Vitamin A: 20 Foods Rich in Vitamin A

20 Foods Rich in Vitamin A

Vitamin A, or retinol, is one of the fat-soluble vitamins essential to the body. It is found as retinol in mammals and as pro vitamin A (beta carotene) in plants. Its actions in the body allow, among other things, to preserve visual acuity and strengthen the immune system.

Characteristics of vitamin A:

  • Fat-soluble vitamin important for vision and the immune system
  • Found in the form of pro vitamin A (beta carotene) in certain plants
  • Presence in the form of retinol in large quantities in organ meats
  • Beta carotene is a powerful antioxidant and promotes skin pigmentation
  • Excess beta carotene could have adverse health consequences

Why consume foods rich in vitamin A?

Vitamin A: benefits and roles in the body

Vitamin A, beta carotene, retinol and pro vitamin A: what are the differences?

In the body of humans and animals, vitamin A is found in the form of retinol, retinal or even retinoic acid. Foods of animal origin therefore contain vitamin A in the form of retinol. In foods of vegetable origin we find vitamin A in the form of carotenes, which are precursors of vitamin A, called pro vitamin A. In this sense, beta carotene is said to be a pro vitamin A.

What is vitamin A used for?

Vitamin A and eyesight

Vitamin A plays an essential role in the quality of vision. It allows, in fact, the triggering of nerve impulses at the level of the optic nerves. A sufficient intake of vitamin A thus reduces the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.


Carotenes, and beta-carotene in particular, are molecules with powerful antioxidant power. In the body, antioxidants help fight cell aging and oxidative stress. In other words, they neutralize the damage caused by free radicals and help maintain a healthy body and a powerful immune system.

Vitamin A and skin

Retinol participates in the differentiation and renewal of body cells and in particular of the skin and mucous membranes. We also often emphasize the benefits of foods rich in carotene on the quality of the skin. Indeed, vitamin A is a precursor of melanin responsible for skin pigmentation. Thus, a good supply of vitamin A and beta carotene prepares the skin for the sun, protects the skin cells against external aggressions and promotes their renewal.

Foods Rich in Vitamin A

In the diet, various foods are sources of retinol or carotenes. Carotenes are mainly found in orange fruits and vegetables as well as leafy green vegetables, while retinol is mainly found in organ meats.

20 foods sources of vitamin A

Food Servings    (µg)
Turkey offal, braised or stewed                                  100g 10,737 mcg
Beef liver, sautéed or braised 100g 7744-9442 mcg             
Chicken offal, braised or simmered 100g 1753-3984 mcg
carrot juice 125 ml (1/2 cup) 1,192 mcg
Sweet potato (with skin), baked 100 g (1 medium) 1096 mcg
canned pumpkin 125 ml (1/2 cup) 1007mcg
cooked carrots 125 ml (1/2 cup) 653-702 mcg
Boiled spinach 125 ml (1/2 cup) 498mcg
Cooked kale 125 ml (1/2 cup) 468mcg
cooked collard greens 125 ml (1/2 cup) 408mcg
Boiled beet leaves 125 ml (1/2 cup) 291 mcg
Boiled turnip greens 125 ml (1/2 cup) 290 mcg
Cooked winter squash 125 ml (1/2 cup) 283 mcg
Lettuce (romaine, mesclun, curly) 250 ml (1 cup) 219-266 mcg
Atlantic herring, marinated 100g 258mcg
Boiled dandelion greens 125 ml (1/2 cup) 190mcg
Melon 1/4 d melon 143mcg
Bok choi or cooked bok choy 125 ml (1/2 cup) 190mcg
Raw or cooked red pepper 125 ml (1/2 cup) 103-124 mcg
Tomato or vegetable juice 125 ml (1/2 cup) 100mcg

*EAR: Retinol Activity Equivalent

How to properly use vitamin A (beta carotene)?

Use of vitamin A

Daily vitamin A requirements

Recommended Dietary Intake (ANC)                                                      
Babies 0-6 months                       400mcg*
Babies 7-12 months 500mcg*
Babies 1-3 years old 300mcg
Children 4-8 years old 400mcg
Boys 9-13 years old 600mcg
Girls 9-13 years old 600mcg
Boys 14-18 years old 900mcg
Girls 14-18 years old 700mcg
Men 19-50 years old 900mcg
Women 19-50 years old 700mcg
Men 50 and over 900mcg
Women 50 and over 700mcg
Pregnant women 770 mcg
Nursing women 1300 mcg

* Sufficient intakes

Food supplements in beta carotene or vitamin A

Many food supplements are made from vitamin A or its precursors (including beta carotene). Vitamin A supplementation may be indicated to prevent or treat eye pathologies (retinitis, macular degeneration, cataracts, etc.). Also, these supplements are particularly appreciated for their antioxidant capacity which helps support the immune system and prevent certain diseases. Finally, as summer approaches, beta carotene is widely used to activate melanin synthesis and promote tanning. Be careful, however, if taking vitamin A has few consequences, taking beta carotenes can be dangerous in the long term. Ask your doctor for advice before considering supplementation.

Side effects of vitamin A

Consequences of vitamin A deficiency

Vitamin A deficiency is much more common than you might think, especially in underprivileged populations. It mainly causes vision problems that can range from a simple alteration of the cornea to total blindness. Vitamin A deficiency can also be responsible for a decrease in immune defenses and therefore greater susceptibility to infections.

Consequences of excess vitamin A

Vitamin A is stored in the liver, an excess can lead to hepatomegaly (large liver) and various digestive disorders (nausea, diarrhea, etc.). At the skin level, an overdose can lead to irritation and itching. In children, there is a risk of over-thickening of the bone tissue. In pregnant women, an excess of vitamin A can lead to fetal malformations. Fortunately and apart from exceptional cases (liver pathologies, excessive intake of supplements, etc.), overconsumption is extremely rare.

Interactions with other nutrients

Lipids have a beneficial effect on the absorption of vitamin A regardless of its form (retinol or carotenes). It is therefore recommended to consume foods rich in vitamin A as part of a complete meal. In addition, the antioxidant action of beta carotene is increased in the presence of other antioxidant molecules such as vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium or even zinc.

Please note that for smokers, taking food supplements containing beta carotene is not recommended. Indeed, the combination of pro-vitamin A and certain molecules contained in tobacco would increase the risk of developing lung and stomach cancer.

Chemical properties

Vitamin A is one of the fat-soluble vitamins. In the body of mammals, it exists in different forms: retinl, retinal, retinoic acid, etc.

Plants contain carotenes, including beta carotene, precursors of vitamin A. One molecule of beta-carotene gives rise to two molecules of vitamin A. The molecular formula of beta carotene is C40H56, its molar mass is 536.8726 g /mol. This is the most common form of carotene, it is also a powerful antioxidant and an additive widely used by the food industry to color and prevent oxidation.


Nutrient history

Vitamin A was the very first to have been discovered in 1913, which is why it bears the first letter of the alphabet. It was identified for the first time after studying a cod liver.

In 1931, P. Karrer finally succeeded in isolating it and precisely defining its chemical structure. However, it was not until 1947 that scientists succeeded in synthesizing it for the first time. Since that time, the importance of this vitamin and its precursors for the functioning of the body has not ceased to be underlined and has been the subject of numerous investigations.

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