Vitamin A Rich Foods for Vision and Immunity

Vitamin A rich foods are vital for maintaining good vision, a strong immune system, and healthy skin.

This essential nutrient plays a crucial role in numerous bodily functions, making it important to include sufficient amounts in your diet.

In this article, we will explore a variety of vitamin A rich foods that can help you achieve optimal health.

From vibrant vegetables to delicious fruits, these nutrient-packed options will ensure you get the benefits of vitamin A while enjoying a diverse and tasty diet.

High Vitamin A Foods (Per Serving)

Animal and seafood are highest in retinol, the most bioavailable form of vitamin A.  Therefore, your body does not need to convert it into a different form, which is the most efficient way to get vitamin A from your diet.

If you fall short of the recommended vitamin A intake, it’s time to focus on foods that pack in more vitamin A per serving, like:

  • liver
  • sweet potato
  • butternut squash
  • carrots
  • spinach
  • lettuce
  • kale
  • grapefruit
  • watermelon
  • tuna
  • bell peppers
  • broccoli

To help you get started, the infographic below shows the vitamin A provided by popular foods in the average serving sizes consumed by our Optimisers.  

high vitamin A foods per serving

Once you’re ready to revitalise your diet with a wider variety of high-vitamin A foods, download our printable list of foods with more vitamin A per serving here.

Vitamin A Rich Foods (Per Calorie)

Once you know you’re getting the minimum amount of vitamin A your body needs, you can zero in on foods that deliver more per calorie to increase your satiety and nutrient density, like:

  • lettuce
  • spinach
  • carrots
  • veal liver
  • bok choy
  • chard
  • pumpkin
  • sweet potato
  • kale
  • kimchi
  • bell peppers
  • cantaloupe

\Rich sources include retinol from liver, fatty fish (e.g., salmon, tuna, mackerel), egg yolk, and dairy products like whole milk, yogurt, butter, and cheese. Additionally, fortified milk and yogurt are good sources of Vitamin A.

The infographic below shows popular foods that provide more vitamin A per calorie.

vitamin A rich foods per calorie

For more variety, check out our printable list of vitamin A-rich foods per calorie.

Vitamin A Foods Chart

Curious about how your favourite foods stack up in the vitamin A game?  Dive into our dynamic chart showcasing popular foods, comparing vitamin A content per calorie and serving.  For an immersive experience, explore the interactive Tableau version

vitamin A foods chart

How Much Vitamin A Do You Need?

Our satiety analysis reveals that your body craves at least 400 mcg of vitamin A per 2000 calories.  The Optimal Nutrient Intake of vitamin A is set at 1000 mcg per 2000 calories.  

satiety response to vitamin A foods

Vitamin A Boosting Recipes

Elevate your culinary game with our chart, showcasing over 1750 NutriBooster recipes used in our Micros Masterclass.  We’ve plotted these recipes based on vitamin A content versus protein percentage.  The further right you go, the more vitamin A you can enjoy with fewer calories.

vitamin A rich recipes chart

Dive into the details with our interactive Tableau chart on your computer.  Click on each recipe to uncover its magic and even feast your eyes on mouthwatering pictures!

High Vitamin A Recipes

Benefits of Vitamin A

  • Vision: Vitamin A is necessary for the proper functioning of the retina in the eyes.  It helps maintain good vision, especially in low-light conditions.  Vitamin A deficiency can lead to night blindness and, eventually, complete blindness.
  • Immunity: Vitamin A is essential for maintaining a healthy immune system.  It helps in the production and optimal functioning of white blood cells, which protect the body against infections and diseases.
  • Skin and Hair Health: Vitamin A is important for maintaining healthy skin and hair. It helps produce sebum, a natural oil moisturising skin and hair. Vitamin A deficiency can lead to dry, flaky skin and dull, dry hair.
  • Bone Health: Vitamin A helps form and maintain strong bones. It also helps absorb and use calcium, which is necessary for bone growth and development.
  • Reproduction, Growth and Development: Vitamin A is essential for proper reproduction and growth.  It is important for the development of the foetus during pregnancy and helps in the growth and development of children.

Functions of Vitamin A in Your Body

  • Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin critical to vision, fertility, and reproduction. It also helps your heart, lungs, kidneys, and other organs work properly. 
  • The liver stores Vitamin A until it’s needed for use by the body.
  • Another name for Vitamin A is retinol due to its importance in the retina in your eye
  • Vitamin A is essential for maintaining the immune system and preventing infection. It is crucial for the health of protective epithelial tissue in the gastrointestinal tract, lungs, and sinuses.
  • We need vitamin A for healthy skin and to avoid acne
  • To see at night, we need adequate retinol.
  • Vitamin A is also essential for reproduction and development.
  • Vitamin A is one nutrient many people are not getting enough of, especially in developing countries.
  • Although uncommon, getting too much vitamin A from food is also possible. 

Symptoms of Vitamin A Deficiency

Vitamin A-rich foods are essential for maintaining good health. Symptoms of vitamin A deficiency include:

Vitamin A in the Food System

The availability of vitamin A in our food system has decreased since the US Dietary Guidelines in 1977. Due to concerns about the impact of saturated fat and cholesterol in the diet on heart disease risk, people were encouraged to consume more grains and fewer animal products. 

Vitamin A in the Food System

The amount of vitamin A typically available in the food system now is well below the Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) and the Daily Recommended Intake (DRI) (data from USDA Economic Research Service).  As a result, many people must prioritise foods containing more vitamin A, particularly if they do not consume much meat and seafood. 

Bioavailability of Vitamin A

It’s important to understand that there are two types of vitamin A: provitamin from beta carotene and pre-form retinol

Plant-based foods like orange and green vegetables provide provitamin A carotenoids like alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin. Beta-carotene is one component that gives these colourful foods their pigment.

Bountiful sources of beta-carotene include fruits and vegetables with orange, yellow, and red flesh (e.g., carrots, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, mango, papaya, apricots) and leafy green vegetables (e.g., spinach, kale, collard greens, Swiss chard).

If they get enough vitamin A in their diet, most people can convert adequate amounts of provitamin A to pre-formed vitamin A. 

On the contrary, pre-formed vitamin A is found in animal-based products like dairy, liver, and egg yolk.  Because it is a fat-soluble vitamin, toxicity in vitamin A can develop if eaten in excess.  However, this is rarely an issue unless you consume a LOT of liver every day.  

Animal-based Vitamin A comes in the form of Retinoids. Retinoic acid plays a vital role in cellular differentiation. The Retinol equivalent helps in comparing the effectiveness of different sources of Vitamin A.

While people say that plant-based vitamin A is not as bioavailable, this rate-limiting step may be beneficial because a nutrient-dense diet can exceed the recommended upper limit for vitamin A. 

However, the reduced bioavailability of vitamin A from plant-based foods may be an issue if you rely on a highly processed grain-based diet with minimal animal products or leafy veggies. 

Vitamin A Excess and Toxicity

Although it’s rare, you can get excessive levels of pre-formed vitamin A from animal products such as liver.  Vitamin A is fat-soluble, so it is harder to excrete than water-soluble vitamins. 

Some animals, like seals, polar bears, halibut, and huskies, have very high vitamin A levels in their livers.  There have been reports of hypervitaminosis A when hungry and dehydrated explorers consume these animals’ livers.  Otherwise, significant cases of hypervitaminosis A from whole foods are rare.  Most people don’t eat that much liver! 

Upper Limit Intake of Vitamin A

The Upper Limit set for vitamin A (3,000 mcg) is based on abnormal liver pathology in adults and developmental issues in babies of women taking excess supplementary pre-formed vitamin A

It is relatively easy to consume vitamin A intake above the Upper Limit.  However, this is unlikely to be a concern from plant foods as the conversion of provitamin vitamin A is not easily converted to retinol.   However, if most of your vitamin A is coming from liver, you may want to back off the liver if you’re regularly exceeding 3000 mcg per day. 

Symptoms and Side Effects of Vitamin A Toxicity

Taking excessive amounts of supplemental vitamin A for long periods can cause fatigue, hair loss, nausea, peeling of the skin, cracked lips, and headaches.  As you can see, many symptoms of excess mirror those of deficiency.

Your vitamin A intake may be excessive if it comes exclusively from animal-based foods.  However, this is unlikely to be a concern unless you consume a LOT of raw liver.

High levels of provitamin vitamin A (plant forms) from a nutrient-dense diet are unlikely to be a concern because the body will not convert more pre-formed vitamin A (from plant-based foods) to provitamin A than it needs.  In addition, you will lose your taste for more liver once your Vitamin A stores are replete and are therefore unlikely to consume excessive Vitamin A from food. 

Although harmless, higher doses of vitamin A can give your skin a yellow or orange tint.  This is known as carotenosis.  Essentially, you will look like a carrot from getting too many carotenoids after eating too many carrots.

While vitamin A in your diet is critical to supporting healthy immune function, you should avoid supplementing high levels of pre-formed vitamin A.  High amounts of vitamin A have the potential to overstimulate your immune system and trigger a ‘cytokine storm’, which causes hyperinflation in the lungs, breathing difficulties, and even death. 

Vitamin A is a catalyst for many processes in foetal development, regulating various timed actions that are important for a growing baby.  Thus, if a pregnant woman or a woman trying to become pregnant takes vitamin A, it can contribute to congenital disabilities if taken in excess.  

Does Vitamin A Help Your Skin and Acne?

Vitamin A is essential for healthy skin and the management of acne.  One of the most popular treatments for severe acne is Accutane, a synthetic mega-dosed version of a derivative of vitamin A known as a retinoid. 

Females commencing Accutane therapy have to ensure that there is no chance of becoming pregnant while taking Accutane due to the risk of congenital disabilities with excessive amounts of supplemental vitamin A.

If you’re into the beauty world, you may have encountered popular skin creams called ‘retinoid creams’. These use compounds similar to Accutane, as they are essentially synthetic forms of vitamin A.

How Can I Increase My Vitamin A Intake?

Increasing your vitamin A game doesn’t have to mean eating loads of liver.  

By incorporating vitamin A-rich, nutrient-dense plant and animal foods like eggs, dairy, ghee, and seafood daily, increasing your vitamin A levels over time should become easy.  

Consuming vitamin A-rich foods, whether plant or animal, with a little fat can aid the absorption of this fat-soluble nutrient.  

Synergistic Nutrients with Vitamin A

Vitamin A works synergistically with vitamins B2, B3, B12, C, D, and E, magnesium, selenium, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, iodine, tyrosine, and zinc.  

For this reason, it’s best to consume vitamin A from vitamin A-rich foods to ensure you’re consuming the entire complex of synergistic nutrients.  

Isolated supplements only supply vitamin A, making it hard to execute its functions independently.

How Can I Calculate if I am Getting Enough Vitamin A? 

Curious about your vitamin A intake?  Take our Free 7-Day Nutrient Clarity Challenge and discover if you’re hitting the vitamin A sweet spot in your diet.

After just one week of tracking your daily meals with Cronometer, Nutrient Optimiser will unveil a personalised roadmap, your guide to a healthier, more nutrient-rich lifestyle. 

You’ll receive a curated list of foods and tantalising NutriBooster recipes that not only fill your vitamin A gaps but also ensure you’re not missing out on critical nutrients.

Ready to unlock your nutrient potential?  Join the challenge and journey towards a brighter, healthier you!

Nutrient Density Starter Pack

Ready to supercharge your nutrition?  Get our Nutrient Density Starter Pack – your all-access pass to a healthier, more vibrant you!

In our quest to make Nutritional Optimization a breeze, we’re thrilled to offer you this treasure trove of tools and resources when you join our vibrant Optimising Nutrition Community:

  • Food Lists: Discover our carefully crafted lists optimised for each essential nutrient, tailored to your goals, preferences, and unique conditions.
  • The Healthiest Meal Plan in the World: Peek into a week of mouthwatering, nutrient-dense meals that’ll satisfy and energise you.
  • Recipes: Download delectable samples from our NutriBooster recipe books, designed to elevate your nutrition while tantalising your taste buds.
  • 7-Day Nutrient Clarity Challenge: Unearth your priority nutrients and pinpoint the foods and meals that pack a nutrient punch so you can kickstart your journey to better health.

Don’t miss out on this incredible opportunity to transform your nutrition effortlessly.  Join our community and unlock your path to a healthier, more vibrant you!

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