Nutripedia is a series of posts designed to help you learn more about the importance of essential nutrients & how to easily incorporate them into your daily life.
Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat soluble vitamins which means they require fats for absorption and are stored in body tissues. If you eat a low fat diet or suffer from malabsorption issues (IBD, Celiacs, Chrons), you may not be getting adequate amounts of these essential vitamins. Let’s take a closer look at Vitamin A.
Vitamin A is found in two forms:
Retinoids – from animal foods
Carotenoids (beta-carotene) – from plant foods
After ingestion, both forms are converted to retinal and retinoic acid, the active form of vitamin A, so your body can use it for an array of health promoting benefits. Although other carotenoids like lutein, zeaxanthin and lycopene confer many health benefits, they are not converted to Vitamin A.
Vitamin A is necessary for:
a properly functioning immune system
vision – prevents night blindness
proper embryo and fetus development (critical during pregnancy)
normal reproduction of cells
Beta-carotene serves as an antioxidant, a cancer-fighting phytochemical. Studies show that people with higher circulating levels of beta-carotene seem to have a lower risk of developing breast, colon, esophageal and cervical cancers.
HOW MUCH DO YOU NEED?
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is the daily amount needed to meet the nutrient requirements of most healthy people. People with chronic disease or other disorders may have increased needs of certain vitamins and minerals.
RDA’s for Vitamin A
|0–6 months*||400 mcg RAE||400 mcg RAE|
|7–12 months*||500 mcg RAE||500 mcg RAE|
|1–3 years||300 mcg RAE||300 mcg RAE|
|4–8 years||400 mcg RAE||400 mcg RAE|
|9–13 years||600 mcg RAE||600 mcg RAE|
|14–18 years||900 mcg RAE||700 mcg RAE||750 mcg RAE||1,200 mcg RAE|
|19–50 years||900 mcg RAE||700 mcg RAE||770 mcg RAE||1,300 mcg RAE|
|51+ years||900 mcg RAE||700 mcg RAE|
* Adequate Intake (AI), equivalent to the mean intake of vitamin A in healthy, breastfed infants
Animals: beef, chicken liver, eggs, fish liver oil, and whole milk dairy products
Plants: dark leafy greens like kale, spinach, collards, mustards, chard, etc; and deep yellow/orange vegetables like winter squashes, sweet potatoes, carrots, and fruits like apricots, cantaloupe, peaches and mangos.
[Tweet “Can you believe just 1 sweet potato or 1/2 cup raw carrots exceeds your daily requirement for vitamin A?! #TooEasy”]
|Food||mcg RAE per
|Sweet potato, baked in skin, 1 whole||1,403||28,058||561|
|Beef liver, pan fried, 3 ounces||6,582||22,175||444|
|Spinach, frozen, boiled, ½ cup||573||11,458||229|
|Carrots, raw, ½ cup||459||9,189||184|
|Pumpkin pie, commercially prepared, 1 piece||488||3,743||249|
|Cantaloupe, raw, ½ cup||135||2,706||54|
|Peppers, sweet, red, raw, ½ cup||117||2,332||47|
|Mangos, raw, 1 whole||112||2,240||45|
|Black-eyed peas (cowpeas), boiled, 1 cup||66||1,305||26|
|Apricots, dried, sulfured, 10 halves||63||1,261||25|
|Broccoli, boiled, ½ cup||60||1,208||24|
|Ice cream, French vanilla, soft serve, 1 cup||278||1,014||20|
|Cheese, ricotta, part skim, 1 cup||263||945||19|
|Tomato juice, canned, ¾ cup||42||821||16|
|Herring, Atlantic, pickled, 3 ounces||219||731||15|
|Ready-to-eat cereal, fortified with 10% of the DV for vitamin A, ¾–1 cup (more heavily fortified cereals might provide more of the DV)||127–149||500||10|
|Milk, fat-free or skim, with added vitamin A and vitamin D, 1 cup||149||500||10|
|Baked beans, canned, plain or vegetarian, 1 cup||13||274||5|
|Egg, hard boiled, 1 large||75||260||5|
|Summer squash, all varieties, boiled, ½ cup||10||191||4|
|Salmon, sockeye, cooked, 3 ounces||59||176||4|
|Yogurt, plain, low fat, 1 cup||32||116||2|
|Pistachio nuts, dry roasted, 1 ounce||4||73||1|
|Tuna, light, canned in oil, drained solids, 3 ounces||20||65||1|
|Chicken, breast meat and skin, roasted, ½ breast||5||18||0|
*DV = Daily Value. DVs were developed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help consumers compare the nutrient contents of products within the context of a total diet. The DV for vitamin A is 5,000 IU for adults and children age 4 and older. Foods providing 20% or more of the DV are considered to be high sources of a nutrient.
It’s always best to get your nutrients from food rather than from supplements. There are a variety of phytochemicals intrinsic to plants – not found in supplements – which work synergistically to promote health. In fact, some supplements could actually harm you health.
A couple of large clinical trials (here and here) show that vitamin A and beta-carotene supplements actually increased the risk of lung cancer in current and former smokers. If you are or were a smoker, stick your carrots, not your vitamins.
In regards to age-related macular degeneration however, some supplements may prevent the disease in those at higher risk.
GET THAT DAILY VITAMIN A
Have a roasted sweet potato with dinner. Have it as a side, cube it and toss it in a salad, or serve it mashed style.
Add unsweetened canned pumpkin into oatmeal, yogurt, muffins, breakfast bowls and smoothies.
Throw 1/2 cup cooked spinach into your scrambled eggs, chili, spaghetti sauce and pasta dishes.
Below are some of my favorite ways to incorporate more vitamin A into my day. Enjoy!