Vitamin A Rich Foods: A Simple (But Complete) Guide

Written by Ben Bunting: BA, PGCert. (Sport & Exercise Nutrition) // British Army Physical Training Instructor // S&C Coach.


Of all the vitamins, you may have forgotten about vitamin A (retinol), or indeed know about its importance to health, particularly amidst a global pandemic.

Here, we look at the foods which are high in vitamin A so you can benefit the most.

Vitamin A – The Low Down

The World Health Organization recognizes that a vitamin A deficiency is a public health issue over 50% of all countries.

The consequences can lead to the following problems:

  • Child blindness
  • Maternal mortality
  • Increase of infection and disease
  • Death

As we can see, a deficiency is not to be taken light-heatedly.

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is considered an essential nutrient as it is only available from foods because our bodies cannot produce it.

Those who suffer from certain conditions such as inflammatory bowel syndrome, cystic fibrosis and chronic pancreatitis are potentially more at risk from a deficiency because of their reduced ability to absorb fat.

This is known as malabsorption. 

The National Institutes of Health outline that vitamin A is important for the following reasons:

  1. Promotes healthy vision
  2. Required for immune system function
  3. Necessary for reproduction
  4. Healthy function of the organs
  5. Prevents very dry skin
  6. Antioxidant
  7. May prevent certain cancers

However, being fat-soluble, does at least mean that we store the vitamin in either our fat tissues or the liver until we need it as outlined by the Colorado State University.

Therefore, potentially, depending on our intake this means that we may not need to top up our supplies daily.

On the other hand, water soluble vitamins cannot be stored in the body and do need replenishing more often as any unused vitamins are lost through urine.

How much retinol do we need?

vitamin A rich foods

The recommendations for retinol intake vary between men and women, but particularly women who are either pregnant or breastfeeding.

An adult male requires 900mcg daily whereas an adult female needs 700mcg.

However, a pregnant adult woman needs 770mcg which then jumps up to 1300mcg when they start breastfeeding.

Vitamin A is good for…

So, we know vitamin A is an essential vitamin, as such we need it from food sources.

We also know that over half of the countries across the globe have a public health problem due to a deficiency in their populations.

A key benefit of vitamin A is healthy vision, and probably is most well know attribute, in fact a deficiency of vitamin A has been identified as the cause for night blindness which was common amongst civil war soldiers.

It was reported that 4.3 to 11% per 1000 troops suffered from this condition which recorded their pupils as being dilated yet unresponsive to candlelight.

Vitamin A and Immunity

During times when being susceptible to infection and disease is potentially life threatening due to COVID-19, having a healthy and robust immune system is paramount.

It is reassuring to know that this vitamin is an effective anti-inflammatory and enhances immune function by playing a regulatory role in cellular and humoral immune responses as outlined by an article published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine.

Their findings discovered that the immune organs need constant dietary intake of vitamin A, and vitamin A supplementation can be part of a wider effort to fight disease such as TB and AIDS.

Vitamin A and Iron

We’re including the addition of iron, because there are some real negative effects associated with an iron deficiency which we have covered here, but also because when iron and vitamin A are supplemented it has demonstrated to be as effective as hormonal therapy that is often referred to as testosterone replacement therapy (TRT).

In addition, it appears that there’s a correlation between vitamin A and testosterone levels when male twins were compared.

Furthermore low levels of testosterone have been identified among older men suffering from anemia as per the published findings in the American Journal of Physiology. Low testosterone can lead to scarcopenia which means that muscle wastage occurs.So it's good to know iron and vitamin A can encourage optimal hormone production which brings its own physiological benefits.

Vitamin A Food Sources

vitamin a food groups

With these benefits echoing in our minds, here are the foods which are good sources of vitamin A.

The data has been retrieved from the U.S Department of Agriculture FoodData Central.

Figures are per 100g which equates to roughly 3.5 ounces.

Meat and Fish

  • Beef Liver

100g of beef liver contains a massive 7826mcg of vitamin A.

  • Chicken breast

Chicken breast amounts for 105.6mcg per 100g.

  • Tuna

100g of canned tuna in water contains 5.1mcg.

  • Salmon

There’s 10.5mcg of vitamin A per 100g of raw salmon.

  • Herring

Raw herring contains 8.4mcg of vitamin A per 100g.

  • Egg

A large, whole egg amounts to 53.7mcg of vitamin A.



  • Cheese

Edam cheese contains 72.6mcg of vitamin A per 100g.

  • Milk

100g of whole milk includes 13.5mcg of vitamin A.

  • Yogurt

Fat free Greek yogurt yields 0.3mcg of vitamin A.



  • Sweet potato

100g of sweet potato includes 5.1mcg of vitamin A.

  • Spinach

There’s 1320mcg per 100g of raw New Zealand spinach.

  • Carrots

Raw carrots include 250mcg per 100g.

  • Cantaloupe

A cantaloupe is rich in vitamin A with 1119mcg per 100g.

  • Broccoli

100g will provide 60.9mcg.

  • Tomato juice

100% tomato juice provides 6.9mcg per 100g.

  • Baked beans

No added salt baked beans include 1.5mcg per 100g.

  • Pistachio nuts

100g of raw pistachios counts 7.8mcg per 100g. 

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This guide to help highlights the best food sources that can provide vitamin A.

As you can see there is a large variation of retinol concentrations.

What also needs to be considered is the nutrient density of that food. If you try to get the same amount of vitamin A from fat free Greek yogurt as you would from Spinach in once meal you would be overeating.

Therefore, being able to identify those foods that give the most benefit per portion will have to be identified well in advance. This will require some careful meal planning.

One area is to help is the use of supplements which can help towards providing your requirements but in a simple and convenient manner to ensure you do not suffer from a deficiency, if you feel that you are.

Meal Plan Ideas

You may look at this list and think it is a difficult proposition, but let’s break it down.


  • Scrambled eggs
  • Tomato juice
  • Greek yogurt
  • Pistachio nuts
  • Milk with fortified cereal


  • Tuna
  • Sweet potato
  • Broccoli
  • Herring
  • Cheese
  • Baked beans


  • Spinach
  • Carrots
  • Chicken breast
  • Salmon

Obviously, these do not have to be full meals, but you can pick and choose to either make full meals or just add elements to other meal ideas.

The aim is to boost your vitamin A intake by adding these foods to your meals.

Vitamin A Foods Conclusion

Retinol concentrations are widely different amongst foods, even those that are considered the best sources.

For instance, you would require a huge amount of sweet potato to achieve your recommended daily allowance.

Whereas it could be achieved easily with a relatively small amount of cantaloupe.

To ensure you do not become deficient in vitamin A and to receive the numerous health benefits from this essential vitamin try to incorporate a couple of portions from the list either in each meal or at least over the course of each day.

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