When you think of foods high in Vitamin A I'm willing to bet the first thing that comes to mind are carrots. There are more (lots more) foods with Vitamin A than carrots. Before I get any further I do have mention something... the only foods with the readily-usable, pure form of it come from animal sources.
The others which come from plant sources are actually Beta Carotene.
Why does this matter?
The thing with Vitamin A from animal foods (also called "preformed Vitamin A") is it's ready to be used as soon as you digest it.
With beta carotene its used as an antioxidant first and then if there's anything left the rest will be converted and used as the vitamin. There are many benefits in getting it from both plant and animal foods.
So let's go over the best food sources we can find...
FOODS WITH VITAMIN A
Turkey, 1 cup, 52,000 IU
Beef Liver, 3 oz, 22,000 IU
Skim Milk, 1 cup, 400 IU
Egg, 1 large, 270 IU
Cheese, cheddar 1 oz, 280 IU
Foods with Beta Carotene (food, food amount, Vitamin A in IU)
Sweet potato, 1 medium, 9,230 IU
Carrot (raw), 1 cup, 18,000
Collard greens (cooked), 1/2 cup, 7,410
Spinach (cooked), 1/2 cup, 7,290
Kale (cooked), 1/2 cup, 4,560
Squash (winter), 1 cup, 10,700
Pumpkin (canned), 1 cup, 38,000
Apricots (dried), 35 grams (10 halves), 1,200
Cantaloupe, 1 cup, 2,700
Peach, 1 large, 2,000
Red bell pepper, 1/2 cup, 2,500
The RDA assumes you're getting a good amount from animal foods. Even though it's true not many people eat enough fruits and vegetables, let's set the record straight.
Most of the animal foods rich in Vitamin A are also high in calories (mostly fat) and cholesterol. Similar to the Vitamin E food sources which also mostly come from fatty food sources... getting it mostly from animal sources may not be the best strategy.
It's best to get most, if not all, of it from plant foods. A few things to keep in mind...
• The Vitamin A found in plants is Beta Carotene.
• Your body absorbs only about 40% of the beta carotene you eat.
• And of that 40%, another 40% of the carotenes you eat are used as Vitamin A. The rest is used as antioxidants.
Example: You eat 1 cup of carrots. That's around 18,000IU of beta carotene.
40% gets used as the vitamin form (the rest as antioxidants) which leaves you with 7200IU.
And at an absorption rate of 40%, you're getting 2880IU.
So 1 cup of carrots leaves you with 2880IU and to get the full benefits it's best to get 10,000IU to 15,000IU per day.
So this just means you'll need to eat more fruits and vegetables (a good thing!) or take a supplement.