Vitamin A Sets Foundation for Good Health

Vitamin A is foundational to our health in so many ways, and deficiencies of it are rare in the U.S., according to the National Institutes of Health. So, we don’t pay as much attention to it as other nutrients more difficult to consume enough of.

But it’s still important to understand the role vitamin A plays in our development and where to find it in our food chain. There are two groups within the population more likely to experience vitamin A deficiency: premature babies and those who have cystic fibrosis.

This vitamin is critical for maintaining our vision, immune and reproductive systems, heart and lung health, kidneys and other organs. It has shown some promise in reducing the risk of lung and prostate cancer and age-related macular degeneration.

Vitamin A has two kinds of dietary sources; preformed, which comes from animal products and can be used by the body right away, and proformed, which comes from plant products and can be converted into it.

Beta carotene, abundant in many vegetables, is the most common dietary source of proformed vitamin A, and dairy products and cereals are often fortified with vitamin A as well, along with many nondairy alternatives.

The foods highest in vitamin A include:

Plant-based sources

  • Sweet potato
  • Winter squash
  • Kale
  • Collard, turnip greens
  • Carrots
  • Sweet red pepper
  • Spinach
  • Mango
  • Cantaloupe

Animal sources

  • Beef liver, other organ meats
  • Cod liver oil
  • King mackerel
  • Salmon
  • Bluefin tuna
  • Goat cheese
  • Butter
  • Limburger cheese
  • Cheddar cheese