Vitamin A

Have you ever been told you need to ‘eat all your carrots so you can see in the dark’? There is some truth in this, as the orange pigment in carrots is turned into vitamin A by our bodies. Vitamin A is important in maintaining good eyesight, especially night vision. However, vitamin A is also important for growth and helping us to fight infection.

How much vitamin A do we need?

  Age
(years)
RDI*
Vitamin A
(µg/day)
Infants and toddlers 1-3 300
Children 4-8 400
  9-13 600
Adolescent boys 14-18 900
Adolescent girls 14-18 700
Men 19-70+ 900
Women 19-70+ 700
Pregnant women 14-18 700
  19-50 800
Breastfeeding women 14-50 1100
 *Recommended Daily Intake (as retinol equivalents)

 

Which foods contain vitamin A?

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin found in two forms:
 1.retinol (in animal foods) Retinol is found in liver, milk, cheese and butter.
 2.carotenoids (in plant sources). The most common of these is beta carotene, which gives the orange colour to carrots.  Carotenoids are also found in dark green leafy vegetables (spinach, broccoli) and yellow-orange coloured fruits and vegetables (capsicum, kumara). Carotenoids are converted into Vitamin A in the body. 

Vitamin A content of foods

  Vitamin A (µg)
(as retinol equivalents)
1 slice of lamb liver 20600
1/2 cup cheddar cheese            233
1 teaspoon butter 133
1 cup trim milk 7
1 cup standard milk 83
 

Vitamin A (µg) as retinol equivalents
(as b-carotene equivalents)

1 carrot 782 (4680)
1 cup spinach 540 (3230)
1 red capscium 259 (1550)
1 cup boiled broccoli 181 (1080)
1 red kumara 43 (255)

Vitamin A toxicity

Too much vitamin A (retinol) can be toxic, although this is rare from food sources but should be considered when taking supplements that contain high levels of the retinol form of Vitamin A. High levels of vitamin A during pregnancy may increase the risk of birth defects. Women who are pregnant should avoid eating more than 100g of liver a week (as this may be high in vitamin A) and should not take supplements containing vitamin A, including fish oils, unless advised by their doctor

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Page reviewed April 2013