“Fat-soluble vitamin A is a key part of maintaining vision and keeping your immune system in check,” says Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, LDN, CLEC, CPT. “It’s also important for growth and development, healthy skin, and helping many of our organs’ abilities to function, including our heart and lungs.
How Much Vitamin A Do We Need?
The amount of vitamin A a person needs depends, of course, on age and gender.
“Adult males need 900 mcg of RAE, while adult females need 700 mcg of RAE,” says Manaker. “Pregnant women need 770 mcg of RAE and breastfeeding women need 1300 mcg of RAE.” For a visual of the amounts, she points out that 1/2 a sweet potato will give you about 700 mcg RAE, five dried apricots have 63 mcg RAE, and a whole mango has about 110 mcg RAE.
Top Foods Containing Vitamin A to Eat
Besides mango and sweet potato, spinach is an excellent source of vitamin A with 471 mcg in 1/2 cup cooked. “Spinach also offers calcium for healthy bones,” says Bianca Tamburello, RDN.
Tamburello also singles out eggs as affordable lean protein and an easy way to add vitamin A to your day. “A large egg contains 90.5 mcg of vitamin A and salmon contains about 123 mcg of vitamin A in 1/2 cooked tenderloin (178 g). As a dietician, I also recommend Chilean salmon because it contains vitamin A and is particularly high in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids and low in mercury.
Next, Tamburello calls carrots, which contain about 640 mcg of vitamin A in 1/2 cup cooked. “It’s easier for the body to absorb vitamin A from cooked rather than raw carrots, but both are great choices for a vitamin A boost,” she says. Other good options include orange-colored foods, as this can be a sign that the food contains vitamin A.” A 1/2 cup of cantaloupe contains about 180 mcg of vitamin A, and finally, milk is often fortified with vitamin A. A cup of milk contains approximately 143 mcg of vitamin A.”
Vitamin A deficiency symptoms to watch out for
1. You may have dry skin
A deficiency in this vitamin means your skin may not be getting a key nutrient that helps repair skin, which Manaker says can lead to dry, flaky skin.
2. Your immune system may be weak
Vitamin A plays a key role in immune function. “Not getting enough of this nutrient can lead to immune health issues because it’s missing an essential nutrient to keep your body in fighting shape,” Manaker says.
3. You may have eye health issues
Dry eyes and night blindness are linked to vitamin A deficiency (of course, night blindness is a more extreme case of this condition). “If a person is suffering from dry eye, getting enough vitamin A may be a better long-term solution than just taking eye drops, but the best course of action should be determined by the person’s healthcare provider. the person,” Manaker says.
4. Your wounds and cuts may not heal
Vitamin A plays a role in collagen synthesis and we need to be able to produce collagen in order to produce healthy skin. “If one has a wound, vitamin A can play a key role in the body’s ability to heal said wound, along with an adequate supply of other key nutrients like protein, zinc and vitamin C,” explains Manaker.
So…when is it worth considering a supplement?
Manaker emphasizes that a food-focused approach is usually best, but a supplement may be beneficial if a person’s diet is lacking in foods containing this nutrient. That said, she cautions that since it is a fat-soluble vitamin, it is not one that people should megadose as there are risks associated with overwhelming the body with this category of vitamins. Always consult your healthcare professional before starting a new supplement regimen.
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