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A to Z Gardening for Food and Nutrition: Vitamin A

By Diana Wind (windJuly 10, 2013
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The Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourage us to eat more fruits and vegetables. Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin found in many foods that we can easily grow in our gardens. Test your knowledge: can you guess the top 5 fruits and vegetables highest in Vitamin A? Read on to learn more.

Gardening picture

Most vegetables and fruits contribute many nutrients that are under consumed in the United States, including dietary fiber, folate, magnesium, potassium, and vitamins A, C, and K. Reduce your risk for many chronic diseases such as heart disease and stroke by eating more fruits and vegetables. Support your local farmers market or grow your own fruits and vegetables for high quality food and nutrition. The gardening process itself provides physical activity - a wonderful win-win for you and your family's health.

Vitamins and minerals fuel our bodies with nutrients needed in small amounts for normal growth and daily body functions. Vitamins can either be fat soluble or water soluble. Vitamin A is fat soluble.

Why Vitamin A?

Our immune system and many functions of our body such as fetal development, gene expression, stem cell formation, and vision utilize vitamin A. There are two different types of vitamin A: 1) preformed vitamin A and 2) provitamin A.

Types of Vitamin ImageA

Preformed vitamin A (storage form of retinol; retinyl palmitate) is found in animal foods including meat, poultry, fish, milk and eggs. 

Provitamin A (carotenoids) is found in plant foods including fruits and vegetables. Beta-carotene is a common type of provitamin A.

Eating a small amount of fat along with fat soluble vitamins will help them be absorbed and utilized by the body. In general, cooking vitamin A rich vegetables in a small amount of fat can increase the bioavailability of the carotenoids they contain. For example when cooking carrots, try pureeing or sautéing carrots with a little olive oil.

Plant Sources of Vitamin A

Kids learn in school to eat a variety of colorful foods. Vitamin A is often found in orange and red vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, peppers, mangos, cantaloupe, peaches, papayas and apricots. But, orange and red veggies are not the only plant sources of vitamin A; surprisingly, broccoli leaves, kale, spinach, romaine, collard greens and broccoli raab (rapini) are also excellent sources of vitamin A. See the below chart for more.

The top 5 Plant Sources of Vitamin A

1) Sweet potatoes   2) Carrots   3) Broccoli leaves   4) Pumpkin   5) Kale

How much Vitamin A?

Your vitamin A needs increase as you get older. For example, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for boys and girls age 9 to13 is 600 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin A each day. Females age 14 to 70+: 700 mcg/day; and Males age 14 to 70+: 900 mcg/day. Click here: for more of the Institute of Medicines Vitamin A recommendations.

What About Vitamin A Supplements?Kitchen Garden Guide to Vitamin A

Excess vitamin A is stored in the body and not urinated out, so be careful not to overtake dietary supplements. Unless instructed by your doctor or dietitian, the best way to get essential vitamins is from eating a healthy diet full of nutrient-dense foods from all the food groups.

Kitchen Garden Guide to Vitamin A Fruits and Vegetables

See the chart shown, which highlights some of the many fruits and vegetables that contain Vitamin A by comparing one-ounce serving sizes. Please note that the list is by no means all inclusive.

Keep in mind that you would most likely eat more than a small, one-ounce serving, so your vitamin A intake would be even better than the amount shown in the chart. For example, one cup of romaine lettuce is 47g; one apricot 35g; 1/2 cup sliced mango 83g; 1/2 cup broccoli 44g; and one small peach 130g. The chart shows vitamin A for everything at one ounce (28 grams) for best Vitamin A comparison.

Enjoy more fruits and veggies rich in Vitamin A.

~ Happy and Healthy Gardening!


Photo Credits: Kale Brassica oleracea courtesy of Wikipedia; Boerenkool

Percent Daily Values (%DV) are reference values for adults and children age 4 or older that are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your personal daily values may be higher or lower based on your individual needs.  

Related Links

Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet Vitamin A

Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010

Watch Your Garden Grow Sweet Potatoes

Growing Carrots

Fresh Pumpkin, Perfect for Pie!

Watch Your Garden Grow: Broccoli

Fruits and Veggies More Matters

 


  About Diana Wind  
Diana WindDiana is a registered dietitian nutritionist with a passion for gardening and sustainable foods. She is a graduate of the Academy of Culinary Arts and member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Food from the garden fuels her enthusiasm for eating right and nutritional science. She especially loves gardening as part of a healthy lifestyle. Gardening engages us with nature, gives us health benefits from exercise, and rewards us with fresh, nutritious foods. To assess your food and garden activity level, visit choosemyplate.gov or her blog. You can also follow Diana on Google.

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Discussion about this article:
SubjectTopic StarterRepliesViewsLast Post
A to Z? speediebean 1 3 Jul 17, 2013 3:07 PM
sweet potato safer than polar bear liver Liquidambar2 7 28 Jul 11, 2013 10:41 PM
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