The Major Source Of ______ In The American Diet Is Processed Foods.

Medically reviewed by Amy Richter, RD, Nutrition — Written by Jayne Leonard — Updated on January 4, 2021

Vitamin A is essential for overall health and well-being. Because the human body cannot make it, people must obtain this vitamin from their diet.

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Vitamin A is an essential nutrient that plays a role in many bodily processes, including:

immune functionreproductionhealthy visionproper functioning of the heart, lungs, kidneys, and other organsskin healthgrowth and development

In this article, we describe 14 of the best sources of vitamin A and the recommended daily intake.

Animal livers are among the richest sources of vitamin A. This is because, like humans, animals store vitamin A in the liver.

A 3-ounce (oz) serving of pan fried beef liver contains 6,582 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin A, which equates to 731% of the daily value (DV).

The DV allows people to easily compare the nutrient contents of different foods. It is a percentage based on the recommended daily intakes of key nutrients from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

As an organ meat, liver is high in protein. It also contains many other nutrients, including:

vitamin B2vitamin B12ironcholine

Lamb liver and liver sausage are other rich sources of vitamin A.

2. Cod liver oil

Fish livers are also excellent sources of preformed vitamin A, with 1 tablespoon of cod liver oil providing 4,080 mcg.

This and other fish oils are among the richest sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which help fight inflammation and protect the heart. Research also suggests that they may treat or prevent depression.

Cod liver oil is also an excellent source of vitamin D, with 1 tablespoon containing 170% of the DV.

According to the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS), vitamin D boosts immunity and plays a role in bone health. It may also protect against depression.

3. Sweet potato

One whole sweet potato, baked in its skin, provides 1,403 mcg of vitamin A, which is 156% of the DV.

The vitamin A present in this root vegetable is in the form of beta carotene. Research suggests that this compound may help protect against age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Some studies also suggest that beta carotene may help protect against cancers, such as prostate cancer, but the results are mixed.

Sweet potatoes are also:

high in fiberhave a low glycemic index, helping to control blood sugar levels

For a healthful meal, try having a baked sweet potato in the skin with a salad and a source of protein, such as salmon or tofu.

4. Carrots

Carrots are rich in beta carotene. Half a cup of raw carrots contains 459 mcg of vitamin A and 51% of the DV.

A large carrot contains around 29 calories. This makes for a light and healthful snack, especially when eaten with hummus or guacamole.

Carrots are also rich in dietary fiber, which can help prevent constipation and promote better gut health.

5. Black-eyed peas

Beans are an excellent source of plant-based protein, and they are also rich in fiber. Each cup of boiled black eyed peas contains 66 mcg of vitamin A and 7% of the DV.

Black-eyed peas are also a good source of iron.

Studies support the role of various types of beans in promoting heart health. For instance, research has linked eating beans with a lower risk of heart disease and high blood pressure.

Other research has shown that eating beans can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Black-eyed peas are a versatile ingredient. Use them in salads, soups, and stews.

6. Spinach

Like other leafy green vegetables, spinach contains a wealth of nutrients.

Each half-cup of boiled spinach provides 573 mcg of vitamin A, which is 64% of the DV.

This serving also provides 17% of the DV for iron and 19% of the DV for magnesium. Magnesium plays a role in over 300 processes in the human body.

Some research indicates that spinach can lower blood pressure and improve heart health.

Sautéed spinach makes a tasty side dish, and spinach also works well in pasta dishes and soups.

7. Broccoli

Broccoli is another healthful source of vitamin A, with a half-cup providing 60 mcg, which is 7% of a person’s DV.

Half a cup of broccoli contains just 15 calories and is also an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin K.

Vitamin K is essential for bone metabolism and blood clotting, while vitamin C enhances immune function and has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Eating cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, may reduce a person’s risk of developing some cancers, due to the presence of a substance called sulforaphane.

People can roast, steam, or fry broccoli, enjoy it in soups, or add it to salads.

8. Sweet red pepper

A half-cup of raw sweet red bell pepper provides 117 mcg of vitamin A, which is 13% of the DV.

This serving only contains around 19 calories and is rich in vitamin C, vitamin B6, and folate.

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Bell peppers are a great source of antioxidants such as capsanthin. They also contain quercetin, which has anti-inflammatory and antihistamine properties.

Try scrambling bell peppers with eggs, eating them in sandwiches, or serving sliced peppers with a healthful dip.

9. Mango

A whole, raw mango contains 112 mcg of vitamin A, or 12% of the DV.

Mangoes are rich in antioxidants and dietary fiber, which can contribute to better gut function and help control blood sugar.

This fruit is delicious on its own, but it works equally well in a tropical fruit salad or mango salsa.

10. Cantaloupe

A half-cup of this summer melon provides 135 mcg of vitamin A, which is 15% of the DV.

Cantaloupe is a great source of the antioxidant vitamin C, which boosts immune function and protects against several diseases.

Eat fresh cantaloupe on its own, with other fruit, or in a smoothie.

11. Dried apricots

For a sweet treat that is rich in vitamin A, snack on dried apricots.

Ten dried apricot halves contain 63 mcg of vitamin A, which is 7% of the DV. Dried fruits are also high in fiber and antioxidants.

However, dried apricots also contain a lot of sugar and calories, so it is important to consume them in moderation.

12. Pumpkin pie

Pumpkin pie is another treat rich in vitamin A, with one piece containing 488 mcg or 54% of the DV. This is because, like other orange vegetables, pumpkin is rich in beta carotene.

Pumpkin is also a good source of antioxidants, such as vitamin C, lutein, and zeaxanthin.

Research indicates that high intakes of these substances can preserve vision and prevent common eye diseases.

Eating pumpkin pie is less healthful than eating plain pumpkin, so enjoy it in moderation to avoid consuming too much sugar.

13. Tomato juice

A three-quarter cup serving of tomato juice contains 42 mcg of vitamin A, which is 5% of the DV.

Tomatoes are also rich in vitamin C and lycopene, which are antioxidants.

Like pumpkins, tomatoes and tomato juice contain lutein and zeaxanthin, which may benefit eye health.

14. Herring

A 3-oz serving of pickled Atlantic herring provides 219 mcg of vitamin A, or 24% of a person’s DV.

Herring is also a good source of protein and vitamin D.

As a fatty fish, herring is a great option for those who want to increase their omega-3 intake for heart and brain health.

In fact, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommend eating 2 servings of fatty fish each week.

Recommended intake of vitamin A

There are two main types of vitamin A:

Preformed vitamin A: This comes in the form of retinol and is present in animal-based food sources, including meat, fish, poultry, and dairy products.Provitamin A: This comes in the form of carotenoids, mainly beta carotene. It is present in plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables.

To aid the absorption of vitamin A, a person needs to include some fat in their diet. It is also important not to overcook foods, as this reduces the amount of vitamin A in them.

The ODS list the recommended dietary allowances for vitamin A as follows:

Demographic Daily amount (mcg)
Males aged 14+ 900
Females aged 14+ 700
Pregnant teens aged 14–18 750
Pregnant adults aged 19+ 770
Breastfeeding teens aged 14–18 1,200
Breastfeeding adults aged 19+ 1,300

Summary

Many foods, both plant-based and from animals, contain good amounts of vitamin A.

Vitamin A deficiency is uncommon in the U.S., and most people do not need to worry too much about counting vitamin A values.

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The best way to ensure an adequate nutrient intake is to eat a varied and balanced diet, full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthful fats, and lean proteins.

Last medically reviewed on January 4, 2021

Medically reviewed by Amy Richter, RD, Nutrition — Written by Jayne Leonard — Updated on January 4, 2021

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