Vitamin A: How To Know You’re Getting Enough

  • Blurred evening and night vision
  • Dull and dry skin
  • Hair loss
  • Infertility
  • Chronic sickness or infection
  • Fragile bones

Can you get too much vitamin A?

While consuming an adequate amount of vitamin A is super important, it’s also entirely possible to get too much of a good thing – and that could lead to health problems as well. Vitamin A is fat soluble, which – unlike water soluble nutrients like vitamin B – means it can be stored in body fat in toxic levels that could result in adverse symptoms and even death.

Symptoms of excess vitamin A include headaches, pain, dizziness and nausea. And, it’s also worth noting that some studies suggest that getting too much vitamin A (especially in the form of supplements) could be particularly detrimental for some groups; it’s been linked to an increase in lung cancer in those who smoke. However, vitamin A consumed from plants (also known as provitamin A) doesn’t appear to carry the same risks as consuming it in excess in the form of supplements.

So, what’s the right amount of vitamin A?

The daily amount of vitamin A that an average adult should consume is approximately 700 to 900 micrograms. If you’re eating a healthy, balanced diet, you shouldn’t need additional vitamin A supplements. But if you are unable to follow a balanced diet, vitamin A in supplements can definitely be helpful. Consult a medical professional before buying.

Which foods contain vitamin A?

Luckily, it’s pretty easy to get enough vitamin A from eating a nutritious and balanced diet that includes animal- and plant-based foods.

There are two types of dietary vitamin A – plain ol’ vitamin A and provitamin A. They both do the same thing, they just come from different foods and are therefore processed slightly differently in the body.

Vitamin A (retinol)

Vitamin A is found in foods of animal origin such as eggs, milk and dairy products, meat, especially liver, and fish. Mackerel, sardines, cod, salmon, and trout are high in vitamin A.

Provitamin A (carotenoids)

Provitamin A is a precursor of vitamin A that is transformed into retinol (vitamin A) in the gut. They’re also called carotenoids; beta-carotene is probably the provitamin A you’re most familiar with.

Provitamin A comes from plants. Good sources are any vegetable or fruit with yellow, orange, and red skin—carrots, tomatoes, oranges, peaches, apricots, pumpkin, mango, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, red pepper, watermelon, and squash.

Green leafy veggies like spinach, kale, chard, and collards are also high in provitamin A.

As we always say, it’s important to eat the rainbow to get all your nutrients, and vitamin A is no exception. And, remember, Vitamin A is fat soluble, so it’s stored in our bodies and used as needed, which is just another reason why it’s important to have some body fat.

This article first appeared on British Vogue.

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