I am sure you remember that ever since you were a little child, your parents were “forcing” you to eat carrots.
The reason is simple, carrots are one of the best sources of vitamin A, a vitamin crucial for our eye vision, immune function, and skin health.
Vitamin A deficiency often leads to blindness, and in some countries blindness in children is alarming due to the limited food sources of vitamin A.
The daily recommended dose of vitamin A for women is 700 micrograms, while for men that are 900 micrograms.
One cup of carrots gives you three times that value. With that being said, let’s take a look at some vitamin A rich foods.
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Difference between vitamin A and beta-carotene
It is important to note that there are two forms of vitamin A that can be found in foods rich in vitamin A.
One is active, and the other is beta-carotene.
There is a vast difference between them.
Active Vitamin A (often called retinol) is ready to be absorbed and is usually found in animal products.
That means organ meats like liver and kidney, as well as egg yolks from pastured chicken.
Beta-carotene is the precursor to vitamin A.
It is found in colorful fruits and vegetables. After being ingested, beta-carotene is converted to retinol.
Foods high in vitamin A
Just one medium-sized carrot gives you around 160% of the daily recommended dose of vitamin A.
If you take things further and get one cup of carrots, you are getting five times of vitamin A than the daily dose.
Now, do not be afraid, there is no upper limit for vitamin A.
When it comes to carrots, you can use fresh, or frozen carrots, and you can even cook them, they won’t lose vitamin A.
A sweet potato and carrots salad is the best gift for your eyes.
I tend to prepare such salad as a side dish for my meat dishes.
One medium potato contains even more vitamin A than one carrot, but a potato is bigger than a carrot.
Per 100 grams, carrots are the better choice.
Same as with carrots, potatoes can be consumed fresh, frozen, cooked, canned or raw, it doesn’t make a large difference.
It is hard to say which is better, whether it is carrots or sweet potatoes.
Both give you more than you need vitamin A.
One whole sweet potato, for example, brings more than 100% of the daily value of vitamin A to your diet.
Sweet Red Peppers
Let’s continue the foods high in vitamin A list with another favorite veggie of mine, which is the sweet red pepper.
It might not be as potent as carrots and potatoes, but it is still high in vitamin A, providing you with 60% of the daily dose per 100 grams.
Green and yellow peppers are not as potent as the red pepper, so if vitamin A is what you need, stick to red peppers.
Just 100 grams of will get you two times the daily value of vitamin A.
If you are having problems how to mix lettuce in your diet, just think of a salad.
You can add lettuce leaves to virtually any salad.
One of my favorites, however, is to mix lettuce with leafy greens for a green salad packed with vitamins and nutrients.
I usually put lettuce, spinach, and arugula, but you can make your own version.
Dark Leafy Greens
Now you know why I mix leafy greens with lettuce.
Per 100 grams of leafy greens, you get between 200 and 300% of the daily dose of vitamin A.
It all depends on what you put in it.
Kale is the best option, with spinach, collards, turnip greens, and dandelion greens following on the list.
Kale will give you more 100% of the daily value of vitamin A in just one cup.
And you can easily chop one cup of kale in your morning smoothie.
The same applies for spinach.
One cup of raw spinach gives you close to 60% of your daily vitamin A recommended value.
We are now getting to the fruits on the list of vitamin foods, and there, pumpkin or squash leads the list.
The only downside of pumpkin is it is a seasonal fruit that you cannot find a frozen version of it.
But when the season starts, get as much of it as you can.
During the season, just one cup of pumpkin cubes gives you 10% of your daily value of vitamin A.
Now that doesn’t sound like a lot on first glance, but you can easily eat few cups of pumpkin cubes per day.
If pumpkin is a seasonable fruit, druid apricots are available through the whole year.
Other dried fruits rich in vitamin A include dried prunes and dried peaches, but apricots give you the most vitamin A out of all.
One cup of 100 grams gives you 250% of the daily dose of vitamin A you need.
But do not go over your head with dried apricots, as they are also rich in sugar.
Therefore, you want to balance things up.
The bad news is, the melon is another seasonal fruit.
The good news is, it has great value to calories ratio, as one medium wedge of melon contains only 23 calories and 50% of the daily value of vitamin A you need.
Other tropical fruits contain vitamin A, but mango beats them all with around 40% of the daily value per one cup.
If you can eat a whole mango, you get almost 80% of the daily value of vitamin A.
Another tropical fruit worth mentioning on the vitamin A foods list is papaya.
And you can get papaya through the whole year.
Beet greens are another excellent vitamin to calories ratio source for vitamin A.
Aside from loads of vitamin A, beet greens are also an excellent source of vitamin K and potassium.
And one cup contains only 19 calories.
Other benefits of vitamin A
We all know vitamin A as one of the most important vitamins for our eye health.
In that spirit, most of the symptoms of deficiency manifest in our eyes.
For example, symptoms of vitamin A deficiency include night blindness, keratinization of the skin, burning sensation in the eyes, itching in the eyes, inflammation of the eyelids, and dryness of the conjunctiva.
But vitamin A brings many more benefits to our health.
Here are some benefits of regular consumption of vitamin A
- Improved immune system, as the vitamin enhances the body’s immunity against infections
- Keeps the mucus membranes moist to ensure and enhance activity of white blood cells
- Keeps your body free from free radicals, and takes care of your skin in the process
- Improves health of the bones and teeth by helping in the formation of dentin, the hard material just below the surface of the teeth
- Prevent urinary stones and improve the shape of the urinary tract
- Promote muscle growth by retaining shape of the bones. Vitamin A plays vital role in ensuring proper muscle growth in children
- Reduce the production of excess sebum, and reducing the risk of acne in the process
- Act as powerful antioxidant that prevents cancer
- Plays a role in replacing old tissues with new ones
- Lowers cholesterol levels and protects against heart diseases
Can you get too much vitamin A?
As with most other vitamins and minerals, it is possible to get an overdose.
This happens because vitamin A is fat-soluble.
That means it readily sticks around in the human body longer than other chemicals that are water soluble.
Over-supplementation can stack up and eventually cause an excess of vitamin A.
Once that happens, it is just as bad as a deficiency of vitamin A.
The symptoms include hair loss, feeling nauseous, and altered mental state.
While the vitamin A toxicity is not common, it is possible and even dangerous for pregnant women.
A study has shown that women taking very high doses of vitamin A put themselves and the health of their baby at risk.
The result is birth defects in children.
It is worth noting that toxicity is not linked with beta-carotene sourced from colorful fruits and vegetables.
That means you can load up on these healthy vitamin A foods.