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Vitamin A in your child's diet

Vitamin A in your child's diet


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Vitamin A is crucial for children's good health and development. Read on to find out how much vitamin A your child needs, which sources are the best, and how to avoid getting too little or too much.

Why vitamin A is important

Vitamin A plays an important role in vision and bone growth and helps protect the body from infections. Vitamin A also promotes the health and growth of cells and tissues in the body, particularly those in the hair, nails, and skin.

How much vitamin A does my child need?

Ages 1 to 3 years: 1,000 international units (IU), or 300 micrograms (mcg) retinol activity equivalents (RAE), of vitamin A per day

Age 4 years and up: 1,333 IU, or 400 mcg RAE per day

Your child doesn't have to get enough vitamin A every day. Instead, aim to get the recommended amount as an average over the course of a few days or a week.

The best sources of vitamin A

Colorful fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamin A. Here are some of the best sources:

  • 1/2 cup carrot juice: 22,567 IU
  • 1/4 cup cooked sweet potato: 12,907 IU
  • one raw carrot (7 1/2 inches): 8,666 IU
  • 1/4 cup cooked carrots: 6,709 IU
  • 1/4 cup cooked spinach: 5,729 IU
  • 1/4 cup butternut squash: 5,717 IU
  • 1/4 cup cooked kale: 4,979 IU
  • 1/2 cup canned vegetable soup: 2,910 IU
  • 1/4 cup cantaloupe: 1,352 IU
  • 1/4 cup apricots, packed in juice: 1,031 IU
  • 1/4 cup red bell pepper: 720 IU
  • 1/4 cup raw spinach: 703 IU
  • 1/4 cup sliced mango: 631 IU
  • 1/2 cup fortified instant oatmeal, prepared with water: 626 IU
  • 1/4 cup cooked broccoli: 603 IU
  • 1/4 cup cooked frozen peas: 525 IU
  • 1/2 cup tomato juice: 546 IU
  • 1/2 cup fortified milk: 250 IU
  • 1/4 cup canned peaches, packed in juice: 236 IU
  • 1/2 large egg, scrambled: 160 IU
  • 1/2 ounce cheddar cheese: 142 IU
  • 1/4 cup green bell pepper: 137 IU
  • 1/4 cup fresh peaches: 125 IU
  • 1/4 cup papaya: 83 IU

The amount of vitamin A in a food varies somewhat, depending on the size of the fruit or vegetable.

Kids may eat more or less than the amounts of food shown, given their age and appetite. Estimate the nutrient content accordingly.

Can my child get too much vitamin A?

Yes. Normally, the body has to convert vitamin A from its inactive form to its active form, so the body can use it. Usually an excess of vitamin A is from taking supplements that already contain high levels of the active form of the vitamin.

It's also possible to get too much of the active form of vitamin A from animal sources, like liver and milk. For example, beef liver contains 21,566 IU per slice.

By contrast, it's nearly impossible to overdose by getting an abundance of carotenoids, the orange and yellow pigments in carrots and other vegetables and fruits. When you eat vitamin A from these nonanimal sources, the body converts only what it needs from carotenoids to the active form of vitamin A. What will most likely happen if you go on a carrot binge is that your skin will turn yellow-orange (and that effect disappears once you go back to eating a balanced diet).

How much vitamin A is too much?

Children ages 1 to 3 should not get more than 2,000 IU (600 mcg RAE) a day. Children ages 4 to 8 should not get more than 3,000 IU (900 mcg RAE).

Those are the maximum amounts considered safe by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine. Don't give your child a vitamin supplement that contains more than the recommended amounts of vitamin A that your child needs every day.

Too much of the active form of vitamin A can cause nausea and vomiting, headache, dizziness, blurred vision, and lack of muscle coordination. Long-term effects include osteoporosis, liver problems, and disorders of the central nervous system.

Find out more: Ten important nutrients for children


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