Vitamin A is part of a family of substances called retinols and is vital to our overall health—most specifically our skin, immune system, and eyes.
Most people think of carrots when they hear Vitamin A, but Vitamin A can be acquired from both plant and animal sources of food. The source makes a difference in the type and amount of Vitamin A the body absorbs. For instance, in plant foods (including carrots), Vitamin A is in a form called carotenoids and has to be converted to its active form, retinol. But Vitamin A acquired from animal sources is more readily available to the human body. Our daily diet should include a mix of plant and animal-based foods.
Even if you’re eating a variety of organic, whole foods, it’s possible you’re not getting enough Vitamin A. For some people, the body isn’t able to convert Vitamin A due to a problem with absorption or because of a medical condition (such as cystic fibrosis). Others may have a genetic factor that doesn’t allow them to convert Vitamin A. These situations reduce the amount available for the body to utilize, which often leads to a nutrient deficiency that may show up as health conditions of the eyes, skin, or immune function.
The following foods provide Vitamin A in its most readily available form; they are listed in each category according to their highest level of readily absorbable Vitamin A content, and some even have handy recipes attached. (This is not a complete list, but it is a good sampling of high Vitamin A foods):
Meat and Fish
Cod Liver Oil
There are dozens of other fruits, veggies, and seafood sources of Vitamin A. Those listed above contain 16% (cheese and fruit) and up to 200% (some veggies and fish/meat) of the daily recommended adult intake of Vitamin A in one serving. The daily recommendation for children changes from birth through age 18, so it’s best to check with your healthcare provider before giving Vitamin A to a child. While your practitioner may want to adjust the dose, here is a quick reference for daily recommendations.
Vitamin A supplements are widely available, but the purity and consistency of the supplement can vary. Some supplements will contain preformed Vitamin A, some will have beta carotenes, and some will contain a combination. Dosing Vitamin A is highly individualized and because it is a fat-soluble vitamin, it can accumulate to toxic levels in the body. Women who are of childbearing age or pregnant should be under a physician’s care if taking Vitamin A. As always, speak to your holistic physician about the best form and dose of a Vitamin A supplement for your needs.