How Vegans Obtain Enough Vitamin A to Meet Daily Requirements

In the United States, vitamin A deficiency is rarely an issue1, so much so that the newly proposed FDA Nutrition Facts label will not require the listing of vitamin A.2 This holds true for vegetarians, too. For adult males the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is 900 mcg RAE while for women it is 700 mcg RAE. These amounts of vitamin A are easily achievable by a few servings of yellow-orange fruits and vegetables and/or dark leafy greens. For example, a simple raw salad of spinach, Swiss chard, carrots, tomatoes, and bell peppers is enough to fulfill the daily requirement for a woman. The salad, along with an additional whole, raw mango fulfills the requirement for a man.

Dish Cups mcg RAE/Cup
Spinach 2 281
Swiss Chard 1 110
Tomato .75 57
Carrots .5 267
Red Bell Peppers .25 58
Total 4.5 773
Mango 2 181
Total 6.5 954

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 2013. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 26. Nutrient Data Laboratory Home Page,

Other common sources of vitamin A that could help vegetarians meet their daily requirement include:

Dish Cooking Method mcg RAE/Cup
Butternut Squash Baked 1,144
Kale Boiled 885
Collards Boiled 722
Bok Choy Boiled 360
Cantaloupe Raw 299
Romaine Lettuce Raw 205
Apricot Raw 158
Grapefruit Raw 133
Broccoli Boiled 120
Summer Squash Boiled 101
Asparagus Boiled 90
Peas (with edible pod) Boiled 83
Papaya Raw 68
Plum Raw 28
Peach Raw 25

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 2013. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 26. Nutrient Data Laboratory Home Page,

Claim: Breastfeeding infants of vegetarian parents are at risk for vitamin A deficiency.

Breastfeeding infants born to mothers with poor dietary habits who lack essential nutrients are those who are at risk for deficiency3. A child being breastfed by a vegetarian mother is only at risk for vitamin A deficiency if the mother is not consuming adequate vitamin A. During lactation, the RDA for vitamin A increases to 1,300 mcg RAE per day. Again, this is easily achievable with several servings of yellow-orange fruits and vegetables and/or dark leafy greens. Consuming plant-based foods containing vitamin A precursors allows the mother to convert them to vitamin A and pass them along to the infant through breast milk. Lactating mothers with adequate intakes of vitamin A precursors will provide their infants with adequate amounts of vitamin A.

Claim: Vegetarian children are at risk for vitamin A deficiency.

According to a recent study, less than 5% of all children ages 2-8 years old have a daily intake of vitamin A less than what is recommended by the USDA.4 Additionally, a 2002 study of children ages 11-18 years old showed vegetarians consume almost 1500 more units of vitamin A on average than their non-vegetarian counterparts.5 There is little risk of vitamin A deficiency in vegetarian children who regularly eat yellow-orange fruits and vegetables and/or dark leafy greens.

Claim: Fat is required for vitamin A absorption.

Vitamins are generally classed into two categories: fat-soluble and water-soluble. Water-soluble vitamins include the B vitamins and vitamin C. As their name implies, these vitamins dissolve in water. Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat-soluble vitamins and dissolve in fat. Because of this, fat needs to be consumed along with the source of vitamin A for proper absorption. Consumption of a fat source, such as avocado, has been shown to increase absorption of beta-carotene from carrots 6.6-fold as compared to eating carrots alone.6 Other fat sources that could potentially increase absorption include oils such as olive oil, salad dressing, nuts, and nut butters.


Adequate vitamin A intake is readily achievable by those practicing a vegetarian diet. A vegetarian diet offers the opportunity for adults and children to meet vitamin A needs through consumption of vitamin A precursors from fruits and vegetables and for breastfeeding infants through their well-nourished mother's milk. Consumption of fat along with vitamin A and its precursors enhances absorption, with the amount of fat required being minimal. As with all types of diets, fulfilling the requirements for essential nutrients should be considered when making meal choices.


  1. Haskell MJ. The challenge to reach nutritional adequacy for vitamin A: beta-carotene bioavailability and conversion — evidence in humans. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012;96(5):1193S-1203S.
  2. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Proposed Changes to the Nutrition Facts Label. Updated 2014. Accessed 08/05, 2014.
  3. The importance of [beta]-carotene as a source of vitamin A with special regards to pregnant and breastfeeding women. Eur J Nutr. 2007;46(9).
  4. Berner LA., Keast DR., Bailey RL., Dwyer JT. Fortified foods are major contributors to nutrient intakes in diets of US children and adolescents. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2014;114(7):1009-1022.
  5. Perry CL, McGuire MT, Neumark Sztanier D, Story M. Adolescent vegetarians: How well do their dietary patterns meet the Healthy People 2010 objectives? Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2002;156:431–437.
  6. Kopec RE, Cooperstone JL, Schweiggert RM, et al. Avocado consumption enhances human postprandial provitaminA absorption and conversion from a novel high-carotene tomato sauce and from carrots. J Nutr. 2014;144(8):1158-1166.

Ricardo Racicot recently graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a bachelor's degree in nutrition.