Let’s Learn About Vitamin A…

*For the next couple of weeks, we’re going to take a look at the essential vitamins for our health. We’ll look at the what, where, when, who and how much. Please remember that this blog is providing general information. If you are questioning whether you need to take a vitamin(s) supplement, please speak a health professional such as your family doctor, pharmacist or registered dietitian.*

To begin this series of vitamin blogs, we are going to start at the beginning of the alphabet…vitamin A.

What is it and what does it do?
If you remember from last week’s blog, vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means it is stored in the body (specifically, the liver). It helps maintain normal vision and keeps your eyes, immune system and skin healthy. It also promotes normal growth and development.

Where do we get it?
We get vitamin A from some animal foods and plant foods. Animal foods with the highest source of vitamin A are liver, dairy products and fish. According to EatRight Ontario, the top five animal sources are: turkey liver, chicken liver, cod liver oil, baked eel and soft goat cheese.

Plant foods contain vitamin A in a form called carotenoids. Carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, are converted to vitamin A in the body. Carotenoids are phytonutrients found in different amounts in vegetables and fruit. Those with the highest source of vitamin A are dark green and yellow, orange and red vegetables and fruit. According to EatRight Ontario, the top five plant sources are: baked sweet potato (with skin), canned pumpkin, carrot juice, cooked carrots and cooked spinach.

Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide recommends eating one dark green and one orange vegetable or fruit each day. The reason for this recommendation is because the carotenoids from these foods contribute to our daily intake of vitamin A.

Who and How Much?

Age in Years Daily Vitamin A Needs Do Not Exceed
micrograms (mcg)/day micrograms (mcg)/day

Men 19 and older 900 3000
Women 19 and older 700 3000
Pregnant Women 19 and older 770 3000
Breastfeeding Women 19 and older 1300 3000

When?

Is a vitamin A supplement recommended? No. High doses of vitamin A are toxic. In pregnant women, too much vitamin A can cause birth defects. As we store this vitamin in our liver for long periods of time, we are not at risk for becoming deficient in it. If we eat a healthy balanced diet according to Canada’s Food Guide, the food will provide enough vitamin A to meet our needs.

Before taking any supplement, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider or Registered Dietitian to discuss your individual needs.

For the next couple of weeks, we’re going to take a look at these essential vitamins for our health in greater detail. If you have any questions on a specific vitamin or vitamins in general, let me know.

If you have any nutrition topics you would like me to write about or have a question you would like answered, email me at [email protected]. I would really like to hear from you!