Apr 27, 2017

Best Sources of Vitamin-A

 Having looked at the sources of some of the essential minerals, let’s now focus on Vitamins.

Although nature has blessed us with abundant vitamins and minerals in plants, it has become a fashion to pop a multi-vitamin pill, thereby creating a billion dollar industry in itself. It is my firm belief that our bodies absorb or process vitamins better when consumed from natural sources. Unless there is a critical deficiency, there is no need to rely on these pills. Understanding the plant sources and meal planning the right way will ensure you get your daily dose of vitamins.

To begin with, let’s look at Vitamin A. As kids, the popular health advice that we often heard was “Eat carrots, they are good for your eyes”. So much so that carrots have become synonymous with Vitamin A.

Vitamin A is not only essential for your eyes but also for better immunity and cardio-vascular disease prevention. Our body gets Vitamin-A from a source of phyto-nutrients found in plants called carotenoids. Alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin belong to this group of carotenoids. Among these, beta-carotene is the most effective as it gets converted to twice as much Vitamin-A as compared to the other two.

Apart from carrots, here are the other sources of beta-carotene and overall carotenoids (Data Source - Indian Food Composition Tables - 2017).

microgm per 100 gm
Sources Beta-Carotene Total Carotenoids


Maize, dry 186 893
Maize, tender, local 36 1428
Maize, tender, sweet 47 1035


Bengal gram dal 165 1018
Bengal gram, whole 172 999
Green gram, whole 137 889
Peas, dry 66 933

Green leafy vegetables

Drumstick leaves 17542 38765
Agathi leaves 12582 36087
Colocasia leaves 5758 26820
Ponnanganni leaves 5288 24206
Curry leaves 7663 21862
Amaranth leaves, red 8457 21449
Amaranth leaves, green 8553 20473
Mint leaves 4602 18693
Coriander leaves 3808 13808
Fenugreek leaves 9245 12755


Carrot, orange 5423 9477
Sweet potato, brown skin 5376 8653
Carrot, red 2706 7570
Tomato, ripe, hybrid 1513 5826
Tomato, ripe, local 905 4656
Onion stalk 700 3488
Capsicum, red 246 3047
Capsicum, yellow 166 2717
Capsicum, green 328 2511
Celery stalk 465 2439
Pumpkin, orange 149 1449


Apricot, dried 1806 4313
Watermelon, dark green 605 4176
Guava, pink flesh 267 4078
Dates, dry, pale brown 2700 3483
Papaya, ripe 694 2472
Mango, ripe, banganapalli 1168 1424
Muskmelon, orange flesh 771 925

1. As you can see, green leafy vegetables have 2-4X times carotenoids as compared to the popular carrots. When our grandmothers used to say “Keerai kannukku nalladhu”  (greens are good for your eyes), they are 100% correct.
2. Grains and legumes have very little carotenoids when compared to veggies and greens. Increasing the proportion of greens and vegetables, especially the ones in orange colour is the only way to get your daily requirement of Vitamin A.
3. The miracle green “Drumstick leaves” features on top of this list too. Including this green regularly will ensure you get adequate iron, calcium and Vitamin A.
4. Include mint, coriander and curry leaves too on a daily basis. Most of our Indian recipes incorporate these 3 greens so well that we don’t need to look for supplements or imported super-foods.
5. If you ignore sweet potato thinking it is “carbs”, then you are missing out on all the goodness it provides - Vitamin A, Vitamin C, dietary fibre, potassium etc
6. Given that summer is upon us in full swing, do gorge on fresh, juicy watermelons, muskmelons, mangoes, guavas and papayas. The summer heat affects our eyes by causing redness and irritation. Nature fixes this issue through such seasonal fruits. So amazing, isn’t it?

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