Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that your body needs for good vision (particularly low light vision) and healthy skeletal tissue, teeth, skin, soft tissue and mucous membranes.1 It also keeps your reproductive system, immune system, heart, kidneys, and lungs working well.2
A vitamin A deficiency is something you don’t want to reckon with. From night blindness and dry/itchy eyes to lowered immunity and skin and hair problems, it opens up a Pandora’s box. The good news is that our vitamin A requirements can easily be met with just normal, everyday intake of nutritious food. And there’s no cause to worry if you are vegetarian or vegan. Many vegetables have this crucial vitamin and incorporating them into your daily diet isn’t as complicated as you may think.
Recommended Intake Of Vitamin A Is 900 mcg RAE
Vegetables contain carotenoids (including beta-carotene). which your body converts into vitamin A. Vegetarian sources of vitamin A may not be absorbed as efficiently as the animal-derived forms of vitamin A. But they are an inexpensive source and won’t cause toxicity from excessive intake. Just be sure to have a variety of vitamin A-rich food and you’ll meet your requirements without a glitch.3
The ideal intake of vitamin A varies based on your age, gender, and even whether you’re pregnant or nursing.
- Adults and children above 4 years should, in general, have 900 mcg RAE.
- If you have a baby on board or are lactating, you need 1,300 mcg RAE.
- Children aged 1–3 years need 300 mcg RAE.
Here’s a look at the richest food sources of vitamin A. The % daily value (DV) indicates how much of your daily value the food delivers. DV is a measure of richness in the nutrient and is pegged at 900mcg RAE for the calculations below. Usually, a number of 20% or more indicates a very high source.6 The values are for a standard serving of the food.
1. Sweet Potatoes
- 1 baked sweet potato with skin: 1,403 mcg RAE (561% DV)
- Half a cup of boiled sweet potatoes: 1,290 mcg RAE (516% DV)
Sweet potatoes are a veritable vitamin A powerhouse. Just one baked sweet potato with skin contains 1403 mcg RAE of vitamin A, meeting about 561% of your DV.7 Half a cup of boiled sweet potatoes offer you 1,290 mcg RAE – that’s 516% DV. Sweet potatoes are among the most versatile of veggies. Roast them, mash them, fry them, or bake them as a side to complement pretty much any entree. Or toss them into curries, sauces, or pastas. Or how about adding some to frittatas, chilis, and salads for added bite, flavor and texture? You’ll be pleasantly surprised!
- 1 cup boiled spinach: 573 mcg RAE (377% DV)
A cup of boiled spinach provides 943 mcg RAE of vitamin A or 377% of your DV.8 Now you know why Popeye ate all that spinach! This amazing vegetable works well in both cold and hot dishes. Its mild flavor makes it especially versatile. A dash of spinach in scrambled eggs, mac and cheese, or ravioli elevates your dish and adds both visual interest and flavor. Easier yet, saute some spinach in olive oil, add garlic and crushed red peppers, and you have a flavorful side, ready in minutes!
- 1 cup of cooked kale provides 885 mcg RAE (354% DV).
Kale packs 885 mcg RAE (354% DV) of vitamin A in just one cup. Cook kale down in a skillet with cauliflower florets, peas, olive oil, and garlic to make an easy and healthy side – just be sure not to overcook it. Kale is also super-versatile as an add-in. Toss wilted kale into frittatas, omelets, quiches, or scrambled eggs for an amped-up breakfast. Or throw some into your pesto sauce, use as a pizza topping, hide it in grilled cheese sandwiches, or toss into quesadillas or tacos. You can even blend it into your post-workout/morning smoothie.9
4. Collard Greens
- 1 cup of cooked collard green: 722 mcg RAE (288% DV)
Here’s another green powerhouse of vitamin A. One cup of cooked collard greens gives you around 722 mcg RAE of vitamin A (288% DV)10 Cook them up with a dash of garlic, chili flakes, and sesame oil to make your own version of the southern “mess of greens.” You can even have them raw in salads with a dash of chili oil and lemon juice.
- 1 cup of grated raw carrots: 918 mcg RAE (367% DV)
Carrots make for a healthy snack when you’re feeling grubby. They taste that much more delicious when you pair them with hummus or artichoke/spinach dips. One cup of grated raw carrots is enough to provide you with about 918 mcg RAE of vitamin A, which is more than 367% of your DV.11 Cook them and you stand to gain 1330 mcg RAE in a cup, meeting 265% of your DV. Toss them into curries, pastas, and stir-frys for some texture and crunch.12
6. Turnip Greens
- 1 cup of turnip greens: 549 mcg RAE (219% DV)
If you’ve always refused to make eye contact with these greens in the produce aisle, you may want to reconsider. Even though turnip greens can be a bit of an acquired taste, it does make for some very healthy and flavorful dishes. You can saute turnip greens down in olive oil and add some onions, bell peppers, and minced garlic for extra oomph. They can also be eaten raw in sandwiches and wraps. Just one cup of chopped turnip greens gives you 318 mcg RAE, that is, 127% of your DV.13 Cook them and you get 549 mcg RAE in a cup (219% DV).14
- 1 cup of shredded lettuce: 133 mcg RAE (53% DV)
Who’d have thought the humble lettuce is so full of vitamin goodness! Indeed, just one cup of shredded lettuce provides you with 53% DV with 133 mcg RAE of vitamin A.15 Don’t just limit the versatile lettuce to sandwiches and subs. Add shredded lettuce to salads, juices, and smoothies or toss them into veggie stir-fries. You can also use them for homemade coleslaw or on top of tortillas as an added layer. Or cut a head of lettuce into thick wedges and throw them on the grill. Add this amazing charred goodness to burgers or hot dogs – whatever you’ve got going on the grill!
- 1 cup of steamed broccoli: 120 mcg RAE of vitamin A (48% DV)
We end this list with another superstar among the greens. One cup of steamed broccoli gives you 120 mcg RAE of vitamin A or about 48% of your DV.16 Broccoli is easy to incorporate into your daily diet. For example, instead of reaching for a bag of chips, use raw broccoli to go along with dips. Add broccoli to stir-fry, casseroles, pasta, and salads. Roast it along with sweet bell peppers, add some garlic and olive oil or lemon butter, and you have the perfect side to your main course.
9. Red Peppers
- 1 cup of raw red peppers: 234 mcg RAE (47% DV)
One cup of raw red peppers offers you 234 mcg RAE of vitamin A or roughly 47% of your DV. Saute it and you get 146 mcg RAE per cup. Green and yellow peppers, on the other hand, chalk up very little vitamin A.17 Eat your red peppers raw as a snack and add them to just about any recipe for some extra crunch and flavor. They go great with salad and pastas and work wonders as a pizza topping or just roasted or grilled with olive oil as a side.
Now that you have this exclusive list of veggies to fall back on, it’s time to go shopping. They’ll win you over not only with their precious vitamin A content but just as much with their irresistible flavor and texture. So chomp down to your heart’s content!
|↑1||Vitamin A. U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑2||Vitamin A. Office of Dietary Supplements.|
|↑3||Chapter 7. Vitamin A.The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.|
|↑4||Dietary Supplement Label Database. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑5, ↑6||Vitamin A. Office of Dietary Supplements.|
|↑7, ↑8, ↑11, ↑16, ↑17||Vitamin A. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑9||Kale, cooked. USDA.|
|↑10||Collards, cooked. USDA.|
|↑12||11125, Carrots, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt. USDA.|
|↑13||Turnip greens, raw. USDA.|
|↑14||11569, Turnip greens, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt. USDA.|
|↑15||Lettuce, green leaf, raw. USDA.|