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Vitamin A (Retinol) Print E-mail

pumpkinVitamin A is a fat-soluble compound that is found naturally in many foods. There are two categories of vitamin A, depending on whether the food source is animal or plant. Vitamin A plays an important role in vision, bone growth, reproduction, cell division, and cell differentiation. It also helps regulate the immune system by making white blood cells and promoting healthy surface linings of the eyes and the respiratory, urinary, and intestinal tracts.

Night blindness is one of the first signs of vitamin A deficiency as well as, corneal drying (xerosis), triangular gray spots on eye (Bitot's spots), corneal degeneration and blindness. It also causes impaired immunity, hypokeratosis (white lumps at hair follicles) and softening of the cornea (keratomalacia). Both vitamin A excess and deficiency are known to cause birth defects. During fetal development, retinol plays a role in limb development and formation of the heart, eyes, and ears.

milkAs vitamin A is fat-soluble, excessive vitamin A can result in toxicity. Symptoms include nausea, jaundice, irritability, vomiting, blurry vision, headaches, muscle and abdominal pain and weakness, drowsiness and altered mentality.

Good sources of vitamin A include fortified foods, darkly colored fruits and vegetables, full fat milk, margarine, butter, eggs, sweet potatoes, apple, mango, lemon and pumpkin.

Table 2: Selected Food Sources of Vitamin A [8]

Food

mcg RAE per
serving

IU per
serving

Percent
DV*

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. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) Nutrient Database Web site [8] lists the nutrient content of many foods and provides a comprehensive list of foods containing vitamin A in IUs and foods containing beta-carotene in mcg.

 
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