Getting enough Vitamin A

What to Know

  • Learn why vitamin A is important for your health
  • How much vitamin A you need according to your age
  • Learn good food sources for Vitamin A

Vitamin A is important for vision, skin, reproduction, and immunity. Pregnant women need extra vitamin A for fetal growth and development.

Two forms of vitamin A are available in the diet.  Preformed vitamin A is found in foods from animal sources including dairy products, fish, poultry,  and meat. Provitamin A is found in plant products. Beta-carotene is the most common type of Provitamin A (think yellow, orange, red and dark green fruits and vegetables). Provitamin A can be made into vitamin A by the body.

Common food sources of Vitamin A include:

  • Orange/red vegetables such as sweet potatoes, carrots, squash, red bell peppers
  • Fruit such as cantaloupe, oranges, mango, apricot
  • Beef liver and organ meats (high in cholesterol, so go easy)
  • Milk with Added vitamin A and D
  • Green leafy vegetables and other green vegetables such as broccoli, kale
  • Fortified breakfast cereals

Vitamin A listed on food and supplement labels are in international units (IU), however the RDA lists vitamin A in micrograms (mcg) of Retinol Activity Equivalents (RAE) to account for how different forms of vitamin A have different bioactivities (how well your body can use various forms).  Converting these is complicated because different forms of vitamin A have different usable amounts for the body. Here are the requirements:

  • Babies 0-6 months require 400 mcg RAE
  • Infants 7-12 months require 500 mcg RAE
  • Children 1-3 years require 300 mcg RAE
  • Children 4-8 years require 400 mcg RAE
  • Children 9-13 years require 600 mcg RAE
  • Adolescent males  require 900 mcg RAE
  • Adolescent females require 700 mcg RAE (females)
  • Adults males require 900 mcg RAE
  • Adult females require 700 mcg RAE
  • Pregnant Teens require 750 mcg RAE
  • Pregnant Adults require 770 mcg RAE
  • Breastfeeding teens require 1200 mcg RAE
  • Breastfeeding adults require 1300 mcg RAE

Vitamin A deficiency is rare in the United States.  Americans are more likely to get too much vitamin A from their diets, than too little.  Excessive Vitamin A is mostly a concern from  over supplementation. This can cause adverse effects and is of particular concern for women who are pregnant.  It would be difficult to consume excessive vitamin A from food sources alone.

What to Do

  • Include a variety of fruits and vegetables:  A rainbow assortment of fruits and vegetables will help you to meet your requirements for vitamin A, so include the following on a regular basis:
  • Sweet potato, spinach, carrots, pumpkin, cantaloupe, red peppers, mangos, dried apricots broccoli, spinach, and kale.
  • Dairy products such as ricotta cheese, milk and yogurt can be included in a healthy diet and will help you to meet your requirements for vitamin A.
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