Vitamin A is an essential nutrient that helps with vision, growth, and immune function. It’s also used to treat night vision problems, skin conditions like acne and psoriasis, and age-related macular degeneration.
In this article, we’ll discuss how to choose a vitamin A supplement, how much vitamin A you need each day, and what foods contain vitamin A.
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best vitamin a foods
Vitamin A is essential for overall health and well-being. Because the human body cannot make it, people must obtain this vitamin from their diet.
Vitamin A is an essential nutrient that plays a role in many bodily processes, includingTrusted Source:
- immune function
- healthy vision
- proper functioning of the heart, lungs, kidneys, and other organs
- skin health
- growth and development
In this article, we describe 14 of the best sources of vitamin A and the recommended daily intake.
1. Beef liver
Animal livers are among the richest sources of vitamin A. This is becauseTrusted Source, like humans, animals store vitamin A in the liver.
A 3-ounce (oz) serving of pan fried beef liver contains 6,582 micrograms (mcg)Trusted Source of vitamin A, which equates to 731% of the daily value (DV).
The DV allows people to easily compare the nutrient contents of different foods. It is a percentage based on the recommended daily intakes of key nutrients from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)Trusted Source.
As an organ meat, liver is high in protein. It also containsTrusted Source many other nutrients, including:
- vitamin B2
- vitamin B12
Lamb liver and liver sausage are other rich sources of vitamin A.
2. Cod liver oil
Fish livers are also excellent sources of preformed vitamin A, with 1 tablespoon of cod liver oil providing 4,080 mcgTrusted Source.
This and other fish oils are among the richest sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which help fight inflammation and protect the heart. ResearchTrusted Source also suggests that they may treat or prevent depression.
Cod liver oil is also an excellent source of vitamin D, with 1 tablespoon containing 170%Trusted Source of the DV.
According to the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS)Trusted Source, vitamin D boosts immunity and plays a role in bone health. It may also protect against depression.
3. Sweet potato
One whole sweet potato, baked in its skin, provides 1,403 mcgTrusted Source of vitamin A, which is 156% of the DV.
The vitamin A present in this root vegetable is in the form of beta carotene. ResearchTrusted Source suggests that this compound may help protect against age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Some studiesTrusted Source also suggest that beta carotene may help protect against cancers, such as prostate cancer, but the results are mixed.
Sweet potatoes are also:
- low in calories
- a source of vitamin B6, vitamin C, and potassium
- high in fiber
- have a low glycemic index, helping to control blood sugar levels
For a healthful meal, try having a baked sweet potato in the skin with a salad and a source of protein, such as salmon or tofu.
For more in-depth resources about vitamins, minerals, and supplements, visit our dedicated hub.
Carrots are rich in beta carotene. Half a cup of raw carrots contains 459 mcgTrusted Source of vitamin A and 51% of the DV.
A large carrot contains around 29 caloriesTrusted Source. This makes for a light and healthful snack, especially when eaten with hummus or guacamole.
Carrots are also rich in dietary fiber, which can help prevent constipation and promote better gut health.
5. Black-eyed peas
Beans are an excellent source of plant-based protein, and they are also rich in fiber. Each cup of boiled black eyed peas contains 66 mcgTrusted Source of vitamin A and 7% of the DV.
Black-eyed peas are also a good sourceTrusted Source of iron.
Studies support the role of various types of beans in promoting heart health. For instance, researchTrusted Source has linked eating beans with a lower risk of heart disease and high blood pressure.
Other researchTrusted Source has shown that eating beans can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Black-eyed peas are a versatile ingredient. Use them in salads, soups, and stews.
Like other leafy green vegetables, spinach contains a wealth of nutrients.
Each half-cup of boiled spinach provides 573 mcgTrusted Source of vitamin A, which is 64% of the DV.
This serving also provides 17%Trusted Source of the DV for iron and 19%Trusted Source of the DV for magnesium. Magnesium plays a role in over 300 processesTrusted Source in the human body.
Some researchTrusted Source indicates that spinach can lower blood pressure and improve heart health.
Sautéed spinach makes a tasty side dish, and spinach also works well in pasta dishes and soups.
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Broccoli is another healthful source of vitamin A, with a half-cup providing 60 mcgTrusted Source, which is 7% of a person’s DV.
Half a cup of broccoli contains just 15 caloriesTrusted Source and is also an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin K.
Vitamin K is essentialTrusted Source for bone metabolism and blood clotting, while vitamin C enhancesTrusted Source immune function and has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Eating cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, may reduceTrusted Source a person’s risk of developing some cancers, due to the presence of a substance called sulforaphane.
People can roast, steam, or fry broccoli, enjoy it in soups, or add it to salads.
8. Sweet red pepper
A half-cup of raw sweet red bell pepper provides 117 mcgTrusted Source of vitamin A, which is 13% of the DV.
This serving only contains around 19 caloriesTrusted Source and is rich in vitamin C, vitamin B6, and folate.
Bell peppers are a great source of antioxidants such as capsanthinTrusted Source. They also contain quercetinTrusted Source, which has anti-inflammatory and antihistamine properties.
Try scrambling bell peppers with eggs, eating them in sandwiches, or serving sliced peppers with a healthful dip.
A whole, raw mango contains 112 mcgTrusted Source of vitamin A, or 12% of the DV.
Mangoes are rich in antioxidants and dietary fiber, which can contribute to better gut function and help control blood sugar.
This fruit is delicious on its own, but it works equally well in a tropical fruit salad or mango salsa.
A half-cup of this summer melon provides 135 mcgTrusted Source of vitamin A, which is 15% of the DV.
Cantaloupe is a great sourceTrusted Source of the antioxidant vitamin C, which boosts immune function and protects against several diseases.
Eat fresh cantaloupe on its own, with other fruit, or in a smoothie.
11. Dried apricots
For a sweet treat that is rich in vitamin A, snack on dried apricots.
Ten dried apricot halves contain 63 mcgTrusted Source of vitamin A, which is 7% of the DV. Dried fruits are also high in fiber and antioxidants.
However, dried apricots also contain a lot of sugar and calories, so it is important to consume them in moderation.
12. Pumpkin pie
Pumpkin pie is another treat rich in vitamin A, with one piece containing 488 mcgTrusted Source or 54% of the DV. This is because, like other orange vegetables, pumpkin is rich in beta carotene.
Pumpkin is also a good source of antioxidants, such as vitamin C, lutein, and zeaxanthin.
ResearchTrusted Source indicates that high intakes of these substances can preserve vision and prevent common eye diseases.
Eating pumpkin pie is less healthful than eating plain pumpkin, so enjoy it in moderation to avoid consuming too much sugar.
13. Tomato juice
A three-quarter cup serving of tomato juice contains 42 mcgTrusted Source of vitamin A, which is 5% of the DV.
Tomatoes are also rich inTrusted Source vitamin C and lycopene, which are antioxidants.
Like pumpkins, tomatoes and tomato juice contain lutein and zeaxanthin, which may benefitTrusted Source eye health.
A 3-oz serving of pickled Atlantic herring provides 219 mcgTrusted Source of vitamin A, or 24% of a person’s DV.
Herring is also a good sourceTrusted Source of protein and vitamin D.
As a fatty fish, herring is a great option for those who want to increase their omega-3 intake for heart and brain health.
In fact, the American Heart Association (AHA)Trusted Source recommend eating 2 servings of fatty fish each week.
Recommended intake of vitamin A
There are two main typesTrusted Source of vitamin A:
- Preformed vitamin A: This comes in the form of retinol and is present in animal-based food sources, including meat, fish, poultry, and dairy products.
- Provitamin A: This comes in the form of carotenoids, mainly beta carotene. It is present in plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables.
To aid the absorption of vitamin A, a person needs to include some fat in their diet. It is also important not to overcook foods, as this reducesTrusted Source the amount of vitamin A in them.
The ODSTrusted Source list the recommended dietary allowances for vitamin A as follows:
|Demographic||Daily amount (mcg)|
|Males aged 14+||900|
|Females aged 14+||700|
|Pregnant teens aged 14–18||750|
|Pregnant adults aged 19+||770|
|Breastfeeding teens aged 14–18||1,200|
|Breastfeeding adults aged 19+||1,300|
Many foods, both plant-based and from animals, contain good amounts of vitamin A.
Vitamin A deficiency is uncommon in the U.S., and most people do not need to worry too much about counting vitamin A values.
The best way to ensure an adequate nutrient intake is to eat a varied and balanced diet, full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthful fats, and lean proteins.