What is Vitamin A Good For?

Vitamin A has wonderful benefits, but getting too much of it can have the opposite effect. Learn more about vitamin A and how to get enough of it in your diet.

What is Vitamin A Good For?
Evelyn Valdez Evelyn Valdez
5 min read

Today we’re talking about glowing skin and fighting illnesses, all from Vitamin A.

Vitamin A keeps you healthy: from giving you glowing skin to keeping your immune system in tip-top shape.

When I started reading about it, I was mind blown. The potential health benefits that this vitamin has are amazing, almost too good to be true... And it kind of is. That's only because you need the right amount of it in order to reap the benefits. Too much or too little of it will leave you with some pretty awful symptoms, but no need to worry, today I’m making it crystal clear about what it does and how much you need! Here we go...

What is Vitamin A?

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is made up of fat-soluble compounds: retinol, retinal, and retinyl esters.  It is usually found in two forms: Preformed and Provitamin A.

Preformed vitamin A (retinol and retinyl esters) is the active form of the vitamin which your body can be used as it is. It can be found in the following animal products like fish, meat, and chicken. Also in dairy products like butter, eggs, and milk.

Provitamin A is the inactive form of the vitamin found in plants. They contain carotenoids - alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin. These compounds are converted to an active form in your body. So beta-carotene actually gets converted into retinol in your small intestine. Spinach, along with red and yellow veggies, is where it shows up as provitamin A.

Don’t worry though, the form of vitamin A doesn’t really matter! It just matters that you get it from a food source, vitamin A supplements aren't really needed unless you have a deficiency.

Dosage and Deficiency

The amount of vitamin A a person should have is a tricky subject...

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) levels for vitamin A are 900 mcg daily for men and 700 mcg daily for women. For women who are pregnant, the RDA is 770 mcg daily. For women who are breastfeeding, the RDA is 1,300 mcg daily. [1]

Although it is easy to get enough of this vitamin through a balanced diet, a vitamin A supplement might be needed for those that have a deficiency. Vitamin A deficiency is most common in people with protein deficiency, diabetes, overactive thyroid, fever, liver disease, cystic fibrosis, or an inherited disorder called abetalipoproteinemia. [2]

Don't take a supplement unless it is prescribed by your health care provider because this is where it gets tricky... High doses of vitamin A can cause what’s called hypervitaminosis- basically, it starts filling your liver with toxins. It can lead to nausea, vomiting, and some other disgusting symptoms. Luckily, you literally can’t eat enough Vitamin A to get symptoms of hypervitaminosis. Vitamin A toxicity only occurs when vitamin A supplements are being used along with a high vitamin A diet.

So don’t let this scare you away from Vitamin A, because going without it can keep your body from absorbing iron, keep your immune system weak, and can even keep your thyroid from working properly.


Getting the right amount of vitamin A in your diet can have so many great health benefits. Here are the most important...

It keeps your eyesight healthy

One of the most known benefits of vitamin A is that it helps preserve your eyesight. According to the National Institute of Health Office of Dietary Supplements, vitamin A can help with preventing age-related macular degeneration (AMD). So eating foods rich in the provitamin A beta-carotene can also help slow the decline in eyesight that people experience as they get older. [3]

Just remember, don't eat too much of it! Too much vitamin A isn't going to give you x-ray vision, in fact, it will do the opposite. It could give you blurred vision along with other terrible side effects. Actually, one of the most common symptoms of a vitamin A deficiency is night blindness, also known as nyctalopia. That's because this vitamin is a major component of the pigment rhodopsin - a protein that absorbs light in the retina. [4]

Supports a healthy immune system

Like vitamin C, vitamin A supports a healthy immune system by playing a vital role in maintaining your body's natural defenses. It’s so important for you to get enough vitamin A to stay healthy and bounce back quickly when you’re sick. You see, vitamin A’s job is to make sure everything stays at safe levels in your bone marrow. Your bone marrow is then able to make the white blood cells that keep your body safe and help fight off bacteria, viruses, and really any other harmful substance that gets in your blood!

Our immune system especially needs it now during this coronavirus outbreak. A deficiency in vitamin A can increase your susceptibility to infections and it can delay recovery too. So please consult with your doctor, dietitian, or health care provider if you think you might have a deficiency in this vitamin.

Gives your skin a natural glow

Vitamin A is a BIG DEAL for how your hair and skin look. That's because vitamin A is a retinoid which is known as an active ingredient commonly found in topical creams that can be helpful with treating acne.

Dr. David Greuner, director and co-founder of NYC Surgical Associates says that it is commonly found in the Retin-A products - prescribed acne medication. He says, "It works by signaling to the cells to grow at a faster rate, bringing fresher, more youthful skin to the surface more rapidly. Used in excess, it can be quite irritating, however." [5]

Supports bone health

We all know that vitamin D is a big deal in how your muscles and cartilage grow, but vitamin A also plays an important role in your bone's health! Eating enough of it is important for proper bone growth and development.

Studies show that people with low levels of vitamin A are at higher risk of bone fractures than those with healthy levels. [6] I emphasize 'healthy levels' because there's another study that showed that women with high levels of vitamin A were more likely to suffer from a hip fracture than those with average blood levels. [7]

That goes to show that eating this vitamin in moderation is the best way to reap the wonderful benefits it has to offer.

Food Sources

I briefly discussed this earlier, but your vitamin A intake should come from natural and whole foods, not from supplements. Only use supplements if it is prescribed by your doctor.

Here is a list of foods highest preformed and provitamin A:

  • Beef liver (preformed)
  • Egg yolks (preformed)
  • Butter (preformed)
  • Cod liver oil (preformed)
  • Salmon (preformed)
  • Cheddar cheese (preformed)
  • Trout (preformed)
  • Sweet potatoes (provitamin)
  • Pumpkin (provitamin)
  • Carrots (provitamin)
  • Red peppers (provitamin)
  • Butternut squash (provitamin)
  • Leafy vegetables (provitamin)
  • Cantaloupe (provitamin)

In Summary

To recap everything, you need to make sure you’re getting the right amounts of Vitamin A from fish, eggs, butter, milk, spinach, or red and yellow vegetables. It shouldn't be too difficult if you are already eating a balanced and healthy diet. This will keep your immune system strong and ready to fight off any infections while promoting muscle growth and healthy, glowy skin. Getting too much is also a problem, but stick to natural vitamin A sources and you should be fine.