Most of the sources of Vitamin A come from food sources... either from fruits and vegetables or from animal foods. There’s a whole section that goes in depth on the various food sources of Vitamin A but here are a few to take note of: turkey, beef liver, sweet potatoes, carrots and kale.
And it’s important to note that there are 2 different types of Vitamin A within food sources. They are preformed Vitamin A and provitamin A. Let’s go over the difference between the 2 of these.
Preformed sources of Vitamin A come from animal foods only. Preformed Vitamin A just means it’s Vitamin A that your body can readily use, practically immediately. There are 3 types of preformed Vitamin A sources… retinol, retinaldehyde and retinoic acid. The names aren’t that important. What’s important to know is that preformed Vitamin A are Vitamin A sources that gets used immediately by the body and you’ll find them in animal foods like turkey, liver, eggs and dairy.
Now let’s talk about provitamin A. Provitamin A comes from plant sources. And the prefix pro- means "before." So basically provitamin A is considered precursor Vitamin A.
What this means is that your body has to convert the "precursor" Vitamin A that we get from plant sources into a Vitamin A form that your body can readily use.
Why is it that plant sources of Vitamin A have to go through an extra step to be converted to readily-usable Vitamin A while the Vitamin A you get from animal foods do not?
Simply because by eating plant foods what you’re really getting is beta carotene. If you notice the structure of beta carotene, you’ll see it looks like 2 Vitamin A molecules fused together. The body will basically "split" this molecule in half and use it as an antioxidant first and then as Vitamin A.
You may be thinking this is an inefficient way for the body to get Vitamin A but it’s actually more beneficial for your body. The main reasons are because of the antioxidant benefits of beta carotene and the side effects of taking too much Vitamin A.
2 other good sources where you’ll find Vitamin A is in supplements & multi-vitamins and in creams & lotions. I don’t recommend eating creams and lotions to get your Vitamin A but as far as keeping your skin healthy and getting that anti-aging look... then it’s best to get creams that have Vitamin A and Vitamin E.
The Vitamin A sources you’ll find in various creams are either retinol or retinoic acid. The moisturizing creams are equipped with retinol. And the acne medications, such as Accutane and Retin-A, contain retinoic acid.
One old-school Vitamin A source is cod-liver oil. Aside from the fact that it tastes absolutely disgusting, it’s also high in calories and can cause some digestive issues (upset stomach for the most part).
The other choice with supplements is either a multi-vitamin or Vitamin A supplement.
And the best choice for supplements is when the Vitamin A ingredients are from mixed carotenoids –or– half beta carotene and half retinyl palmitate.
Vitamin A supplements are usually in the soft gelcap (like Vitamin E). And you have a choice of either getting them in the form of retinyl acetate or retinyl palmitate. Retinyl palmitate is better for those with digestive and intestinal problems.
And just a head’s up, most Vitamin A supplement sources (including what you get in multi-vitamins) either have only beta carotene or a mixture of ½ beta carotene and ½ retinyl acetate or palmitate. Truth be told, almost all of the multi-vitamins I’ve taken and read the labels on have a mix of beta carotene and retinyl palmitate.
In supplements, the beta carotene usually comes from palm oil or vegetable sources. Another source you’ll find in Vitamin A supplements comes from an algae called Dunaliella salina (courtesy of The Idiot’s Guide to Vitamins & Minerals).
The best food sources of Vitamin A are from plant sources and include carrots, red bell peppers, pumpkin and spinach.
For supplements… either take one with mixed carotenoids or at least one with ½ beta carotene and ½ retinyl palmitate. Make sure to store it away from light (as with most supplements).
And let’s not forget that creams and lotions also contain Vitamin A, helping you achieve and maintain that anti-aging look.