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20 Foods That Are High in Vitamin A
- hair loss
- Skin rashes
- dry eyes
- susceptibility to infections
The RDV of vitamin A is 900 mcg for men, 700 mcg for women and 300–600 mcg for children.
In this article, we’ll explore the top 20 foods high in vitamin A.
Table of Contents
Vitamin A (carotenoids) from Plants vs. Vitamin A (retinol) from Animals
One thing you’ll notice is that there are no plant foods on our top 20 list.
You might be thinking, hey, what about carrots?
The truth is, not all vitamin A is created equal.
The “vitamin A” in carrots comes in a form called provitamin A carotenoids. These compounds need to be converted into vitamin A by your body. And this process is very inefficient.
The fat-soluble vitamin A found only in meat is called retinol and is highly bioavailable (easily used by the body).
Researchers attribute these differences to the presence of a specific transporter for retinol. Whereas provitamin A carotenoids are absorbed through non-specific transporters.
These differences highlight the fact that human physiology and metabolism evolved with a diet high in animal foods and very low in plant foods.
In fact, hundreds of lines of evidence suggest that humans were hypercarnivorous apex predators for nearly 2 million years before the advent of the agricultural revolution only 10-8,000 years ago. It follows that the foods we evolved eating will provide the nutrients our bodies need in the most bioavailable forms.
Top 20 Vitamin A Foods
Here’s the list of the 20 foods that are highest in vitamin A according to the USDA.
|Foods High in Vitamin A||MCG per 100 grams||%RDV|
|5||Liver sausage, liverwurst, pork||8309||923%|
|20||Roe (fish eggs)||271||30%|
Top 5 Most Accessible Foods High in Vitamin A
We know that some of these foods high in vitamin A might be hard to access and that it’s unlikely you would eat them in such high quantities.
So here’s a list of 5 most accessible foods, along with how much vitamin A you can get from each in a typical serving.
- Liver Sausage: 100 grams: 8,384 mcg (923% DV)
- Beef Liver: 1 slice (around 50 grams): 6,421 mcg (713% DV)
- Lamb Liver: 1 ounce: 2,122 mcg (236% DV)
- Cod Liver Oil: 1 teaspoon: 1,350 mcg (150% DV)
- King Mackerel: Half a fillet (around 150 grams): 388 mcg (43% DV)
Vegetables High in Provitamin A
The provitamin A in plant foods includes alpha-carotene and beta-carotene.
Though less efficient, your body can synthesize a portion of these provitamins into usable vitamin A.
This variation further decreases the already paltry availability of plant-sourced vitamin A.
Let’s look at a list of vegetables that have seemingly high levels of vitamin A and what the average person actually receives from them.
Real absorption RDV from vegetables high in provitamin A
|Vegetable (1 cup)||Listed provitamin A||Real absorption|
|Sweet potato||1,836 mcg (204% RDV)||70 mcg (8% RDV)|
|Winter Squash||1,144 mcg (127% RDV)||44 mcg (5% RDV)|
|Kale||885 mcg (98% RDV)||34 mcg (3.75%)|
|Collards||722 mcg (80% RDV)||28 mcg (3%)|
How Do You Achieve Your Vitamin A Goals?
Considering that vitamin A is an essential nutrient for critical physical functions, getting enough vitamin A should be a priority.
Fortunately, the foods highest in vitamin A like beef and lamb liver, provide far more than your RDV in an extremely concentrated form.
While common foods like goat cheese and Munster cheese offer substantial amounts of vitamin A without having to cook anything.
As a fat-soluble nutrient, you can absorb more vitamin A into your bloodstream when consuming it with animal fats. Not surprisingly, most vitamin A foods come naturally pakcaged with an abundance of healthy saturated fat. The same can’t be said for plant food sources.
If you are a vegan or vegetarian you can improve absorption of plant sources by adding butter and olive oil to your veggies. However, due to the genetic variation mentioned above, nearly half the population can only get sufficient vitamin A from animal sources.
Should I Take Vitamin A Supplements?
When foods are naturally high in vitamin A, there is no need for, or benefit to, supplementation.
A 2020 review of all major studies on the efficacy of multivitamin supplements found that: “for the majority of the population, there is no overall benefit from taking multivitamin supplements. Indeed, some studies have shown an increased risk of cancers in relation to using certain vitamins.”
Vitamin A,D, E, K Synergy
Foods high in vitamin A are generally good sources of other fat-soluble vitamins D, E, and vitamin K2.
These vitamins, when consumed in the form of whole animal foods, work synergistically to promote their functions in the body. This view was first proposed by the dietary researcher and dentist Weston A. Price.
Price traveled the world looking for the secret to the robust health of peoples consuming traditional (non-industrial) diets. He linked the absence of modern disease to the centrality of foods high in vitamins A, D, E, and K. With vitamin K being the activator that unlocked the benefits of the others.
This synergy between these vitamins is likely behind the potential for toxicity and waste when each is taken alone and in the quantities you get in supplements.
Foods High in Vitamin A: The Bottom Line
Vitamin A is essential to numerous critical bodily functions. Getting enough vitamin A in your diet is an important step in supporting your health and wellness.
The good news is that there are plenty of whole foods loaded with highly absorbable vitamin A.
The type of vitamin A that your body can readily absorb and use is called retinol. Vitamin A retinol is only found in animal products.
Foods high in vitamin A include organ meats, full-fat dairy, and fatty seafood.
Though some plant foods are billed as being high in vitamin A, this is not actually the case. Plant foods contain a precursor called provitamin A. The body can only convert a small percentage of provitamin A into a usable form.