Vitamin A plays an essential role in healthy vision, reproduction, growth and glowing skin. It can be found in some animal-based foods in its pre-made form, or found in plants in the form of beta-carotene -- a compound your body digests to form two vitamin A molecules. Yellow and dark green vegetables and fruits are good sources of the carotenes, including beta-carotene.
Leafy greens such as spinach, kale, collard greens, Swiss chard and Romaine lettuce are all high in beta-carotene. Spinach is the highest. One cup of spinach has over 11,000 micrograms of beta-carotene, and at 10,500 micrograms, kale is not far behind. Lightly steaming spinach improves your body’s ability to absorb the carotenoids in leafy greens; however, prolonged cooking of vegetables decreases the availability of these and other nutrients and therefore should be avoided, according to Joel Fuhrman, author of “Eat to Live.”
Sweet potatoes and carrots are both high in beta-carotene. In fact, per 1-cup serving, sweet potatoes have over twice as much beta-carotene as the runner-up, spinach. As with spinach, lightly steaming carrots can improve the body’s absorption of this beneficial compound. The recommended daily allowance, or RDA, for adults is roughly 1000 retinol equivalents, RE, which equals 6000 mcg of beta-carotene, or the amount present in 1/3 cup of sweet potatoes.
Both cantaloupe and papaya contain high levels of beta-carotene. Cantaloupe has over 3000 micrograms per cup, and one papaya has over 800 micrograms. Other fruits noted for their levels of beta-carotene include tomatoes, grapefruit, watermelon, apricots and figs. To ensure you are consuming enough of this vitamin A precursor, be sure to eat a colorful array of fruits and vegetables each day.
- “Biochemistry”; Pamela C. Champe; 2005
- “The Nutrition Doctor’s A-To-Z Food Counter”; Dr. Ed Blonz; 1999
- "Eat to Live"; Joel Fuhrman, M.D.; 2005
- Linus Pauling Institute: Carotenoids
- Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.