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.
“Vitamin A Fact Sheet for Health Professionals.” National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements, date accessed 1 August 2018. <https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminA-HealthProfessional/>
“Vitamin A.” The Nutrition Source. Harvard T.H.Chan School of Public Health, date accessed 1 August 2018. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamin-a/