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Foods High in Vitamin A or Beta-carotene

The amount of vitamin A or beta-carotene (or related carotenoids) in a food carrots-womanis measured in RAE (retinol activity equivalent). Due to poor absorption of beta-carotene and other carotenoids in the digestive system, 12 micrograms (mcg) beta-carotene, or 24 mcg of other carotenoids, is need to equal 1 mcg of retinol (Vitamin A). So in RAE units, 12 mcg of beta-carotene equals 1 RAE; 24 mcg of any other carotenoids equals 1 RAE; 1 mcg of Vitamin A (retinol) equals 1 RAE. However, carotenoids are found in high amounts in many fruits and vegetables, whereas vitamin A itself is only found in food from animals (meat, poultry, dairy, fish).

The following list gives the amount of vitamin A or beta-carotene or related carotenoids in RAE units. Data was taken from the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference (SR23), unless otherwise noted. [1] The RAE for each food is listed for 100 grams (~3.5 oz.) of the food. If the food has multiple sources of RAE, these have been added together, e.g. a food might have beta-carotene and alpha-carotene and other carotenoids. If the food has multiple listings in the database, the raw unprepared form (the simplest listing) is used for evaluating its Vitamin A content.

Food (100 grams) / Amount of Vitamin A as RAE

cod liver oil, 30000
goose liver, 11984
beef liver, 4968
chicken liver, 3296

carrot chips, 4050 [2]
carrot dehydrated, 3423
sweet potato chips, 1184
sweet potato baked, 961
carrots, 835
broccoli leaves, 800
pumpkin canned, 778
kale (not scotch), 769
sweet potato, 709
turnip green, 579
squash butternut, 532
spinach, 469
lettuce cos or romaine, 436
lettuce red or green leaf, 370
pumpkin, 369
beet greens, 316
apricots dried, 180
cantaloupe, 169
peppers sweet red, 157
broccoli florets, 150
apricots, 96
leeks, 83
tomato paste, 76
plantain, 56
mango, 54
snow peas, 54
papaya, 47
tomato, 42
snap beans, 35
mandarin oranges, 34

Food / Amount needed to provide 450 RAE of Vitamin A (half the U.S. RDA for an adult male)

cod liver oil, 0.333 tsp,
goose liver, 5 grams, 0.2 oz
beef liver, 9 grams, 0.3 oz
chicken liver, 14 grams, 0.5 oz

carrot chips, 11 grams, 0.4 oz
carrot dehydrated, 13 grams, 0.5 oz
sweet potato chips, 38 grams, 1.3 oz
sweet potato baked, 47 grams, 1.7 oz
carrots, 54 grams, 1.9 oz
broccoli leaves, 54 grams, 1.9 oz
pumpkin canned, 58 grams, 2.0 oz
kale (not scotch), 59 grams, 2.1 oz
sweet potato, 64 grams, 2.3 oz
turnip green, 78 grams, 2.8 oz
squash butternut, 85 grams, 3.0 oz
spinach, 96 grams, 3.4 oz
lettuce cos or romaine, 104 grams, 3.7 oz
lettuce red or green leaf, 120 grams, 4.2 oz
pumpkin, 122 grams, 4.3 oz
beet greens, 143 grams, 5.0 oz
apricots dried, 250 grams, 8.8 oz
cantaloupe, 266 grams, 9.4 oz
peppers sweet red, 287 grams, 10.1 oz
broccoli florets, 300 grams, 10.6 oz
apricots, 470 grams, 16.6 oz
leeks, 545 grams, 19.2 oz
tomato paste, 595 grams, 21.0 oz
plantain, 805 grams, 28.4 oz
mango, 835 grams, 29.5 oz
snow peas, 835 grams, 29.5 oz
papaya, 960 grams, 33.9 oz
tomato, 1075 grams, 37.9 oz
snap beans, 1290 grams, 45.5 oz
mandarin oranges, 1330 grams, 46.9 oz

Meat, poultry, and fish contain little or no Vitamin A, other than in liver or liver oil.

Carrots are the best vegetable source of Vitamin A, in the form of beta-carotene, but sweet potatoes and pumpkin are also high in beta-carotene. Carrot chips and sweet potato chips are highest in beta-carotene because most of the water is removed when the chips are cooked in oil. Also, the oil content aids in the absorption of the beta-carotene.

Pumpkin should be considered for use as a staple crop. Pumpkin seeds are high in fat and protein; hulless varieties reduce the labor needed to obtain those nutrients. Pumpkin flesh is high in beta-carotene and also provides carbohydrates. Sweet potato should also be considered for use as staple crop. Sweet potatoes are more palatable than carrots, i.e. more enjoyable to eat in larger quantities. Sweet potatoes would make a better staple crop, since they are higher in protein and much higher in carbs than carrots.

Leafy green vegetables are high in beta-carotene, but they are also too high in fiber. The high fiber content, and low fat content, of these vegetables lowers absorption of beta-carotene. Leafy vegetables are also less palatable to eat in large quantities. Fruits that are often said to be high in beta-carotene, such as mangoes and papayas, are actually low in beta-carotene. Apricots and cantaloupe are the best fruit sources of beta-carotene, but they pale in comparison to carrot, sweet potato, and pumpkin.

Sources:
[1] USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference 23; http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/search/
[2] Sulaeman 2002; http://jn.nutrition.org/content/132/2/211.long

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