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Vitamin A

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is needed to help maintain healthy skin, vision and immune function. It may also be needed for reproduction and breastfeeding.



Vitamin A exists in two forms in the diet: in its active form (as retinol) in animal products and in its inactive form (as carotenoids) in plant products. The inactive form needs to be converted to the active form for use by the body.


Good animal sources include:

  • oily fish,
  • eggs,
  • liver,
  • full fat dairy,
  • fortified milk and milk alternatives, and
  • fortified margarine.


Good plant sources include fruits and vegetables that are:

  • red such as tomatoes,
  • orange such as carrots, sweet potato, pumpkin, rockmelon, peaches and apricots, and
  • yellow or dark green leafy vegetables.


Cooking plant foods containing carotenoids can enhance their absorption in the body.


The amount of vitamin A you need depends on your age and gender. You may need more if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. The Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) below reflects how much most people need each day.


  RDI (as retinol equivalents) (µg/day)                                                           
1-3 years 300
4-8 years 400
9-13 years 600
Adolescents (14-18 years)  
Boys 900
Girls 700
Adults (19+ years)  
Men 900
Women 700



The best way to meet the recommended amount of vitamin A is to eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and dairy foods.



If you are not meeting your requirements for vitamin A you may experience night blindness, and/or dry, scaly skin.



As vitamin A is fat soluble and can be stored in the body, too much vitamin A (such as from rich animal sources or supplementation) can be toxic. Pregnant women should avoid eating too much liver as this is very high in vitamin A, and vitamin A toxicity may cause birth defects. Eating a lot of carotenoid containing plant foods will not make you sick, but can turn your skin a harmless yellow or orange which will return to its normal colour once intake of these foods is reduced.



The content displayed on this webpage is intended for informational purposes and is a guide only. It does not replace or substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Information contained on this webpage must be discussed with an appropriate healthcare professional before making any decisions or taking any action based on the content of this webpage.



Medline Plus Medical Encyclopaedia


National Health and Medical Research Council


van het Hof KH, West CE, Westrate JA, Hautvast JG. Dietary factors that affect the bioavailability of carotenoids. J Nutr. 2000 Mar;130(3):503-6.