Vitamin A is an important, fat-soluble vitamin found in many types of food. It comes in two forms: retinol, which is mostly found in animal products, and provitamin A or beta-carotene, which is found in red, yellow, and some green fruits and vegetables.
Both of these types of vitamin A are available in supplement form, but research suggests that it is best absorbed with sources of dietary fats. Eating foods rich in vitamin A has been shown to be important for maintaining your reproductive health, your eyesight, and your immune system.
Why You Need Vitamin A
Vitamin A is essential for your health in a number of ways. Your body cannot produce vitamin A from scratch, which makes it an essential micronutrient. That means that you need to get this vitamin from your food. On average, adults need between 700 and 900 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin A every day to avoid a deficiency.
Vitamin A plays an important role in many body systems, including:
Vitamin A is so important to your eyes that it is also known as “retinol,” after the word “retina.” Sufficient Vitamin A intake helps maintain the health of your retinas and helps prevent age-related macular degeneration.
Your immune system is a complex collection of different cells that keep you healthy. Vitamin A plays a critical role in helping these cells communicate and regulate themselves effectively.
Vitamin A helps with multiple aspects of the human reproductive system. Getting enough of the vitamin in your diet helps prevent birth defects and reduces the risk of infertility for all genders.
Foods With Vitamin A
Many foods are rich in vitamin A, so it’s generally easy to get your daily requirement of this vitamin from your diet. These eight foods are some of the best sources of dietary vitamin A available.
Liver is the richest source of vitamin A outside of supplements. A single three-ounce serving of cooked liver contains as much as 6600 mcg of vitamin A, or more than 700% of your daily requirement. Liver is such an effective source of vitamin A that some sources recommend eating liver no more than once a week to avoid consuming too much of the vitamin.
Dairy in general is an excellent source of vitamin A on its own. In the US, though, many types of dairy milk are actually fortified with additional vitamin A. Depending on the dairy source, a single serving can have between 100 and 300 mcg of vitamin A.
- Sweet Potato
A single whole sweet potato contains an impressive 1400 mcg of vitamin A in its skin. That’s more than 150% of your daily requirement in a single serving. For people following plant-based diets, this makes sweet potato an invaluable source of vitamin A.
Spinach is known as a nutrient powerhouse for a reason. A single half-cup serving of spinach contains more than 570 mcg of vitamin A. Whether you’re eating it raw, in a smoothie, or cooked into a dish, spinach is a great way to get fiber and vitamin A at the same time.
Like many other orange foods, carrots are an excellent source of beta-carotene. A half-cup of raw carrots contains more than 450 mcg of vitamin A. This is part of the reason why carrots are touted as good for your eyesight.
All forms of yellow squash include some vitamin A, but pumpkin is king when it comes to this nutrient. A slice of pumpkin pie can have as much as 480 mcg of vitamin A, which is more than half your daily requirement.
When it comes to vitamin A, the color of your peppers matters. Red sweet peppers contain a significant amount of vitamin A, nearly 120 mcg in a half-cup serving. On the other hand, green peppers come in at only 18 mcg — a big difference. Swapping the color of peppers in your food is an easy change that has big nutritional dividends.
Vitamin A can break down when heated, so raw sources of this nutrient are important. Cantaloupe almost always consumed raw, so adding some of this melon to your diet can increase your vitamin A intake. A half-cup of cantaloupe has 135 mcg of vitamin A per serving.