- Beef liver
- Cod liver oil
- Sweet potato
- Black-eyed peas
- Sweet red pepper
- Dried apricots
- Pumpkin pie
- Tomato juice
- Recommended intake
Vitamin A is essential for overall health and well-being. It’s a fat-soluble vitamin that plays an essential role in maintaining vision, body growth, immune function, and reproductive health. Because the human body cannot make it, people must obtain this vitamin from their diet.
Vitamin A is an essential nutrient that plays a role in many bodily processes, including:
- immune function
- healthy vision
- the proper functioning of the heart, lungs, kidneys, and other organs
- skin health
- growth and development
Getting adequate amounts of vitamin A from your diet should prevent the symptoms of deficiency, which include hair loss, skin problems, dry eyes, night blindness, and increased susceptibility to infections.
Deficiency is a leading cause of blindness in developing countries. In contrast, most people in developed countries get enough vitamin A from their diet.
The recommended daily intake is 900 mcg for men, 700 mcg for women, and 300–600 mcg for children and adolescents. This dosage provides enough vitamin A for the vast majority of people.
Put simply, a single daily value of 900 mcg is used as a reference on nutrition labels in the United States and Canada.
In this article, we describe 14 of the best sources of vitamin A and the recommended daily intake.
1. Beef liver
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.
The daily value allows people to easily compare the nutrient contents of different foods. It is a percentage based on the recommended daily intake of key nutrients from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
As organ meat, the liver is high in protein. It also contains many other nutrients, including:
- vitamin B2
- vitamin B12
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 daily value.
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 daily value.
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:
- low in calories
- a source of vitamin B6, vitamin C, and potassium
- high in fiber
- have a low glycemic index, helping to control blood sugar levels
For a healthful meal, try having a baked sweet potato on the skin with a salad and a source of protein, such as salmon or tofu.
Carrots are rich in beta carotene. Half a cup of raw carrots contains 459 mcg of vitamin A and 51% of the daily value.
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 daily value.
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.
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 daily value.
This serving also provides 17% of the daily value for iron and 19% of the daily value 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.
Broccoli is another healthful source of vitamin A, with a half-cup providing 60 mcg, which is 7% of a person’s daily value.
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 daily value.
This serving only contains around 19 calories and is rich in vitamin C, vitamin B6, and folate.
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.
A whole, raw mango contains 112 mcg of vitamin A or 12% of the daily value.
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.
A half-cup of this summer melon provides 135 mcg of vitamin A, which is 15% of the daily value.
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 daily value. 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 daily value. 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 daily value.
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.
A 3-oz serving of pickled Atlantic herring provides 219 mcg of vitamin A or 24% of a person’s daily value.
Herring is also a good source of protein and vitamin D.
As a fatty fish, a herring is a great option for those who want to increase their omega-3 intake for heart and brain health.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends 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 lists the recommended dietary allowances for vitamin A as follows:
- Males aged 14 and above: 900 mcg
- Females aged 14 and above: 700 mcg
- Pregnant teens aged 14–18: 750 mcg
- Pregnant adults aged 19 and above: 770 mcg
- Breastfeeding teens aged 14–18: 1200 mcg
- Breastfeeding adults aged 19 and above: 1300 mcg
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.
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.