Your mother was right when she told you to eat lots of carrots because they’re good for your eyes, and the benefits of vitamin A certainly don’t end there. There are plenty of other good sources of vitamin A aside from carrots.
Vitamin A can be found in foods like sweet potatoes, bell peppers, and beef liver. Vegetarians, vegans, and meat eaters alike can reap the benefits of vitamin A by choosing their favorites from this list of 15 vitamin A rich foods.
RAE is a special unit of measurement used just for vitamin A. It’s measured in micrograms (mcg). The recommended daily amount (RDA) of RAE is about 900 mcg RAE for men and 700 mcg RAE for women.
Vitamin A foods
One medium sweet potato contains nearly 1,100 mcg RAE. It’s more than the RDA for both men and women.
Bugs Bunny knows what’s up (Doc) by stuffing his face with carrots all day. A medium raw carrot provides roughly 500 mcg RAE. Their bright orange color is owed to the presence of beta carotene, a carotenoid.
Liver is a great source of vitamin A. A three-ounce portion of beef liver has over 4,000 mcg RAE (that’s a lot!).
One cup, or 180 grams, of cooked spinach contains about 953 mcg RAE, which is well over 100 percent of your recommended daily amount.
Love it or hate it, this green leafy vegetable is packed with nutrients, including vitamin A. Just one loosely packed cup of chopped, cooked kale has nearly 900 mcg RAE, easily fulfilling your daily requirement.
Grown for their large, dark-colored, and edible leaves, collard greens are the same species as cauliflower, kale, and broccoli. A cooked, one-cup serving — roughly 200 grams — of collard greens has over 700 mcg RAE. While it’s traditionally eaten on New Year’s Day along with black-eyed peas in the South, you may want to start eating them more often for a vitamin A boost.
An eight-ounce glass of cow’s milk contains roughly 100 mcg RAE. Products derived from milk, like butter, cheese, and yogurt, are also excellent sources of the retinol form of vitamin A.
The bright orange flesh of the butternut squash is a dead giveaway that the veggie is high in vitamin A. Butternuts can be baked, boiled, or pureed to make soup. A single cup of cooked and cubed butternut squash contains about 1,144 mcg RAE — over 100 percent of the RDA.
With about 230 mcg RAE, one cup of chopped red bell pepper satisfies about a third of the daily vitamin A requirement.
Loaded with vitamins, minerals, and protein, shrimp certainly doesn’t live up to its name when it comes to nutrients. A four-ounce serving of shrimp has around 60 mcg of RAE.
As if you need another excuse to eat a salad, romaine lettuce contains an enormous amount of nutrients, especially when compared to the iceberg variety. At 410 mcg RAE, two cups of romaine lettuce meets nearly half of the RDA of vitamin A.
The orange flesh of a sweet cantaloupe is packed with beta carotene. Just one cup of cubed cantaloupe contains about 270 mcg RAE.
Bok choy is a Chinese cabbage usually eaten steamed or in a stir-fry. A cup of cooked bok choy satisfies roughly half of the daily recommended amount of vitamin A.
Broccoli is another richly colored veggie that tops the list in vitamin A content. One bunch of broccoli has over 180 mcg RAE. As a tip, you should quickly steam, not boil, your broccoli to help retain its nutrients.
Eggs contain a surprising amount of vitamins and minerals and are an excellent source of protein. Fortunately, eggs are found in a wide variety of foods, from breads to even ice cream. As for vitamin A, a single large egg has about 74 mcg RAE.
Vitamin A function
There are two forms of vitamin A:
- retinoids, found in animal foods
- carotenoids (including beta carotene) found in plant foods
The two forms are chemically different and also provide unique benefits:
- Retinoids play an important role in the health of our immune, reproductive, and inflammatory systems. They help maintain our red blood cells, skin, nails, teeth, and bones.
- Carotenoids have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Both types of vitamin A are extremely beneficial for eye health, helping us see in low-light conditions and at night. Vitamin A deficiency can cause night blindness, though this is rare in developed countries.
You don’t necessarily need to eat animal products in order to get enough retinoids. For most people, carotenoid forms of vitamin A can be converted into retinoid forms inside the body.
Vitamin A is an important nutrient that can luckily be found in a wide range of fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy products. When in doubt, look for green leafy vegetables or brightly colored orange and red fruits and vegetables. Of course, you can’t ever go wrong by eating more fruits and vegetables!
Aim for about 900 mcg RAE for men and 700 mcg RAE for women per day. It’s the equivalent of less than two carrots or a medium-sized sweet potato.
Supplements are an option, too, but be cautious and read labels for the proper dosage. Since vitamin A is fat soluble, an excess of it — particularly the retinol form — will be stored in the body and can be toxic at high doses. The tolerable upper limit (UL) for retinol is 3,000 RAE.