You Dont Get Vitamin A From Vegetables

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 10/14/2023

Ever stared down a massive bowl of kale and wondered, "Is this enough?" You're not alone. Many of us find ourselves puzzled by the amount of vegetables we need to consume to get our daily dose of vitamin A.

We all know the importance of vitamin A - it's essential for clear vision, robust immunity, and glowing skin. But can we genuinely get enough from plant-based sources like carrots or spinach? That's the burning question on everyone’s mind.

In this journey, we'll delve into the nitty-gritty about retinol (the active form of vitamin A) and its elusive presence in vegetables.

We’ll also shed light on why genetic factors may be playing spoilsport in your quest for adequate intake. Prepare for a reality check as we reveal how much greenery you'd need to munch through!

The Essential Role of Vitamin A in the Body

Vitamin A is essential for maintaining healthy vision and immunity. It's crucial for vision and immunity, helping us see even at night while fighting off harmful pathogens.

The Impact on Vision and Immunity

Our eyes need vitamin A to convert light into an electrical signal that the brain can interpret. Without enough, we may struggle with night blindness or total loss of sight.

As for immunity, this nutrient boosts white blood cells' ability to fend off infections. A deficiency could make you more susceptible to illnesses.

Vitamin A and Skin Health

Also crucial for skin health, Vitamin A fuels cell growth and division. Your skin might become dry or bumpy if you're not getting enough of it. This is because your body struggles to shed old skin cells without adequate Vitamin A effectively.

The Active Form of Vitamin A - Retinol

Vitamin A comes in two forms, but retinol steals the show. It's ready to use, and our bodies need no prep. Think of it as a VIP guest at your body's Nutrient Party.

The Limited Conversion of Beta Carotene to Retinol

Here’s the twist: our bodies convert beta carotene from plants into retinol, but not efficiently. For some people, this conversion happens at a snail's pace. Studies suggest only 5% get converted, and even less for smokers or those with certain health conditions.

So, while carrots might give us beta carotene aplenty, they're not the best source of vitamin A.

Imagine fueling your car with apple juice instead of gasoline – it doesn’t make much sense, right? The same applies here; getting enough retinol strictly from vegetables is like expecting fireworks when there isn't enough spark.

Remember, folks, just because you can get something somewhere doesn't mean it's always practical or efficient.

Genetic Factors in Vitamin A Conversion

Our bodies are marvels of biological engineering. But, some quirks can leave us scratching our heads. Take vitamin A conversion, for instance.

We all know the body converts beta-carotene from plants into retinol, the active form of vitamin A. You may not know that genetics plays a significant role in this process.

Around 45% of people have genetic variations that significantly slow this conversion process. It's like being stuck behind a tractor on a one-lane country road without passing zone insight.

This 'traffic jam' means they're getting less than half the retinol they need from plant sources alone. No matter how many carrots or sweet potatoes they eat.

To ensure these folks get enough retinol, animal-based foods rich in preformed vitamin A come to their rescue—like Batman swooping down to save Gotham City again.

The Impracticality of Getting Enough Retinol from Vegetables

While we often hear about the benefits of a plant-based diet, getting sufficient retinol (active Vitamin A) from vegetables can be challenging. The conversion rate of beta-carotene (the precursor to vitamin A found in plants) into retinol is surprisingly inefficient.

The Vegetable Consumption Reality Check

High in beta-carotene, carrots exemplify the inefficient conversion rate of beta-carotene to retinol. You would need to consume an astounding 1.75 pounds - nearly six cups - of raw carrots daily to meet your recommended vitamin A intake.

But what if you prefer kale? Well, I hope you have a big appetite. You'd have to eat roughly 16 cups daily to get enough retinol from kale alone.

This vegetable consumption reality check underscores how impractical it is for most people on vegetarian or vegan diets without supplementation.

Optimal Sources of Bioavailable Retinol

The search for bioavailable retinol doesn't have to be a wild goose chase. Believe it or not, the optimal sources of retinol are closer than you think.

The Power of Animal Products in Retinol Intake

No need to down buckets of kale when there's cod liver oil. Packed with retinol, just one spoonful goes a long way.

If oils aren't your thing, let me introduce you to grass-fed liver. An excellent source that has 9 times more vitamin A than chicken liver. Who knew cows could give us so much?

The Unusual Case of Sheep Cheese and Rat Milk

Rat milk might seem odd (and it is), but this little rodent outshines most mammals with its high retinol content - 10 times higher than cow's milk. But don’t rush off searching for rat dairies yet.

A more practical option? Try sheep cheese. This tasty treat isn’t just great on crackers; it’s also packed with Vitamin A.

Vitamin A and Sore Gums

Sore gums can be a sign of vitamin deficiency, and vitamin A deficiency is one of the potential culprits. Vitamin A plays a vital role in maintaining the health of your oral tissues, including the gums.

When your diet lacks sufficient vitamin A-rich foods like carrots, spinach, and liver, you may be more susceptible to gum problems such as inflammation and bleeding.

Ensuring an adequate intake of vitamin A through a proper diet can help prevent sore gums caused by vitamin deficiency. However, suppose you continue to experience gum issues.

In that case, it's essential to consult with a healthcare professional or dentist to identify the underlying causes and receive appropriate treatment and guidance for maintaining your oral health.


So, can you get enough vitamin A from vegetables? It's a tough call. We've learned that the active form of this essential nutrient - retinol - is complex in plants.

Veggies are packed with beta carotene, yes. But your body doesn't convert it into retinol as efficiently as we'd like. Genetics also play a role and can throw another wrench in our plans for adequate intake.

The harsh truth? You'd need an impractical amount of veggies to meet your daily dose of retinol!

In conclusion, don't ditch the greens, but consider adding animal products rich in bioavailable retinol or specific unusual sources (sheep cheese, anyone?) into your diet.

Keep eating smartly and healthily because getting enough vitamin A might be trickier than you think!

Supporting Data

Healthy Keto Guide for Beginner

FREE Keto Diet Plan