by Jack Norris, RD • Last updated November 2017
- Vitamin A in Plant Foods
- Dietary Reference Intake for Vitamin A
- Vitamin A Deficiency
- Vitamin A Absorption
Vitamin A in Plant Foods
Pre-formed vitamin A exists only in animal products. However, there are about 50 carotenoids that the body can convert into vitamin A, with the most common being beta-carotene. The vitamin A content of foods is measured in retinol activity equivalents (RAE). You may also see carotenoids measured in international units, or IU. One IU beta-carotene from foods is equivalent to 0.05 micrograms RAE and 1 IU beta-carotene from dietary supplements is equivalent to 0.15 micrograms RAE.
The table below lists the RAE of common plant foods. Vegans should make a point of eating two or more foods high—over 400 RAE—in vitamin A each day.
Retinol Activity Equivalents (RAE)
|Carrot juice||1 C||2,256|
|Sweet potato||1/2 C baked||961|
|Pumpkin||1/2 C canned||953|
|Carrot||1/2 C boiled slices||665|
|Butternut squash||1/2 C baked, cubes||572|
|Spinach||1/2 C cooked||472|
|Broccoli||1 C boiled||120|
|Apricot||1/2 C dried||117|
|Mango||1 C pieces||89|
|Kale||1/2 C cooked||86|
Dietary Reference Intake for Vitamin A
Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin A
|≥ 19 male||900||3,000|
|> 19 female||700||3,000|
The upper limit for vitamin A applies only to the retinol form (found in animal products, fortified foods, and supplements), but does not apply to carotenoids.
Vitamin A Deficiency
Vitamin A deficiency symptoms begin with night blindness and can progress to more severe eye problems such as corneal ulcers, scarring, and blindness (1).
Vitamin A deficiency also reduces the ability to ward off infections.
Vitamin A is important for growth and development in infants and children, and for red blood cell formation.
Vitamin A Absorption
Eating vegetables high in carotenoids with some fat has been shown to increase both the absorption and synthesis of vitamin A (2).
2. Kopec RE, Cooperstone JL, Schweiggert RM, Young GS, Harrison EH, Francis DM, Clinton SK, Schwartz SJ. Avocado Consumption Enhances Human Postprandial Provitamin A Absorption and Conversion from a Novel High-β-Carotene Tomato Sauce and from Carrots. J Nutr. 2014 Aug;144(8):1158-66.