Written by SNAP-Ed Summer Intern Anna Santoro
What Is Vitamin A?
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin. This means it needs fats in the diet in order to be absorbed by the body. Vitamin A is stored in the body’s fatty tissue and in the liver. There are two main forms of vitamin A in the diet. Preformed vitamin A is readily absorbed by your body and is found in animal foods such as liver, fish, and eggs, as well as fortified cereals and juices.1 Provitamin A is found in plant foods that contain carotenoids – plant pigments that give fruits and veggies their dark yellow, orange, and red colors. Carotenoids are turned into vitamin A by the body. They are found in plants like green leafy vegetables (ex: spinach and broccoli) and yellow and orange vegetables and fruits (ex: carrots, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, cantaloupe, mango, apricots, and tomatoes) .1,2
What Are the Health Benefits of Vitamin A?
Vitamin A is important for eye health, as well as for normal development of the growing baby during pregnancy.1 Vitamin A can also play a role in keeping your heart and lungs healthy.
How Much Vitamin A Is Recommended?
The amount of vitamin A your body needs depends on your age and gender. The recommendation for adult men is 900 micrograms RAE per day and 700 micrograms RAE per day for women (RAE stands for Retinol Activity Equivalents).2 Just half a cup of raw carrots provides 459 micrograms of active vitamin A, which is over 50% the of the daily recommendation.2 Bottom line: eat a variety of vitamin A-rich foods, especially lots of yellow/orange/red fruits and veggies!
What Are Common Signs of Too Little or Too Much Vitamin A?
Vitamin A deficiency is rare in the United States especially if you eat a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of orange/yellow/red fruits and veggies and an adequate amount of healthy fats. Some symptoms of a true vitamin A deficiency include increased fatigue, infections, and infertility.1 Since vitamin A is stored in the body, you could experience toxic levels of vitamin A especially if you take vitamin A supplements above the recommended amounts. Eating large amounts of vitamin A over the recommendation could lead to bone loss, increased risk of hip fractures, and possible birth defects.1
- Vitamin A. Harvard School of Pub Health. https://hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamin-a/. Accessed July 15, 2022.
- Vitamin A and Carotenoids. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminA-HealthProfessional/. Updated June 15, 2022. Accessed July 15, 2022
This material is funded by UDSA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
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