Vitamin A Foods: 5 Rich Sources of Retinoids and Carotenoids
By Ali Kuoppala | Last reviewed Tue 25 September 2018
Medical Review by Dr. Vlad Belghiru, MD
Vitamin A is crucial for multiple bodily functions (vision, reproductive health, skin keratinization, etc) and it’s listed as one of the 24 essential micronutrients required for human survival.
Studies have shown that when there’s a deficiency in vitamin A, testosterone levels plummet rapidly. The male testicles also have specific receptors for vitamin A, which is a telling sign of the importance of the micronutrient for reproductive system health.
However, not all forms of vitamin A are created equal;
- The vitamin A from animal sources is in retinoid form and much more easily assimilated and used by the human body.
- The vitamin A from plant source is in carotenoid form, which first needs to be converted into retinoids inside the body before its available.
Many sources list the best vitamin A source by looking at their carotene content (foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, and dark leafy greens are loaded with these), but they fail to tell the reader that it takes 6-24 units of carotenoids to convert into 1 unit of usable retinoid.
Bottom line being that although the carotenes are a viable source of vitamin A, it’s much easier to get the more bio-available vitamin A from the retinoids found in animal-sources.
It’s also worth noting that you need saturated fat with the vitamin A for proper absorption.
Here are five foods high in vitamin A (both retinoids and carotenoids) that fit a testosterone boosting diet:
Table of Contents
1. Animal Liver (Beef, Pork, Turkey, Chicken)
By far the best source of the most bioavailable vitamin A in retinoid form can be most easily attained by eating animal liver.
Not only is it rich in vitamin A, but it’s also a nutritional powerhouse containing copper, zinc, potassium, vitamins D, E, B, and C…
Here are the amounts of vitamin A in 100 grams of the following types of the liver;
- Turkey liver (8058 μg 895% RDA).
- Beef and pork liver (6500 μg 722% RDA).
- Chicken liver (3296 μg 366% RDA).
Don’t like the taste of liver? Try duck liver paste on top of a bread (tastes much better than most other types of liver foods), or consider supplementing with the desiccated liver. Either way, if you’re not including liver in your life, you’re missing out big time.
2. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are among the best carbohydrate sources for someone looking to optimize their testosterone levels.
They also happen to be very high in the carotenoid form of vitamin A…
…When the beta-carotene of 100 grams of sweet potatoes is converted into the active retinoid form (using the retinol activity equivalences), we are left with 961 μg of active vitamin A per 100 grams of sweet potatoes, which accounts to 107% RDA.
So sweet potatoes are not only testosterone friendly, but also a viable source of vitamin A in the carotenoid form.
3. Cod Liver Oil
Cod liver oil is often used as a supplement, but really, it’s food.
It’s simply the oil extracted from the liver of the fresh-water cod. And as to be expected, it’s ridiculously high in fat-soluble vitamins A, E, and D.
100 grams of cod liver oil contains a staggering 30000 μg (3333% RDA) of the active retinoid form of vitamin A…
…Obviously nobody eats 100 grams of the stuff. Still, only a tablespoon of cod liver oil is enough to cover the daily need for vitamin A, as it has 340 μg’s (136% RDA) of the micronutrient.
NOTE: Never buy cheap fish oil or cod liver oil in capsules, it’s in many cases rancid and oxidized and can have very high levels of mercury.
Cheese is a source of high-quality casein protein, as well as testosterone boosting saturated fat.
It also has a good amount of fat-soluble vitamins, including vitamin A in its retinoid form.
On average, cheddar cheese at 100 grams provides you with 265 μg vitamin A (29% RDA).
So nothing close to liver, but its still good to include some cheddar and blue cheese in your diet for the sake of promoting testosterone production and getting in some much needed micronutrients.
Butter is one of the preferred fat sources on a testosterone optimized diet.
It simply has the right type of fatty acids, with plenty of great micronutrients to fuel the endocrine system.
When it comes to vitamin A, butter is a decent source, as 100 grams give you 684 μg (76% RDA) of active vitamin A.
Obviously, 100 grams of butter is a lot and we’re not recommending an intake so high, but including plenty of butter as your main fat source is still a good idea if one aims to increase natural testosterone production. You’ll get some much-needed vitamin A on the side.
Vitamin A is a crucial micronutrient for the health of the body and for the proper functioning of the endocrine system.
Getting enough from food is relatively easy, especially if you consume some liver on a daily basis (which is easily the best natural source of a bioavailable retinoid form of vitamin A).
If however you feel like you can’t get enough vitamin A from your diet, consider supplementing with a high-quality multivitamin.