Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is stored in the body (mainly the liver) until it is required by the body.


Vitamin A is an umbrella term for a family of substances called retinoids which include retinol, retinal and retinoic acid. These are known as preformed vitamin A as they are in a form that can be directly used by the body. Retinol is the form that can be used more easily and it can be converted to both retinal and retinoic acid.

Beta-carotene is a type of carotenoid that can be converted to vitamin A. Carotenoids are a class of plant chemicals, known as phytonutrients, which are pigments responsible for bright red, yellow and orange colours in many fruits and vegetables.

Check out our Vitamins and Minerals Information Hub to learn more about key nutrients – from whether you’re getting enough vitamin D to the top 10 healthiest sources of vitamin C, plus vital minerals you need in your diet.

Why do we need vitamin A?

Vitamin A is vital for maintaining vision under conditioning of poor lighting and supports the daily replacement of skin cells. It is also required for supporting the immune system, for growth and development of cells and for reproduction.

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Other benefits of vitamin A include:

  • May lower risk of cancers
  • May be a skin anti-inflammatory for conditions like acne
  • Contributes to bone health
pumpkins stacked on board outside

How much vitamin A do we need?

The NHS recommends an intake of 0.7mg a day for men and 0.6mg a day for women.

Can we have too much vitamin A?

High doses of vitamin A can harm an unborn baby, so if you're pregnant or planning for a baby, it is not advisable to take supplements containing vitamin A or eat foods which are extremely high in vitamin A (such as liver or liver pâté. Speak to your GP or midwife for advice.

Consuming too much vitamin A over many years may also impact on bone health.

Many multivitamins and common supplements, like cod liver oil, are high in vitamin A.

Speak to your GP or healthcare provider if you're concerned about nutritional deficiencies or if you're considering taking supplements.

Which foods are good sources of vitamin A?

Preformed vitamin A is only found in animal sources, including:

  • liver
  • dairy products
  • fish

Alongside the above rich sources, plant sources contain carotenoids and beta-carotene is converted to retinol in the body. Carotenoids give food a vibrant yellow or orange colour and are found in foods such as carrots, yellow peppers, butternut squash, pumpkin and sweet potato. They are also found in dark green fruits and vegetables such as spinach, kale and lettuce.

pumpkin soup in white bowl on wooden table

Recipes that are high in vitamin A and beta-carotene:

Pumpkin soup
Liver & bacon with onion gravy
Butternut squash & sage risotto
Carrot & coriander soup
Halloumi, carrot and orange salad
Roasted sweet potato and carrot soup
Butternut squash & sage risotto
Butternut squash casserole
Fish mappas
Luxe fish pie
Lamb's liver and onions
Kale smoothie
Creamy pumpkin pasta
Prawn, pumpkin & coconut stew

More on vitamins and minerals

Five nutrients every woman needs
What is magnesium?
What is folic acid?
What is potassium?
The best sources of vitamin C
Am I getting enough vitamin D?

This content was updated on 19th October 2023.

Emer Delaney BSc (Hons), RD has an honours degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Ulster. She has worked as a dietitian in some of London's top teaching hospitals and is currently based in Chelsea.


All health content on is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

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