Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is stored in the liver. Vitamin A comes mainly from animal food sources, but we can also make it from compounds called carotenoids found in plant foods. The most famous carotenoid is beta-carotene. Other names for Vitamin A include retinol, retinal, and retinoic acid.
The Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) for Vitamin A are shown below:
|Age Group||Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) per Day||Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) per Day|
|19 to 50 years||900 mcg RAE male700 mcg RAE female||3,000 mcg RAE|
|51 to 70 years||900 mcg RAE male700 mcg RAE female||3,000 mcg RAE|
|71 years and up||900 mcg RAE male700 mcg RAE female||3,000 mcg RAE|
|Kids and Youth|
|1 to 3 years||300 mcg RAE||600 mcg RAE|
|4 to 8 years||400 mcg RAE||900 mcg RAE|
|9 to 13 years||600 mcg RAE||1,700 mcg RAE|
|14 to 18 years||900 mcg RAE male700 mcg RAE female||2,800 mcg RAE|
|Pregnant or lactating women 14 to 18 years||750 mcg RAE pregnancy1,200 mcg RAE lactating||2,800 mcg RAE|
|Pregnant or lactating women 19 to 50 years||770 mcg RAE pregnancy1,300 mcg RAE lactating||3,000 mcg RAE|
High intakes of preformed Vitamin A in pregnant women can cause birth defects. It is recommended that pregnant women not take Vitamin A supplements and limit their intake of liver.
What Does Vitamin A Do?
Vitamin A is important for maintaining normal vision, especially in low light, and for keeping our skin, eyes, teeth, skeletal and soft tissue, and immune system healthy. Vitamin A is also known as retinol because it produces the pigments in the retina of the eye. It also plays a role in reproduction and helps the heart, kidneys, lungs, and other organs to work properly.
Because Vitamin A is fat soluble, the body stores excess amounts, mainly in the liver. As a result, high levels can accumulate and cause vitamin A toxicity. Consuming large amounts of beta-carotene can cause pigments in the skin to turn yellow-orange, but this condition is harmless.
Top Vitamin A – Rich Foods
Two different types of Vitamin A are found in food. Preformed Vitamin A is found in animal products such as meat, fish, poultry, and dairy foods. Pro-vitamin A is found in plant-based foods such as fruits and vegetables. The most common type of Pro-vitamin A is beta-carotene. Health Canada recommends eating one dark green and one orange vegetable or fruit each day.
|Food||Vitamin A per serving|
|Animal sources (Vitamin A)|
|Beef liver, 3 oz||6582 mcg RAE|
|Eel, baked, 2.5 oz||853 mcg RAE|
|Herring, pickled, 3 oz||219 mcg RAE|
|Cheese, goat, hard, 1.5 oz||243 mcg RAE|
|Milk, skim, 1%, 2%, 1 cup||149 mcg RAE|
|Salmon, 2.5 oz||112 mcg RAE|
|Egg, 1 large||70 mcg RAE|
|Plant sources (carotenoids)|
|Sweet potato, baked in skin, 1 medium||1096 mcg RAE|
|Pumpkin, canned, ½ cup||1007 mcg RAE|
|Squash, butternut, cooked, ½ cup||572 mcg RAE|
|Spinach, cooked, ½ cup||472 mcg RAE|
|Carrots, raw, ½ cup||459 mcg RAE|
|Kale, raw, chopped, 1 cup||335 mcg RAE|
|Apricots, dried, 1/4 cup||191 mcg RAE|
|Cantaloupe, raw, ½ cup||135 mcg RAE|
Nutrition Facts Label and the % Daily Value
In the United States: The daily value (DV) for Vitamin A is 1500 RAE. On food labels, Vitamin A is measured in International Units (IU), not mcg RAE. Converting between IU and mcg RAE is not straightforward. A varied diet with 900 mcg RAE of Vitamin A, for example, provides between 3,000 and 36,000 IU of Vitamin A depending on the foods consumed. The number you see on the Nutrition Facts label is a percentage calculated by dividing the amount of Vitamin A in one serving of the food by the DV. So, for example, a ½ cup serving of raw carrots that contains 459 mcg RAE of Vitamin A would have 30% of the DV for Vitamin A.
In Canada: The daily value for Vitamin A is 1000 RAE, which is slightly higher than the DRI level for adults. Using the same example, a ½ cup serving of raw carrots that contains 459 mcg RAE of Vitamin A would have 46% of the DV for Vitamin A.
Zinc: Zinc is necessary for the absorption and utilization of Vitamin A