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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

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 Food (Retinol equivalents)

Food item

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 Content of Food (Beta carotene equivalents)

Food item

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.

Last modified: 
08/05/18