Vitamin A is a group of fat-soluble essential vitamins available in the human diet in two forms, preformed vitamin A (retinoids) and provitamin A (carotenoids). Retinoids are found in animal products, while carotenoids are available in plant foods.
Both these forms perform different functions in the body. It is important for you to include a variety of foods in your child’s diet to meet the vitamin A requirement, especially because young children are at risk of vitamin A deficiency.
Why Do Children Need Vitamin A?
Vitamin A is one of the essential vitamins that our body cannot manufacture, and thus, it needs to be included in the diet. This Vitamin has an important role because :
- It supports in normal growth and development in children.
- It helps in maintaining healthy teeth, bones, and soft tissues.
- Maintains the structural integrity of all the surface tissues, such as skin, to combat infections and facilitate wound healing.
- Helps in better eye vision and functions.
- Helps in maintaining a healthy immune system.
- Helps in better functioning of heart, lungs, kidneys, and other organs.
- Apart from these, there are several other physiological functions, such as management of oxidative stress.
How Much Vitamin A Do Kids Need?
The following table provides the recommended dietary allowance (daily intake) of vitamin A in micrograms of retinol activity equivalents (mcg/day RAE) for children of various age groups.
AGE RDA (BOYS) RDA (GIRLS)
4 – 8 years 400mcg RAE 400mcg RAE
9 – 13 years 600mcg RAE 600mcg RAE
14 – 18 years 900mcg RAE 700mcg RAE
Note: Do consult your Doctor.
Your child can meet this nutrient requirement by consuming a well-balanced, healthy diet. A well-balanced diet includes food from various food sources in moderation.
Food Sources of Vitamin A
Preformed vitamin A, i.e., retinoids, like retinoic acid, are found in dairy products, meat, and fish. It is also available in fortified foods and vitamin supplements. Provitamin A, i.e., carotenoids, include alpha-carotene and beta carotene, are found in fruits and vegetables. The table below shows some of the best vitamin A sources to include in a child’s diet.
List of Vitamin A foods
|MICROGRAMS (MCG) RAE PER SERVING||PERCENT|
|Beef liver, pan-fried, 3 ounces||6,582||731|
|Sweet potato, baked in skin, 1 whole||1,403||156|
|Spinach, frozen, boiled, ½ cup||573||64|
|Pumpkin pie, commercially prepared, 1 piece||488||54|
|Carrots, raw, ½ cup||459||51|
|Cheese, ricotta, part-skim, 1 cup||263||29|
|Herring, Atlantic, pickled, 3 ounces||219||24|
|Milk, fat-free or skim, with added vitamin A and vitamin D, 1 cup||149||17|
|Cantaloupe, raw, ½ cup||135||15|
|Peppers, sweet, red, raw, ½ cup||117||13|
|Mangos, raw, 1 whole||112||12|
|Egg, hard-boiled, 1 large||75||8|
|Black-eyed peas (cowpeas), boiled, 1 cup||66||7|
|Apricots, dried, sulfured, 10 halves||63||7|
|Broccoli, boiled, ½ cup||60||7|
|Salmon (oily fish), sockeye, cooked, 3 ounces||59||7|
|Yogurt, plain, low fat, 1 cup||32||4|
Note: Lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin are some other types of carotenoids found in food that are not converted to vitamin A. Daily value percent is the amount of nutrient available in one serving of food. For example, if the label lists 25% for vitamin A, it means that one serving provides 25% of the vitamin A you need each day.
Some fortified foods, like ready-to-eat breakfast cereals and juices, contain added preformed vitamin A, an active form of vitamin A easily absorbed by the body.
Vitamin A overdose can occur due to excess intake of vitamin A supplements and excess consumption of liver. It is best to limit liver intake to once in a week and only serve small portions. If your child is on vitamin A supplements or is consuming other animal sources of vitamin A, like fish oil, then do not feed them liver.
Deficiency Of Vitamin A
Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) or hypovitaminosis A, can be due to lack of a well-balanced diet, fat malabsorption or liver disorders. Low vitamin A level in the body leads to deficiency, which can present the following signs.
- General fatigue
- Dry skin, rashes, acne, breakouts, dry hair or hair loss
- Recurrent infections marking poor immune response
- Increased risk of anemia
- Slow growth and development
- Throat and chest infections
- Poor wound healing
- Ocular effects
- Severe vitamin A deficiency can further cause the following signs.
- Blurry vision
- Sensitivity to bright light
- Irregular patches on the white of the eyes
If you observe any of the above signs of vitamin A deficiency in your child, then consult a pediatrician.