In fact, “Vitamin A” is a generic term that refers to as retinol in animal products and as provitamin A carotenoids in fruit and vegetables. In foods vitamin A can be found naturally in two principal forms:
- retinol – in foods of animal origin
- four provitamin A carotenoids including beta carotene – in foods of plant origin
Retinol Activity Equivalents (RAE)
Fat-soluble vitamin A cannot be produced in a human body. The only way we can get it is with the foods we eat. Vitamin A can be obtained from food as preformed vitamin A in animal products or as provitamin A carotenoids in plant products; then it is converted to retinol in the small intestine. Yet, while preformed vitamin A is effectively absorbed and converted to retinol, provitamin A carotenoids are less easily digested and absorbed. The efficiency of this process is highly variable, depending on many factors; it varies from person to person and bioavailability of carotene in food varies.
Usually, only small part of provitamin-A carotenoids from plant food sources can be converted to vitamin A. To determine what part of them is equivalent to a particular amount of retinol, so that comparisons can be made of the benefit of different foods, the retinol activity equivalent (RAE) was introduced.
RAE is an international standard of measure for vitamin A based on the capacity of the body to convert provitamin A carotenoids to retinol. It has been determined that 2 micrograms (μg) of β-carotene in oil could be converted by the body to 1 μg of retinol giving it an RAE ratio of 2:1. However, 12 μg of β-carotene from food are required to provide the body with 1 μg of retinol, giving dietary β-carotene an RAE ratio of 12:1.
You also have to keep in mind that due to the fat solubility, you should eat foods of plant origin with oil, sour cream, cream, butter, cheese, or milk. It makes the conversion rate much higher.
Daily Value (DV) or Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) of Vitamin A
The daily intake level of vitamin A is 900 μg.
It is considered to be sufficient for an “average” healthy individual. In Canada and the United States the Daily Value of foods is printed on nutrition facts labels (as %DV)
Here Are 12 Foods Rich in Vitamin A:
Liver (also beef, pork, fish) – vitamin A equiv. – 6500 μg per 100 grams
Long before vitamin A was identified, the ancient Egyptians knew that feeding liver to a man would help cure night blindness, a condition making it difficult or impossible to see in relatively low light, the illness now known to be caused by a vitamin A deficiency.
Animal liver is rich in iron, copper and preformed vitamin A. Beef, lamb, calf, chicken, and goose liver is widely available from butchers and supermarkets. It can be baked, boiled, broiled, fried, stir-fried, made into spreads or even eaten raw (in Lebanese cuisine). Cod liver oil was once commonly given to children.
Red Pepper – vitamin A equiv. – 2081 μg per 100 grams
This vitamin treasure chest is native to the Americas, where it has been cultivated for thousands of years. Bell pepper has become a key element in many cuisines worldwide.
Sweet Potato – vitamin A equiv. – 961 μg per 100 grams
The nutritional value of sweet potatoes is very high. They are rich in complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber and beta-carotene (a provitamin A carotenoid). If you eat only 100 grams of sweet potato a day, you are covered. A 2012 study of 10,000 households in Uganda found that children eating beta-carotene enriched sweet potatoes suffered less vitamin A deficiency than those not consuming as much beta-carotene. (https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21528784-200-nutrient-boosted-foods-protect-against-blindness/)
Carrot – vitamin A equiv. – 835 μg per 100 grams
The carrot gets its characteristic and bright orange colour from β-carotene, and other carotenoids. Carrots provide more than 100% of the Daily Value per 100 g serving.
Don’t forget that to convert carotenoids to vitamin A, you should eat carrots with some fat: oil, butter, cream, sour cream or cheese.
Butter – vitamin A equiv. – 684 μg per 100 grams
Butter is a great source of Vitamin A. It contains only traces of lactose, so moderate consumption of butter is not a problem for lactose intolerant people. Butter has high level of cholesterol and unsaturated fat acids, so don’t overdo with it. A couple of tablespoons of butter a day (about 200 calories) is ideal for a healthy, fit person.
Kale – vitamin A equiv. – 681 μg per 100 grams
Can you imagine that this leaf cabbage has the same amount of vitamin A as butter? Raw kale provides 49 calories and 20% or more of the Daily Value of vitamin A.
Collard greens – vitamin A equiv. – 575 μg per 100 grams.
Widely considered to be a healthy food, collard greens are excellent sources of vitamin A.
Spinach – vitamin A equiv. – 469 μg per 100 grams.
Very rich in vitamin A: 20% or more of the Daily Value.
Pumpkin – vitamin A equiv. – 426 μg per 100 grams.
Do you make a pumpkin pie from the pumpkin filling that is frequently carved as jack-o’-lanterns for decoration around Halloween? More likely you do because it’s a traditional part of Thanksgiving meals in Canada and the United States. So, you have to make it not only at that time but the whole year round due to the simple fact that pumpkin abundant in carotenoids, which generate vitamin A in the body.
Cheddar Cheese – vitamin A equiv. – 140 μg per 100 grams.
Eat it with measure and pleasure and you’ll get your vitamin A supply.
Cantaloupe melon – vitamin A equiv. – 169 μg per 100 grams
Raw cantaloupe is 90% water, 8% carbohydrates, 0.8% protein and 0.3% fat. It has 2020 mg of beta-carotene per 100 gram. Fresh cantaloupe is not only a pleasant meal but also an excellent source of vitamin A (21% of the Daily Value)
Eggs – vitamin A equiv. – 265 μg per 100 grams
Although the diet of the laying hens can greatly affect the nutritional quality of the eggs, it has enough amount of vitamin A.