Vitamin A (retinol) is an essential nutrient that is important for growth and repair of tissues in the body, as well as for healthy skin, hair, nails, eyes, and immune system function.
Plant-based vitamin A exists in the form of carotenoids, particularly beta-carotene. The body must convert these carotenoids into vitamin A before it can use it. Therefore, a sufficient intake of beta-carotene-rich foods should be ensured in a vegetarian or vegan diet to produce enough vitamin A.
As you can easily see in the above vitamin A food table, there are many vegan and plant-based sources of vitamin A.
Who Has Higher Vitamin A Requirements?
The following list shows some of the groups of people who should pay attention to their vitamin A intake:
- Pregnant and lactating women have a higher vitamin A requirement because vitamin A plays an important role in fetal development and milk production.
- Individuals with thyroid disorders may need more vitamin A to support their thyroid function.
- A low-fat or fat-free diet can negatively affect vitamin A levels since vitamin A is fat-soluble and requires fat for absorption. If low-fat foods dominate your diet, make sure to adequately supply your body with fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
- Chronic gastrointestinal disorders, gluten intolerance such as celiac disease, or liver problems can also pose difficulties in absorbing vitamin A from food. If you are affected by any of these conditions, ensure proper nutrient intake.
- Since vitamin A plays an important role in regulating skin cell production, people with skin conditions like acne, rosacea, or psoriasis may benefit from more vitamin A. They should try if vitamin A-rich foods can improve the health and appearance of their skin.
- Physical activities can increase the demand for vitamin A, as it is involved in regulating muscle growth and repair. Therefore, athletes should consume sufficient vitamin A through their diet.
- With age, nutrients may be less effectively stored and absorbed from food, leading to a higher risk of deficiencies.
- Alcohol can impair liver function and hinder the absorption of vitamin A. If you drink too much alcohol, you should consider limiting your consumption.
- Individuals affected by high air pollution and cigarette smoke are exposed to increased oxidative stress. Vitamin A has antioxidant properties and can help reduce the damage caused by free radicals, requiring more antioxidants.
The symptoms of vitamin A deficiency can vary. Fatigue, eye problems, and dry skin can be early signs of deficiency. If left untreated, it can lead to blindness, susceptibility to infections, and growth delays in children.
Color As An Indicator Of Vitamin A-Rich Foods
The colors of fruits and vegetables can be an indication of their vitamin A content. Most foods rich in vitamin A have an orange, yellow, or green color. In particular, orange and yellow colors indicate the presence of carotenoids. However, not all orange or yellow foods are high in vitamin A. Citrus fruits like oranges and lemons have the corresponding color but relatively low vitamin A content.
Carotenoids are plant pigments that give many plant-based foods vibrant colors. Beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A, is one of the most well-known and important types of carotenoids. It can be converted into vitamin A by the body.
Other factors such as preparation methods and cultivation and storage conditions can also influence the levels of vitamin A. For example, the vitamin A content of carrots may vary depending on whether they are fresh or cooked and how long they have been stored.
Vitamin A Foods
As mentioned in the previous section, foods high in carotenoids are often orange or yellow. Corresponding plant examples that are rich in vitamin A can be found in the following list:
- Carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, and bell peppers are among the best vitamin A vegetables. Carrots are probably the most well-known vitamin A-rich food. A medium-sized carrot contains about twice the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A. Green vegetables such as spinach, Swiss chard, kale, and broccoli also contain a lot of vitamin A according to the table. They should not be missing from a healthy diet.
- Orange and yellow fruits such as mangoes, papayas, apricots, peaches, and cantaloupes also provide a high amount of beta-carotene according to the vitamin A table. You can find more vitamin A fruits in this table.
- Legumes such as beans, lentils, and peas are rich in plant-based protein and dietary fiber, but they also contain vitamin A. Use this table if you are interested in vitamin A-rich legumes.
- Nuts and seeds like almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and cashews are rich in vitamin A and E, as well as healthy fats and proteins. You can find the table of vitamin A in nuts and seeds here.
- Spices and herbs with vitamin A are essential in vegan cooking. Parsley, basil, oregano, paprika powder, turmeric, and cayenne pepper contain a lot of it.
- Oatmeal and whole grain bread can be a moderate source of vitamin A as grain products. Prefer non-refined grain products.
- Juices and drinks can be a good source of vitamin A. Carrot juice is the best vitamin A drink. Tomato, passion fruit, and orange juice contain a lower amount of vitamin A.
Improving Vitamin A Absorption
Since vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, when cooking, you should use vegetable oils like olive oil, coconut oil, or rapeseed oil. Consuming vitamin A with fat allows better absorption by intestinal cells as it gets dissolved in fat. Alternatively, always eat a few healthy nuts with a fresh carrot.
Vitamin A Diet
As the following list shows, you can create numerous dishes and beverages from vitamin A-rich foods. Here are a few vegan ideas for you:
- Sweet Potato Avocado Salad
- Broccoli Coconut Curry
- Spinach Avocado Smoothie
- Carrot Coconut Mango Smoothie
- Carrot Apple Ginger Smoothie
- Spinach Chickpea Stir-Fry with Bell Peppers and Tomatoes
- Mango Coconut Smoothie
- Carrot Ginger Soup with Roasted Garlic and Chopped Herbs
- Chia Seed Pudding with Mango
- Lentil Salad with Kale and Papaya
- Almond Butter Toast with Bananas and Flaxseeds
- Carrot Chickpea Curry
- Sweet Potato Hash Browns with Vegan Bacon
- Beet Salad with Roasted Nuts, Vegan Cheese, and Fresh Herbs
- Kale Salad with Avocado and Quinoa
- Vegan Carrot Muffins