Rhyme Of The Ancient Wanderer (Support for Dysthymia, BPD, and Depression)
Vitamin A


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How does this Vitamin help?

Vitamin A


This fact sheet is one in a series containing information to help you select foods that provide adequate daily amounts of vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. Following these guidelines will put your diet in accordance with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which are:

  • Balance the food you eat with physical activity--maintain or improve your weight
  • Choose a diet with plenty of grain products, vegetables, and fruits
  • Choose a diet low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol
  • Eat a variety of foods
  • Choose a diet moderate in salt and sodium
  • Choose a diet moderate in sugars
  • If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation

What is "a good food source"?

A good food source of vitamin A contains a substantial amount of vitamin A and/or carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the body, in relation to its calorie content and contributes at least 10 percent of the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for vitamin A in a selected serving size or unit of measure considered easy for the consumer to use. The U.S. RDA for vitamin A is 1,000 retinol equivalents per day. The U.S. RDA given is for adults (except pregnant or lactating women) and children over 4 years of age.

The U.S. RDA for vitamin A is the amount of the vitamin used as a standard in nutrition labeling of foods. This allowance is based on the 1968 RDA for 24 sex and age categories set by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences. The 1989 RDA for vitamin A has been set at 800 retinol equivalents per day for women 19 to 50 years of age and 1,000 retinol equivalents for men 19 to 50 years of age.

Where do we get vitamin A?

In 1990, 39 percent of the vitamin A (including carotenes) in the diets of Americans came from fruits and vegetables. Dark-green vegetables and deep-yellow fruits and vegetables provided about half of the vitamin A in the form of carotenes coming from this group. Meats and dairy products each supplied about 20 percent of the vitamin A consumed. Foods that contain small amounts of vitamin A but are not considered good sources can contribute significant amounts of vitamin A to an individual's diet if these foods are eaten often or in large amounts.

Vitamin A intake

Average intake of vitamin A in the typical American diet. The "Other Foods" category includes grain products (0.5%) and miscellaneous foods (1.2%).

Source: Gerrior SA, Zizza C. 1994 Nutrient Content of the U.S. Food Supply, 1909-1990. Home Economics Research Report No. 52. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C.

Why do we need vitamin A?

Vitamin A, a fat-soluble vitamin, is involved in the formation and maintenance of healthy skin, hair, and mucous membranes. Vitamin A helps us to see in dim light and is necessary for proper bone growth, tooth development, and reproduction.

Do we get enough vitamin A?

According to recent surveys of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the average intake of vitamin A (and carotenes) by Americans 20 years of age and older met the RDA for vitamin A.

How can we get enough vitamin A?

Eating a variety of foods that contain vitamin A (and carotenes) is the best way to get an adequate amount. Healthy individuals who eat a balanced diet rarely need supplements. In fact, too much vitamin A can be toxic. The list of foods on pages 3 to 4 of this fact sheet will help you select those foods that are good sources of vitamin A as you follow the Dietary Guidelines. This list of good sources was derived from the same nutritive value of foods table used to analyze information for recent food consumption surveys of the USDA.

How to Prepare Foods to Retain Vitamin A

Vitamin A can be lost from foods during preparation, cooking, or storage. To retain vitamin A:

  • Serve fruits and vegetables raw whenever possible.
  • Keep vegetables (except sweet potatoes and winter squash) and fruits covered and refrigerated during storage.
  • Steam vegetables and braise, bake, or broil meats instead of frying. Some vitamin A is lost in the fat during frying.

What about fortified foods?

Lowfat and skim milk are often fortified with vitamin A because it is removed from milk with the fat. Margarine is fortified to make its vitamin A content the same as butter.

Most ready-to-eat and instant prepared cereals are fortified with vitamin A. Fortified ready-to-eat cereals usually contain at least 25 percent of the U.S. RDA for vitamin A. Because cereals vary, check the label on the package for the percentage of the U.S. RDA for a specific cereal.

What is a serving?

The serving sizes used on the list of good sources are only estimates of the amounts of food you might eat. The amount of a nutrient in a serving depends on the weight of the serving. For example, 1/2 cup of a cooked vegetable contains more vitamin A than 1/2 cup of the same vegetable served raw, because a serving of the cooked vegetable weighs more. Therefore, the cooked vegetable may appear on the list, while the raw form does not. The raw vegetable provides the nutrient, just not enough in a 1/2-cup serving to be considered a good source.


Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, Life Sciences Research Office. Prepared for the Interagency Board for Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research. 1995. Third Report on Nutrition Monitoring in the United States: Volumes 1 and 2. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC.

Subcommittee on the 10th Edition of the RDAs, Food and Nutrition Board, Commission on Life Sciences, National Research Council. 1987. Recommended Dietary Allowances, 10th ed. Academy Press, Washington, DC.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Your Health: Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 4th ed. Home and Garden Bulletin No. 232. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington DC.

Browne, M. B. 1993. Label Facts for Healthful Eating. Mazer Corporation, Dayton, OH.

Updated and Revised by Lydia C. Medeiros, Ph.D., R.D., Extension Specialist

Good Sources of Vitamin A
Food Serving Size Percentage of U.S. RDA1
Breads, Cereals, and Other Grain Products2
Oatmeal, instant, fortified, prepared 2/3 cup +++
Ready-to-eat cereals, fortified 1 ounce ++
Apricot nectar 1/2 cup +
canned, juice-pack About 3 halves +
dried, cooked, unsweetened 1/2 cup ++
dried, uncooked About 9 halves +
Cantaloupe, raw About 1/2 cup diced ++
Mandarin orange sections, canned or frozen, juice-pack 1/2 cup +
Mango, raw 1/2 medium +++
Melon balls (cantaloupe and honeydew), frozen, unsweetened 1/2 cup +
Nectarine, raw 1 medium +
Plums, canned, juice-pack 1/2 cup +
Watermelon, raw About 1 3/4 cups diced +
Broccoli, cooked 1/2 cup +
cooked 1/2 cup +++
raw 4 3-inch strips +++
Chard, cooked 1/2 cup +
Collards, cooked 1/2 cup +
Endive, chicory, romaine, or escarole, raw 1 cup +
Escarole, cooked 1/2 cup +
Kale, cooked 1/2 cup +++
Mustard greens, cooked 1/2 cup +
Peas and carrots, cooked 1/2 cup +++
Pepper, sweet, red:
cooked 1/2 cup ++
raw 1 small +++
Plantain, green or ripe, boiled 1 medium +
Pumpkin, cooked 1/2 cup +
cooked 1/2 cup +++
raw 1 cup +
Squash, winter, cooked, mashed 1/2 cup +++
Sweet potato:
baked or boiled 1 medium +++
canned 1/2 cup +++
cooked 1/2 cup +
raw 1 medium +
Tomato juice, canned 3/4 cup +
Tomato-vegetable juice cocktail 3/4 cup +
Turnip greens or turnip greens with turnips, cooked 1/2 cup +++
Meat, Poultry, Fish, and Alternates
Liver, braised:
beef, calf, or pork 3 ounces +++
Chicken or turkey 1/2 cup diced +++
Fish and Seafood
Mackerel, canned, drained 3 ounces +
Milk, Cheese, and Yogurt
Milk, lowfat or skim 1 cup +
1 A selected serving size contains:
+ 10-24 percent of the U.S. RDA for adults and children over 4 years of age
++ 25-39 percent of the U.S. RDA for adults and children over 4 years of age
+++ 40 percent or more of the U.S. RDA for adults and children over 4 years of age
2 See section on fortified foods.

This information is not intended to replace "traditional" mental health therapy. If you have questions or concerns about your physical and/or mental health ... contact your family physician and/or mental health professional in your area.