Vitamin A: Benefits and Food Sources of this Essential Nutrient

Have you ever heard the saying an apple a day keeps the doctor away? Well, when it comes to vitamin A, you could say a cup of carrots a day keeps the ophthalmologist away. Carrots are a rich source of vitamin A, an umbrella term referring to important fat-soluble compounds called retinoids that are essential for maintaining eye health*. The benefits of consuming an optimal amount of vitamin A don’t stop there, though. This essential vitamin is also involved in supporting the immune system, normal fetal development during pregnancy, and skin health*. 

Class of apricot and carrot juice, both of which are high in vitamin A

Food sources of vitamin A

There are two different types of vitamin A found in food: preformed vitamin A, and provitamin A carotenoids. Preformed vitamin A is found in animal products, whereas provitamin A is present in plants. Both forms of vitamin A are found in varying amounts within a wide range of foods, such as:

  • Beef liver
  • Sweet potatoes, winter squash, carrots, bell peppers
  • Spinach and other dark leafy greens
  • Cantaloupe, pink grapefruit
  • Tuna, herring, salmon
  • Ricotta cheese

Foods classified as an excellent source of any nutrient must contain at least 20 percent of the recommended daily value of the nutrient in question, per serving size. Good sources, on the other hand, contain between 10 – 19 percent of the recommended daily value.

To put this into context, 1 sweet potato would be considered an excellent source of vitamin A, as it contains a whopping 156 percent of the daily value, whereas 1 mango would be considered a good source of vitamin A, as it contains 12 percent of the daily value. 

Our favorite vitamin A rich food sources

Wild Planet Canned Wild Pink Salmon, an excellent source of vitamin A

Wild Planet, Wild Pink Salmon

Wild Planet cans their Alaskan salmon while fresh rather than freezing it first, resulting in a superior flavor when compared to other canned seafood, which sometimes tastes overpoweringly fishy. They also score bonus points for minimally cooking their salmon and canning it in its natural juices, ensuring that essential nutrients, such as vitamin A, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin D, are retained. 

Read the Labl, Marinara Plus

Read the Labl, Marinara Plus

You would be hard-pressed to find a more nutrient-dense marinara sauce than Read the Labl offers. One serving of this delicious sauce contains over 30% of the Daily Value for vitamins A, C, D, B6, niacin, and manganese. Plus, there is no added sugar included, which can be difficult to find in a store-bought marinara sauces. 

Amazing Grass, Super Greens Booster

Amazing Grass, Super Greens Booster

Are you looking to add an extra boost to your smoothies? If so, Amazing Grass’s Green Superfood powder is an excellent option. This blend contains concentrated amounts of kale, wheatgrass, moringa, and spirulina, making it an easy way to sneak in some extra micronutrients.

Dole Fruit Bowls, Red Grapefruit Sunrise

Dole Fruit Bowls, Red Grapefruit Sunrise

These fruit bowls are perfect as a light and refreshing snack. Filled with sweet red grapefruits and 100% juice, rather than syrups and sugars often found in fruit cups, they can be added to a packed lunch, taken to eat on-the-go, or simply enjoyed at home anytime.

Libby’s, Sliced Carrots

Libby’s Sliced Carrots

Sometimes the biggest obstacle to eating more vegetables is the work it takes to chop and prepare them. One way to solve this problem altogether is to purchase canned carrots. Simply open the can, transfer the carrots to a bowl, and microwave until warmed through – voila! You’ve got a side of veggies to enjoy with any meal of your choice.

Explore all of our food recommendations for vitamin A on our Food Guide here!

Recommended intakes vary with age, gender, and pregnancy or lactation status. Women aged nineteen or older are recommended 700 mcg of vitamin A/day, unless they are pregnant or lactating, in which case they are recommended 770 mcg/day and 1,300 mcg/day, respectively. Men aged nineteen or older are recommended 900 mcg of vitamin A/day. 

Absorption rates

The reason why combining a foundation of nutrient-dense food sources with personalized supplementation is critical is because food sources of vitamin A offer anywhere between a 10 – 90 percent absorption rate. This variability in absorption is down to a number of factors, such as growing conditions, weather, the timing of harvest, storage conditions, and natural variation. Not only that but your personal absorption rate is dependent on a variety of factors including your age, gender, activity level, diet, and more.

Our vitamin A

The kind of vitamin A supplement matters in order to get the most benefit.

The form of vitamin A supplement we use is a combination of 50% retinyl palmitate and 50% beta carotene.

Those 2 compounds have different absorption rates, which also vary with fat content of the diet. There is lower absorption when fat intake is low. It is also affected by the dietary intake of vitamin A. The higher the dietary intake, the lower the absorption rate of the supplemental nutrient. With a “normal” diet, retinol absorption has been estimated at around 50%, while beta-carotene at about 16%.

Stop guessing, start measuring.

TAP device on arm for blood collection. Test your vitamin A blood levels with Baze.

Wondering what your vitamin A nutrient levels are? Get your Baze Nutrient Test delivered to your door, subscribe to monthly supplement deliveries, and map your results to food products in the Baze Food Guide!

Disclosure: The links in the Baze Food Guide are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, Baze will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. All opinions are our own and based on our registered dietitian criteria.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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