Just like all the other vitamins, vitamin A plays a crucial role in the normal growth and development of the body. There are a number of vitamin A foods, so a balanced diet can provide us with a sufficient amount of this vitamin. However, some people have to take supplements for various medical reasons. On the other hand, it’s not recommended to take too much vitamin A as this can lead to some serious medical conditions.
What Is Vitamin A?
Vitamin A is an umbrella term for a group of oil-soluble compounds essential for the proper functioning of your eyes, skin, reproductive system, and many other processes in your body. It comes in two different forms: preformed vitamin A and provitamin A. Preformed vitamin A includes retinol, retinal, and retinoic acid, which are found in animal products.
The body doesn’t have to convert this type of vitamin A before it uses it and that’s why it’s also called the active form of vitamin A. Provitamin A, on the other hand, has to be converted to active vitamin A once it is found in the body. It includes certain carotenoids found in fruits and vegetables, among which beta-carotene is the most important one.
What Is Vitamin A Good For?
It’s very important for your health to consume enough foods rich in vitamin A as it affects a number of organ systems of your body. First, it is vital for your eye health. It can prevent night blindness since it has a major role in converting light into electrical signals. People with this eyesight problem have difficulty in adjusting to the dim light, while their vision is not impaired when there is enough light. Also, beta-carotene lowers the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration.
Another vitamin A function is to maintain a healthy immune system. Since it stimulates the production of white blood cells, which are responsible for fighting viruses, bacteria, and other foreign invaders, it can help your body resist infections. In line with this, recent studies have shown that vitamin A can reduce the risk of dying from measles.
Although skin problems, such as acne and wrinkles, are not that serious, they make us feel less confident and even anxious and depressed. Fortunately, your skin can also benefit from this vitamin. Beta-carotene is a potent antioxidant which can protect your skin from UV damage and slow down the signs of aging. In addition to eating foods containing this compound, you can use creams with retinol or retinoic acid.
So, what does topical vitamin A do for your skin? It can fill in your fine lines and smoothen your skin as it is proven that it stimulates collagen production. Vitamin A is also used for the treatment of severe acne although it is still unclear how it lowers the risk of developing this skin condition.
According to a number of studies conducted on rats, vitamin A is vital for the reproductive system of both men and women, as well as for the normal development of embryos. Other vitamin A benefits include maintaining healthy bones and lowering the risk of certain types of cancer. According to some studies, one derivative of vitamin A, retinoic acid, regulates the level of blood sugar in mice.
Foods High in Vitamin A
As we already mentioned, there are two types of vitamin A and they can be found in different types of food. Animal products contain preformed vitamin A or retinol. On the other hand, provitamin A carotenoids, which are transformed into vitamin A through metabolic processes, are actually pigments that make fruits and vegetable orange. Considering all the health benefits of this vitamin, it’s of great importance to include the following foods in your diet.
If you’ve been wondering what foods have vitamin A, you’re in the right place. Since retinol is stored in the liver, this is the number one food for your source of this healthy nutrient. Three ounces of this meat packs a whopping 444% of your daily value (DV) of vitamin A. Beef liver is also an excellent source of B vitamins, like riboflavin and biotin.
Lamb liver provides a similar amount of vitamin A. One serving (3 oz.) will give you 417% of your daily vitamin A needs.
Cod Liver Oil
Fish oils are foods that contain vitamin A in high concentration. One teaspoon of cod liver oil, for example, has 90% of your DV of vitamin A.
Fatty fish such as herring is a great source of vitamin A. Three ounces of this type of fish serve about 15% of your daily value of this important vitamin.
Red salmon is another type of fish that belongs to foods with vitamin A. However, three ounces of this delicious fish will provide you with only 4% of your DV of retinol, which is about four times less than herring. Salmon is also a rich source of B vitamins, including thiamine, vitamin B5, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12.
Since milk is usually fortified with vitamin A, it’s a good source of this nutrient. A cup of skim milk will meet 10% of your daily vitamin A needs. Of course, milk and dairy products are also a valuable source of vitamin D.
Other dairy products such as cheese are also great vitamin A sources. A cup of shredded cheddar cheese delivers 22% of your daily value of vitamin A. If you prefer diced cheese, one cup will provide you with 26% of your DV of vitamin A, while a cup of melted cheddar will give you 48% of your daily needs of this vitamin.
One large hard-boiled egg will add up to 5% of your DV of vitamin A. Just remember that only egg yolk is rich in this essential nutrient.
If you don’t eat meat, there are a number of vitamin A rich foods vegetarian people can add to their daily menu. For example, sweet potatoes are an amazing option as in only one potato baked in skin, you’ll get 561% of your DV of vitamin A. In addition, they are rich in vitamins C and B6, potassium, fiber, and niacin.
Most orange vegetables are packed with beta-carotene and carrots are not an exemption. Half a cup of raw carrots offers 184% of your daily value of vitamin A.
Not only are peppers loaded with vitamin C, but they are also vitamin A rich foods. If you eat just half a cup of raw red peppers, you will cover 47% of the recommended daily value of this vitamin.
One cup of raw winter squash chopped into cubes has 31% of your DV of vitamin A. In addition, it is rich in vitamin C, fiber, and potassium, which means it offers numerous health benefits, like lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of heart disease.
Besides winter squash, vitamin A foods that are also high in fiber and potassium are pumpkins. They can be prepared in many delicious ways, and it’s good to know that a cup of pumpkin cubes will provide you with 197% of your daily value of vitamin A. If you decide to treat yourself to a piece of pumpkin pie, you will cover 249% of your daily needs of vitamin A.
Leafy green veggies are also a great source of vitamin A. In half a cup of boiled spinach, you get 229% of your DV of this vitamin.
Kale is another dark, green vegetable rich in vitamin A. A cup of this healthy veggie has 133% of your daily value of this important nutrient. Not to mention that it is loaded with vitamin K, calcium, and potassium, and that it also belongs to vitamin B rich foods.
Half a cup of boiled broccoli will provide you with 24% of your DV of vitamin A. Moreover, this veggie is rich in vitamins C and K, iron, and fiber.
Legumes like beans and peas are also foods rich in vitamin A. For example, a cup of boiled black-eyed peas or cowpeas gives you 26% of the recommended daily value of this vitamin.
Beans are a great source of protein, vitamin B6, iron, magnesium, and potassium. In addition, a cup of baked beans has 5% of your daily value of vitamin A.
This vitamin A foods list wouldn’t be complete without tomatoes. If you have a cup of tomato juice, you will meet more than 20% of your daily needs of vitamin A. Moreover, tomatoes are high in vitamin C as well as vitamin E, magnesium, and potassium.
Cantaloupe is packed with vitamins C and A. In only half a cup of raw cantaloupe, you will get 54% of your DV of vitamin A.
Mangoes belong to vitamin A rich fruits as one cup of this fruit serves 35% of your daily value of vitamin A. They are also high in vitamin C, so they can really boost your immune system.
Passion fruit is a great source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. A cup of this fruit provides 60% of your DV of vitamin A.
Apricots are great vitamin A foods for skin health since they are packed with vitamins C and A. One cup of sliced apricots gives 63% of your DV of vitamin A. On the other hand, in a cup of dried apricots, you get amazing 93% of your daily value of this vitamin. However, they are also higher in sugar, so be careful with this snack.
In addition to being rich in vitamin C, red grapefruit is an excellent source of vitamin A. A cup of this fruit contains 52% of the recommended daily value of this powerful nutrient.
Tangerines are a valuable source of antioxidants, including vitamin A. Eat one small tangerine and you will cover 10% of your DV of this vitamin.
It’s very important to know what foods contain vitamin A as, this way, you can easily boost your diet with this crucial nutrient.
Daily Intake Recommendations
Recommended dietary allowance (RDA) represents an average daily intake that is sufficient for healthy people to meet their nutrient requirements. RDAs for vitamin A are expressed in mcg of retinol activity equivalents (RAE) although international units (IU) are used on food and supplement labels. Since the conversion of mcg RAE into IU is rather complex as it depends on the sources of vitamin A, this practice is soon to be changed thanks to FDA’s new labeling regulations.
The recommended daily intake of vitamin A depends on your age and sex, as follows:
- From birth to 6 months – 400 mcg RAE
- At 7 to 12 months – 500 mcg RAE
- From 1 to 3 years – 300 mcg RAE
- At 4 to 8 years – 400 mcg RAE
- From 9 to 13 years – 600 mcg RAE
- 14+ years – 900 mcg RAE (male) and 700 mcg RAE (female)
RDAs for vitamin A are a bit different for pregnant women (770 mcg RAE) and women who are breastfeeding (1300 mcg RAE).
Signs & Symptoms of Vitamin A Deficiency
Although this deficiency is rare in developed countries, it is prevalent in developing countries where people usually don’t have enough foods rich in vitamin A. So what is the first sign of vitamin A deficiency? The most common symptom is night blindness, which is one of the first signs of xerophthalmia. This is an eye disease characterized by dryness of the conjunctiva and cornea. Deficiency of vitamin A can also cause preventable blindness in children. What’s more, it can lead to anemia since people deficient in vitamin A often have low iron levels. Another serious consequence is the increased mortality risk of infective diseases, such as diarrhea and measles.
Who Should Take Vitamin A Supplements?
Groups that are at higher risk of vitamin A deficiency include premature infants, infants, and children in developing countries, pregnant and breastfeeding women in developing countries, and people with cystic fibrosis. Also, certain medications, such as Orlistat, can affect the body’s ability to absorb fat-soluble vitamins and therefore increase the risk of vitamin deficiency.
Those who lack vitamin A can take vitamin A tablets, but they should always consult a physician first. You should be aware that there are a number of side effects of taking vitamin supplements. In addition, there’s a possibility that they will cover up other deficiencies, which can result in some serious health issues. That’s why it’s always best to rely on vitamin A foods in order to meet your daily requirements of this vitamin. While vitamin supplements can do good to certain groups of people, taking excessive amounts or taking them for too long can be harmful.
Can You Overdose on Vitamin A?
The body tends to store fat-soluble vitamins, meaning that excess consumption of vitamin A can be toxic. Preformed vitamin A is particularly dangerous as it can cause hypervitaminosis A. Overconsumption of vitamin A can lead to skin irritation, dizziness, nausea, headaches, joint pain, and even death.
So how much vitamin A is too much? The Food and Nutrition Board has prescribed Tolerable Upper Intake Levels for preformed vitamin, which vary according to age and sex. For adults, total vitamin A intake should be up to 3,000 µg per day from retinol. Pregnant women should be particularly careful as excess retinol can result in fetal deformities. They should also avoid using anti-aging creams containing this compound.
Moreover, people using certain drugs for acne treatment need to stay away from vitamin A supplements. Compared to preformed vitamin A, carotenoids are not that toxic, especially when consumed through food. However, beta-carotene supplements can cause some adverse effects. That’s why it’s of great importance to stick to a recommended vitamin A dosage.
Vitamin A is one of the essential nutrients that we need to stay healthy. It has a number of important roles in our body, from maintaining healthy vision to reducing the risk of certain cancers and heart disease. Therefore, it’s very important that your daily intake of this vitamin is at the optimal level. Remember that both too little and too much of vitamin A can lead to serious health conditions. You should try to follow a balanced diet that includes various foods rich in this vitamin as this is the best option for your health. Of course, vitamin supplements can be beneficial for some people, but in general you should avoid taking them.
What does vitamin A do in the human body?
Vitamin A is responsible for the normal functioning of a number of organs, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, and the reproductive system. It is essential for normal vision and a strong immune system.
What are the benefits of taking vitamin A?
A recommended daily intake of vitamin A will protect you from night blindness, keep your bones healthy, and boost your immune system. It may even reduce the risk of certain cancers, such as lung or prostate cancer. Just remember that it’s always best to include foods rich in this vitamin in your diet instead of relying on supplements.
What does vitamin A do to your face?
This vitamin has been successfully used in the treatment of acne. In addition, various face creams contain retinol as this ingredient helps in the fight against wrinkles. Consuming fruit and vegetables rich in beta-carotene can make your skin less prone to UV damage.
Which fruits are rich in vitamin A?
Fruits contain vitamin A in the form of carotenoids, which are actually yellow, orange, and red pigments. Therefore, fruits in these colors are high in vitamin A. The list includes apricots (fresh and dried), passion fruit, red or pink grapefruit, mangoes, tangerines, and nectarines.
What are the side effects of vitamin A?
High doses of this vitamin may cause adverse side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, irritability, fatigue, headaches, and many more. It can even lead to coma or death. If your diet is varied and well-balanced, you probably take sufficient amounts of vitamin A and there is no need to take any supplements. Whatever the case, always consult your doctor prior to using any nutritional supplements.
Which foods are high in vitamin A?
Vitamin A can be found in a variety of foods of both animal and plant origin. Meat, especially liver, fish, dairy products, and eggs are all high in this vitamin. Other vitamin A foods are green, leafy vegetables, such as kale; orange vegetables, such as carrots; and orange fruits, like apricots and mangos.