Am I Getting Enough Vitamin A? Daily Intake and Health Benefits

Medically Reviewed By Marie Lorraine Johnson MS, RD, CPT
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Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps take care of your eyes, skin, lungs, and immune, digestive, and urinary systems. It also helps with wound healing and cell reproduction. Vitamin A is present in animal products and some leafy vegetables. It is possible to become deficient in vitamin A. Symptoms of vitamin A deficiency include reduced vision, itchy eyes, dry hair and skin, and more frequent infections.

Getting too much vitamin A can also result in health complications. This is particularly true for pregnant people, as large amounts can harm the fetus.

Read on to learn more about vitamin A, including how much vitamin A you need and the risks of getting too much.

What is vitamin A?

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Vitamin A is the name given to a group of fat-soluble compounds that are made up of two groups: beta carotene, which occurs in plants, and preformed (or retinol), which occurs mostly in animals products.

The body typically absorbs more vitamin A when it comes from animal products. However, some plant-based foods can also be good sources of vitamin A.

Vitamin A plays a crucial role in helping keep the body healthy. It supports our vision, immune system, and cells. It can also support the healthy development of a fetus.

What are the health benefits of vitamin A?

Vitamin A has numerous health benefits. These include:

  • supporting vision to help you see
  • helping cells grow and develop
  • making your skin and hair healthier
  • encouraging proper bone growth and tooth development
  • helping the body regulate the immune system

Vitamin A promotes good eye health, so having too little vitamin A can reduce your ability to see — particularly at night. Learn about the best foods for eye health here.

What are some sources of vitamin A?

Vitamin A is mainly present in animal products. The body can also convert beta carotene from plant-based foods into vitamin A.

Animal products

The following animal products are good sources of vitamin A:

  • eggs
  • cheese
  • milk
  • yogurt
  • oily fish

Plant-based foods

The following plant-based foods contain beta carotene, which the body can convert into vitamin A:

  • leafy vegetables that are yellow, red, orange, or green, including:
    • spinach
    • sweet potato
    • carrots
    • red peppers
  • orange and yellow fruits, including:
    • papaya
    • apricot
    • mango

Learn more about food sources of different vitamins here.

How much vitamin A do I need?

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin. This means that you do not need to take it every day, as your body stores what it does not need.

The amount of vitamin A present in a food item is measured in micrograms of retinol activity equivalents (mcg RAE). As a general rule, the recommended daily intake of vitamin A is as follows.

Age, sex, or circumstanceAmount of vitamin A required
birth to 6 months400 mcg RAE
7–12 months500 mcg RAE
1–3 years300 mcg RAE
4–8 years400 mcg RAE
9–13 years600 mcg RAE
males ages 14 years and above900 mcg RAE
females ages 14 years and above700 mcg RAE
pregnant people750–770 mcg RAE
breastfeeding people1,200–1,300 mcg RAE

Which foods contain the most vitamin A?

The following foods can help you get all of the vitamin A you need.

Food and amountAmount of vitamin A
cooked beef liver (3 ounces [oz])6,582 mcg RAE
sweet potato baked in skin (1 whole)1,403 mcg RAE
cooked spinach (half a cup)573 mcg RAE
raw carrots (half a cup)459 mcg RAE
fat-free milk (8 oz)149 mcg RAE
raw cantaloupe (half a cup)135 mcg RAE
raw red bell pepper (half a cup)117 mcg RAE
raw mango (1 whole)112 mcg RAE
boiled whole egg (1 large)75 mcg RAE
dried sulfured apricots (10 halves)63 mcg RAE
cooked sockeye salmon (3 oz)59 mcg RAE
canned tomato juice (12 oz)42 mcg RAE

Although it is necessary to get enough vitamin A, it is also important to make sure that you do not get too much. If you regularly eat a healthy, balanced diet, you should get all of the vitamin A your body needs.

Vitamin A intake for pregnant people

If you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, try to avoid eating liver or too many foods that are high in vitamin A.

Getting too much vitamin A during pregnancy may lead to atypical development in the fetus, particularly during the first 3 months of pregnancy.

While pregnant, avoid taking any vitamin A supplements unless under the advice of your doctor.

It is important to ensure that you do not get too much or too little vitamin A during pregnancy. Contact your doctor if you have any concerns about your vitamin A intake.

Get some health tips to keep in mind while trying to become pregnant here.

Can I have a vitamin A deficiency?

Vitamin A deficiency is rare in the United States. It typically affects young children in developing countries and is connected to general malnutrition.

Symptoms of vitamin A deficiency include:

Not getting enough vitamin A can also lead to a condition called xerophthalmia. This affects your ability to see in low light. Without treatment, it can lead to blindness.

Can I have too much vitamin A?

It is possible to have too much vitamin A in your body. If you get more than an average of 1,500 mcg of vitamin A per day over several years, there is a risk that this can lead to conditions that affect your bones

in later life. One such condition is osteoporosis, which makes bones weaker.

It is best to avoid eating liver or liver pate more than once per week. If you take multivitamins that contain vitamin A or supplements such as fish liver oil, it is important to check how much vitamin A they contain.

Vitamin A toxicity

Having an excessive amount of vitamin A in the body means that you have hypervitaminosis A. This can occur following a sudden intake of a large quantity of vitamin A.

Vitamin A toxicity can lead to:

Hypervitaminosis A usually occurs as a result of using too much vitamin A from supplements or therapeutic retinoids, which people use to treat skin conditions.

Contact your doctor if you have any concerns that you might be getting too much vitamin A from your diet, supplements, or retinoids.

Summary

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin present in animal products and some leafy vegetables. The body stores any vitamin A that it does not use, meaning that you do not need to take it every day.

Foods such as liver and sweet potato are high in vitamin A. It is important to get enough vitamin A to prevent deficiency, which can lead to vision problems. Vitamin A deficiency is rare, and eating a healthy, balanced diet will typically provide you with all of the vitamin A you require.

Taking too much vitamin A can lead to complications such as dizziness, nausea, skin irritation, and joint and bone pain. If you have a diet rich in vitamin A, try to avoid taking multivitamins and supplements that contain the vitamin.

Contact your doctor if you have any concerns about how much vitamin A you are getting. If you are pregnant, you may also wish to discuss your vitamin A intake with your doctor, as getting too much may harm the development of the fetus.

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Medical Reviewer: Marie Lorraine Johnson MS, RD, CPT
Last Review Date: 2022 Mar 18
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