Ohio State University Extension Fact sheet

Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet

Department of Human Nutrition and OSU Extension,

Ohio State University, Department of Human Nutrition
1787 Neil Avenue, Columbus, OH 43210

Vitamin A (Retinol)


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. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee just released the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 that convey the following nine major messages concerning these topics:

What is the importance of vitamin A?

Vitamin A, a fat-soluble vitamin, plays essential roles in vision, growth, and development; the development and maintenance of healthy skin, hair, and mucous membranes; immune functions; and reproduction.

How much do you need?

Vitamin A is also called retinol. Measurement of the amount of vitamin A is taken in retinol activity equivalents (RAE). Carotene, an orange pigment found in food, is split by the body to become two active units of vitamin A. This is also important when calculating the amount of vitamin A in the body.

The U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for vitamin A is 700 RAE per day for women and 900 RAE per day for men. The U.S. RDA given is for adults and changes for women who are pregnant or lactating; therefore, please consult your healthcare provider for differences.

A good source of vitamin A contains substantial amounts of vitamin A and/or carotene in relation to its calorie content and contributes at least 10% of the U.S. RDA for vitamin A in a serving.

Do Americans get enough vitamin A?

According to recent surveys by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the average intake of vitamin A (and carotene) by an American adult is adequate.

How to get enough vitamin A.

Eating a variety of foods that contain vitamin A (and carotene) 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. Select foods that contain excellent to good sources of vitamin A each day.

Good Sources of Vitamin A
FoodServing SizeRAE %RDA men% RDA women
Sweet Potato1/2 C1400155200
Carrot1 medium1015112145
Kale, boiled1/2 C240 26.634.2
Mango 1/2 medium20022.228.5
Turnip Greens1/2 C20022.228.5
Spinach, raw1 C18520.526.4
Papaya1/2 medium15016.621.4
Red Bell Pepper1/2 medium14015.520
Apricot313515 19.2
Cantaloupe1/2 C13014.418.5
Milk, Fat Free1 C15016.621.4
Romaine1 C707.7 10
Egg, large195 10.513.5
Milk, whole1 C758.310.7
Tomato, raw1 medium35 3.85
Broccoli1/2 C353.85
Green Bell Pepper 1/2 C 151.62.1
Orange1 medium151.62.1

How to prepare foods to retain vitamin A.

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

What about fortified foods?

Low-fat and skim milk are often fortified with vitamin A because it is lost during processing. 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% of the U.S. RDA for vitamin A. Cereals vary, so check the label on the package for the vitamin A content for that cereal.

What is a serving?

The amount of vitamin A in a serving depends on the weight of the serving. For example, ½ cup of a cooked vegetable contains more vitamin A than ½ cup of the same vegetable raw, because the cooked vegetable weighs more. Therefore, the cooked vegetable provides vitamin A, just not enough in a ½-cup serving to be considered a good source.

Food companies label their products according to regulations set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Terms to define a serving of food that has 20% or more of the RDA include: “high,” “rich in,” or “excellent source of” vitamin A. Terms to define a serving of food that contains 10% or more of the RDA include: “good,” “contains or provides” vitamin A. Terms to define a serving of food that contains less then 10% of the RDA include: “enriched,” “fortified,” or “added” vitamin A.


Updated and revised by Jackie Mosure, Dietetic Intern, College of Human Ecology.

Click here for PDF version of this Fact Sheet.

OSU Extension embraces human diversity and is committed to ensuring that all educational programs conducted by Ohio State University Extension are available to clientele on a nondiscriminatory basis without regard to race, color, age, gender identity or expression, disability, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, or veteran status.

Keith L. Smith, Associate Vice President for Agricultural Administration and Director, OSU Extension
TDD No. 800-589-8292 (Ohio only) or 614-292-6181

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