The Top 20 Foods High In Vitamin A

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Vitamin A   Carotenoids

Vitamin A is an essential fat-soluble vitamin that has numerous vital functions in the body.

This guide will firstly examine the top twenty foods high in preformed vitamin A (retinol).

Following this, we will look at the best food sources of carotenoids and the key differences between retinol and carotenoids.

These foods are the very best sources of the vitamin according to the USDA Nutrient Composition Database.

Vitamin A (Retinol): Structure and Foods High In Vitamin A.

Types of Vitamin A

Vitamin A is an essential micronutrient for our health, but there are two different ways we can get it from our diet (1);

  • The first is by consuming animal foods that contain retinol, which is sometimes known as “preformed vitamin A.” Retinol is a highly bioavailable form of vitamin A, and our body can instantly utilize it.
  • We can also get something called “provitamin A” from carotenoids in plant foods such as carrots and sweet potatoes. Our body needs to convert carotenoids into retinol before we can use them.

Pre-formed Vitamin A (Retinol) vs. Provitamin A (Carotenoids)

Unfortunately, the rate of conversion of carotenoids to retinol can be low and variable in humans.

As a result, plant foods do not offer the same bioavailability as animal food sources of vitamin A (2).

That said, some plant foods do offer significant amounts of carotenoids, so they can still be a valuable source of the vitamin.

Retinol Activity Equivalents (RAE) and the Vitamin A Daily Value

Since retinol and carotenoids do not offer the same bioavailability, the FDA recently mandated a new way of measuring the vitamin A content of food.

This measurement is called the retinol activity equivalent (RAE), which takes the low bioavailability of carotenoids into account.

These new guidelines state that 1 microgram (mcg) of retinol activity equivalent (RAE) is equivalent to (3);

  • 1 mcg retinol (found in animal foods)
  • 12 mcg beta-carotene (the most predominant carotenoid in plant foods)
  • 24 mcg other carotenoids (such as alpha-carotene)

In other words, retinol is deemed to be approximately 12x to 24x more valuable as a vitamin A source than carotenoids.

Recommended Daily Intake

For adult males, the recommended daily allowance for vitamin A is 900 mcg RAE and for females, it is 700 mcg RAE (4).

Key Point: Animal foods contain preformed vitamin A (retinol). Plant foods contain significant amounts of provitamin A carotenoids, but their bioavailability is relatively poor.

Top 20 Foods High In Vitamin A (Retinol)

Here are the very best sources of vitamin A.

1) Cod Liver Oil

Cod Liver OilAmount % Daily Value
Per teaspoon serving
1350 mcg RAE150 %
Per 100 grams30,000 mcg RAE3333 %

While not technically a food, cod liver oil contains substantial amounts of vitamin A.

With this oil, just a single teaspoon delivers a concentrated serving of the vitamin equivalent to 150% of the daily value (5).

However, that’s not all – cod liver oil also supplies a significant amount of vitamin D and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids.

2) Duck Liver

Duck LiverAmount % Daily Value
4 oz (113 g) serving
13541 mcg RAE1505 %
Per 100 grams11984 mcg RAE1332 %

Duck liver contains an enormous amount of vitamin A in the form of retinol, and a 4 oz serving provides 1505% of the daily intake value (6).

3) Lamb Liver

Liver, Bacon, and Mashed Potato On a Plate.

Lamb LiverAmount % Daily Value
4 oz (113 g) serving
8352 mcg RAE928 %
Per 100 grams7391 mcg RAE821 %

Liver is one of the richest sources of vitamin A out of all foods. Furthermore, it’s one of the most nutrient-dense foods in the world.

Per 4 oz serving, raw lamb liver supplies approximately 928% of the recommended intake for vitamin A (7).

Don’t like liver?

Here are a couple of ideas;

  • Fry some liver and onions; use butter, some herbs of your choice, and a touch of tamari soy sauce and red wine. Add some onions and garlic, and you have a delicious meal.
  • Make some liver and bacon pate; using a food processor you only need three ingredients – butter, liver, and bacon. After forming a consistent paste, store the pate in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

4) Turkey Liver

Turkey LiverAmount % Daily Value
4 oz (113 g) serving
9106 mcg RAE1012 %
Per 100 grams8058 mcg RAE895 %

Since liver is such a significant source of retinol, several different liver products top this list.

Following lamb and duck liver is turkey liver, and per 4 oz serving it offers 1012% of the daily value (8).

5) Beef Liver

Beef LiverAmount % Daily Value
4 oz (113 g) serving
5614 mcg RAE624 %
Per 100 grams4968 mcg RAE552 %

Although it isn’t quite as high in retinol as some varieties of liver, beef liver still contains substantial concentrations of vitamin A.

Based on a 4-oz serving, beef liver offers around 624% of the recommended intake (9).

Although other varieties of liver (such as chicken and pork) are also significant sources of vitamin A, we will now move on to look at different types of food.

6) Liverwurst

LiverwurstAmount % Daily Value
Per cup (55 g) serving
2250 mcg RAE250 %
Per 100 grams4091 mcg RAE455 %

If you don’t know what liverwurst is, then it is a unique German type of “sausage” that contains a mix of ingredients.

Typically, liverwurst is made from liver, kidneys and other meat, pork fat, and a variety of seasonings.

Since it is a large source of organ meat, liverwurst also offers a high amount of vitamin A, and it provides approximately 250% of the recommended intake per serving (10).

7) Eel

EelAmount % Daily Value
Per fillet (204 g) serving
2128 mcg RAE236 %
Per 100 grams1043 mcg RAE116 %

Eel is a unique type of fish with a shape that resembles a snake.

Although eel is not a common food in the Western world, it is very nutritious, and it is a key part of the cuisine in Japan and other East Asian countries.

It is also very rich in vitamin A, and a typical eel fillet supplies around 236% of the daily value for the nutrient (11).

8) Ghee

Getting a Spoon of Ghee From a Glass Jar.

GheeAmount % Daily Value
Per tbsp (12.8 g) serving
108 mcg RAE12 %
Per 100 grams840 mcg RAE93 %

Ghee is a delicious and concentrated source of butterfat, and it is an excellent source of fat-soluble vitamins.

Per tablespoon, ghee supplies approximately 12% of the recommended daily intake for vitamin A (12).

However, remember that the serving size for ghee is generally small, so the amount of vitamin A in ‘100 grams’ is slightly deceiving.

Among its other uses, ghee is a perfect fit for cooking Indian-style curries.

9) Butter

ButterAmount % Daily Value
Per tbsp (14.8 g) serving
97 mcg RAE11 %
Per 100 grams684 mcg RAE76 %

Slightly behind ghee, regular butter is also rich in retinol, and it provides around 11% of the recommended intake per tablespoon (13).

Ghee offers slightly higher amounts since it doesn’t contain casein, lactose or moisture.

As a cooking fat, butter can enhance the flavor of various foods, and if you’re cooking carotenoid-containing vegetables, then it can also help increase the bioavailability.

10) Tuna (Bluefin)

Bluefin TunaAmount % Daily Value
Per 6 oz (170 g) serving
1114 mcg RAE124 %
Per 100 grams655 mcg RAE73 %

All varieties of tuna offer a good nutrition profile, and the fish is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, B vitamins, and vitamin A.

For instance, a 6-oz fillet of bluefin tuna offers around 125% of the recommended daily value for vitamin A (14).

On the negative side, bluefin tuna tends to be relatively high in mercury compared to other types of fish.

As a result, general recommendations advise limiting the fish to occasional consumption (a maximum of three times per month) (15, 16).

11) Hard Goat’s Cheese

Goat CheeseAmount % Daily Value
Per oz (28 g) 
138 mcg RAE15 %
Per 100 grams486 mcg RAE54 %

All cheese is delicious, but hard and crumbly goat’s cheese offers a strong and flavorful taste.

This cheese works well as in combination with a wide range of foods from meat to fruit and nuts. For any wine lovers, it also makes a great pairing with a glass of wine.

Aged goat cheese offers around 15% of the recommended intake for vitamin A per ounce serving (17).

12) Beef Kidney

Beef KidneyAmount % Daily Value
4 oz (113 g) Serving
473 mcg RAE53 %
Per 100 grams419 mcg RAE47 %

Similar to liver, kidney is also a significant source of retinol.

While beef kidney is one of the best sources, other varieties like lamb and pork kidney are also high in the vitamin.

Per 4 oz serving, beef kidney supplies just over half of the daily value (53%) for preformed vitamin A (18).

13) Cheddar Cheese

Chopped Cubes of Cheddar Cheese.

CheddarAmount % Daily Value
Per Slice (28 g) 
74 mcg RAE8 %
Per 100 grams263 mcg RAE29 %

Goat cheese isn’t the only good option for vitamin A, and regular cow cheese can be an excellent source too.

Cheddar is one of the world’s most famous cheese varieties, and it is also moderately high in vitamin A.

One average slice contains around 8% of the recommended vitamin A intake (19).

14) Sturgeon

SturgeonAmount % Daily Value
5 oz (140 g) Serving
178 mcg RAE20 %
Per 100 grams210 mcg RAE23 %

Sturgeon is a very large species of fish that primarily lives in freshwater in Eurasia and North America.

Interestingly, the sturgeon family of fish is said to be up to 245 million years old, making it one of the oldest species on earth.

Sturgeon is also fairly nutritious, and it offers a good amount of vitamin A, with a 5-ounce serving providing around 20% of the recommended daily intake (20).

15) Eggs

EggsAmount % Daily Value
Per egg (50 g) 
80 mcg RAE9 %
Per 100 grams160 mcg RAE18 %

Eggs are one of the most nutritious foods in the average diet, and they provide almost every essential vitamin and mineral in varying proportions.

Interestingly, eggs are a good source of both retinol and carotenoids. Among the many nutrients they offer, eggs contain two carotenoids with potential antioxidant properties called lutein and zeaxanthin (21).

The average large-sized egg provides 9% of the daily value for vitamin A (22).

If you want a larger amount of the vitamin, try making a three-egg omelet with a bit of cheese — it’s a cheap and easy but nutritious meal.

16) Clams

ClamsAmount % Daily Value
3 oz (85 g) Serving
76 mcg RAE8 %
Per 100 grams90 mcg RAE10 %

Clams are one of the most nutritious foods we can eat – whether from the land or sea.

These little shellfish offer a varied range of nutrients in high amounts, and they are an especially good source of iron and vitamin B12 (23).

Regarding their vitamin A content, clams offer around 10% of the reference daily amount per 100 grams (24).

17) Fish Roe

Fish RoeAmount % Daily Value
3 oz (85 g) Serving
76 mcg RAE8 %
Per 100 grams90 mcg RAE10 %

Fish roe is loaded with all kinds of nutrients from essential vitamins and minerals to protein and omega-3. The only problem is that roe tends to be expensive in the Western world.

These little fish eggs are also a good provider of retinol, and they offer the same amount of the vitamin as clams – approximately 10% of the daily intake per 100 grams (25).

For anyone wondering how to eat roe, you can find some recipe ideas here.

18) Mackerel (Atlantic)

MackerelAmount % Daily Value
Per Fillet (112 g) Serving
56 mcg RAE6 %
Per 100 grams50 mcg RAE6 %

Atlantic mackerel is somewhat ignored as a source of omega-3 compared to more popular fish such as sardines, salmon and tuna.

However, mackerel is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and it offers significant amounts of vitamins and minerals too.

Per typical fillet serving, mackerel provides 6% of the daily allowance for vitamin A (26).

19) Cisco

CiscoAmount % Daily Value
Per Fillet (79 g) Serving
24 mcg RAE3 %
Per 100 grams30 mcg RAE3 %

Cisco is a large type of salmonid fish that lives in the waters of North America. This fish is a good source of protein, omega-3, selenium, and B vitamins.

Additionally, cisco also contains vitamin A, but in relatively small amounts – a typical fillet offers 3% of the daily value for the vitamin (27).

20) Herring

HerringAmount % Daily Value
Per Fillet (184 g) Serving
52 mcg RAE6 %
Per 100 grams28 mcg RAE3 %

Herring is a nutritious oily fish that is low in mercury, and it also offers one of the best dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids (28).

This oily fish contains a moderate vitamin A content too, with a standard fillet providing around 6% of the recommended daily amount (29).

The Best Food Sources of Carotenoids

Here are some of the best plant-based sources of provitamin A (carotenoids).

1) Grape Leaves

Grape LeavesAmount % Daily Value
Per Cup (14 g) Serving
193 mcg RAE21 %
Per 100 grams1376 mcg RAE153 %

Not many people are familiar with them, but the leaves from grapevines are a nutritious leafy green vegetable.

These grape leaves are especially popular in Eastern European and Middle Eastern cuisine, and they offer substantial amounts of carotenoids.

In fact, just 100 grams contains more than 150% of the recommended daily value for vitamin A (30).

Grape leaves are available either fresh (at certain points of the year) or pickled in a brine solution.

2) Carrots

CarrotsAmount % Daily Value
Per Medium Carrot (61 g)
509 mcg RAE57 %
Per 100 grams835 mcg RAE93 %

The bright orange color of carrots is down to their substantial concentration of carotenoids.

For a regular medium-sized carrot, you can expect to get around 57% of the daily intake for retinol-equivalent vitamin A (31).

3) Sweet Potato

A Large Orange-Flesh Sweet Potato.

Sweet PotatoAmount % Daily Value
Per Cup (133 g) Serving
943 mcg RAE105 %
Per 100 grams709 mcg RAE79 %

The orange flesh of sweet potatoes gives away the beta-carotene content, and they offer 105% of the recommended intake of retinol equivalent vitamin A (32).

4) Turnip Greens

Turnip GreensAmount % Daily Value
Per Cup (55 g) Serving
318 mcg RAE35 %
Per 100 grams579 mcg RAE64 %

Turnip greens are a dark green cruciferous vegetable, and they are packed with nutrients.

Among these, they are a particularly good source of vitamins C and K, and they provide a good source of provitamin A.

Per cup serving, turnip greens offer 35% of the recommended intake of retinol equivalent vitamin A (33).

5) Butternut Squash

Butternut SquashAmount % Daily Value
Per Cup (140 g) Serving
745 mcg RAE83 %
Per 100 grams532 mcg RAE59 %

Butternut squash is a light and slightly sweet type of winter squash that resembles a pumpkin in appearance.

This vegetable is quite tasty, and it can be boiled, mashed, roasted, or used in soups and stews.

Butternut squash is rich in carotenoids, and if offers 83% of the daily value for vitamin A per cup (34).

6) Dandelion Greens

Dandelion GreensAmount % Daily Value
Per Cup (55 g) Serving
279 mcg RAE31 %
Per 100 grams508 mcg RAE56 %

Dandelions greens are a rather bitter tasting leafy green, particularly in their raw state.

However, they are full of nutrients, and they are especially high in carotenoids and vitamin K1.

Per cup serving, dandelion greens contain equivalent to 31% of the daily value for vitamin A (35).

7) Spinach

SpinachAmount % Daily Value
Per Cup (30 g) Serving
141 mcg RAE16 %
Per 100 grams469 mcg RAE52 %

Spinach is one of the most nutrient-dense vegetables, and it is an excellent source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

This leafy green is also high in provitamin A, and per cup serving it has a retinol activity equivalent to 16% of the recommended vitamin A intake (36).

8) Romaine Lettuce

Romaine LettuceAmount % Daily Value
Per Cup (47 g) Serving
205 mcg RAE23 %
Per 100 grams436 mcg RAE48 %

Romaine lettuce is a popular salad vegetable, and it has a crisp and refreshing taste.

Per regular serving, this leafy green supplies almost a quarter of the daily recommended vitamin A equivalent (37).

9) Pumpkin

A Round Orange Pumpkin.

PumpkinAmount % Daily Value
Per Cup (116 g) Serving
494 mcg RAE55 %
Per 100 grams426 mcg RAE47 %

Pumpkins are one of the most versatile vegetables and people use them for soups, stews, desserts and even Halloween decorations.

Once again, the bright orange appearance of pumpkin rightly suggests it will be a concentrated source of carotenoids.

A regular cup serving provides slightly over half of the recommended daily value for vitamin A (38).

10) Red Lettuce Leaf

Red Lettuce LeafAmount % Daily Value
Per Cup (28 g) Serving
105 mcg RAE12 %
Per 100 grams375 mcg RAE42 %

Red leaf lettuce looks similar to regular green leaf lettuce, but it has red tinges on the end of its leaves.

While not the biggest lettuce source of carotenoids, red leaf lettuce still offers a fair amount, and a cup serving provides 12% of the vitamin A daily value (39).

11) Green Leaf Lettuce

Green Lettuce LeafAmount % Daily Value
Per Cup (28 g) Serving
103 mcg RAE11 %
Per 100 grams370 mcg RAE41 %

With very nearly as much carotenoid content as the red version, green leaf lettuce offers 11% of the recommended intake for vitamin A per cup (40).

12) Cress (‘Garden Cress’)

Garden CressAmount % Daily Value
Per Cup (50 g) Serving
173 mcg RAE19 %
Per 100 grams346 mcg RAE38 %

Garden cress provides around 19% of the recommended retinol equivalent vitamin A per cup serving (41).

In addition to the vitamin A content, cress is high in a wide range of nutrients, and it offers well over 100% of the RDI for vitamin C and K1 (42).

13) Beet Greens

Beet GreensAmount % Daily Value
Per Cup (38 g) Serving
120 mcg RAE13 %
Per 100 grams316 mcg RAE35 %

Beet greens are another leafy green—and nutrient-dense—vegetable, and they provide around 13% of the vitamin A daily value per cup (43).

These leaves can taste a little bitter in their raw form, but they taste good with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Quickly pan-frying them in a bit of butter works well too.

14) Swiss Chard

Swiss ChardAmount % Daily Value
Per Cup (36 g) Serving
110 mcg RAE12 %
Per 100 grams306 mcg RAE34 %

Swiss chard tastes similar to beet greens and it offers a similar concentration of vitamin A too.

Per cup serving, swiss chard offers 12% of the daily intake for the vitamin (44).

15) Collard Greens

Bunch of Collard Green Leaves.

Collard GreensAmount % Daily Value
Per Cup (36 g) Serving
90 mcg RAE10 %
Per 100 grams251 mcg RAE28 %

Collard greens are high in vitamin A and K1, and a cup serving supplies approximately 10% of the daily value for vitamin A (45).

Collards also offer a good range of nutrients, and this includes large amounts of vitamin C and folate.

16) Kale

KaleAmount % Daily Value
Per Cup (21 g) Serving
51 mcg RAE6 %
Per 100 grams241 mcg RAE27 %

Kale contains a significant amount of beta-carotene, and a cup serving provides 51 mcg of retinol equivalent activity (46).

This dark cruciferous vegetable also provides a substantial supply of vitamin C.

Cooking kale with a bit of butter significantly improves the taste and helps to improve the absorption of vitamin A too.

17) Bok Choy (Chinese Cabbage)

Bok ChoyAmount % Daily Value
Per Cup (70 g) Serving
156 mcg RAE17 %
Per 100 grams223 mcg RAE25 %

Bok choy is a traditional Chinese vegetable (otherwise known as Chinese cabbage) that is popular around the world.

Additionally, it is an excellent source of vitamin A, and a cup serving supplies around 17% of the recommended daily intake (47).

18) Cantaloupe Melon

Cantaloupe MelonAmount % Daily Value
Per Cup (156 g) Serving
264 mcg RAE17 %
Per 100 grams169 mcg RAE25 %

Vegetables aren’t the only source of carotenoids, and some varieties of fruit can be rich in them too.

On this note, a cup of cantaloupe melon offers approximately 17% of the recommended intake per day (48).

19) Watercress

WatercressAmount % Daily Value
Per Cup (34 g) Serving
54 mcg RAE6 %
Per 100 grams160 mcg RAE18 %

Just like regular garden cress, watercress is a good source of vitamin A too; per 100 grams, watercress offers around 18% of the daily value (49).

20) Mustard Greens

Mustard GreensAmount % Daily Value
Per Cup (56 g) Serving
85 mcg RAE9 %
Per 100 grams151 mcg RAE17 %

More leafy greens, and more provitamin A; mustard greens offer a retinol-equivalent amount of vitamin A of around 85 mcg RAE per cup.

This amount equals 9% of the recommended intake (50).

Carotenoid To Retinol Conversion Rates Vary and Are Unreliable

Lastly, it is worth noting that the efficiency at which our body can convert carotenoids to true vitamin A (retinol) greatly varies.

Therefore, the retinol activity equivalent (RAE) rates for carotenoid foods are best estimates.

For example, researchers estimate that the carotenoid to retinol conversion efficiency could be as low as 3.6:1 or as high as 28:1.

These differences may depend on several different factors including the specific food, overall diet composition, and the individual and their genes (51).

Furthermore, a significant number of individuals with a specific gene (BCM01) mutation have impaired ability to convert carotenoids into retinol (52).

Final Thoughts

As shown in this guide, there are numerous animal and plant foods high in vitamin A.

Due to the unreliable conversion of provitamin A into retinol, animal foods like liver and oily fish are probably the optimal choice.

However, fruit and vegetable sources of vitamin A are still beneficial to health.

Just be sure to eat them with a little fat to help increase the vitamin’s bioavailability.

For more on vitamins, see this in-depth guide to vitamin E.

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