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You Don't Get Vitamin A From Vegetables

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 04/12/2024

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.

Learn about what benefits vitamin A can provide your body and how you can increase your intake.

The Essential Role of Vitamin A in the Body

Vitamin A is 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.

The Limited Conversion of Beta Carotene to Retinol

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 not realistic.

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.

This 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 are crucial.

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.

The Unusual Case of Sheep Cheese

If you prefer not to eat as much meat, 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 for you to consult with a healthcare professional or dentist to identify the underlying causes and receive appropriate treatment and guidance for maintaining your oral health.


Ensuring you get enough vitamin A is crucial for various aspects of your health, from vision and immunity to skin health and oral hygiene.

While plant sources provide beta-carotene, which can be converted to vitamin A, the conversion process is inefficient for many individuals.

Relying solely on vegetables may not suffice. Incorporating animal-based foods rich in preformed vitamin A, such as cod liver oil and sheep cheese, can help ensure optimal intake.

By understanding the different sources and forms of vitamin A, you can make informed dietary choices to support your overall well-being.

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