of chopped-up cantaloupe provides 299 mcg (33% DV) vitamin A. It’s also loaded with vitamin C, potassium, and magnesium. Thanks to the high water content, cantaloupe is also known to boost hydration.
Grapefruit is packed with both vitamin A and vitamin C. One cup of cut-up grapefruit is said to provide 133 mcg (15% DV) of vitamin A. The fruit is rich in antioxidants and is, therefore, great for boosting immunity.
Dried apricots provide a more concentrated form of vitamin A compared to fresh apricots. One medium-sized apricot contains 34 mcg (4% DV), and 100 grams delivers 96 mcg (11% DV) of the vitamin.
Watermelon is a deliciously sweet fruit bundled with vitamin A. One wedge of the fruit offers approximately 80 mcg (9% DV) of the vitamin.
Summary on Vitamin A Foods
There are tons of options when it comes to vitamin A sources. Both animal products and plant-based items contain the vitamin, which means that no matter what kind of diet you follow, you should be able to get sufficient amounts of vitamin A.
Animal products and plant-based items contain vitamin A, so no matter what kind of diet you follow, you should be able to get sufficient amounts.
It’s a little more tricky on a plant-based diet, though, since the vitamin is more easily absorbed when eaten with fat. If you are vegan and find that you’re suffering from vitamin A deficiency, you may want to consider adding supplements to your daily health regime.