With our busy, fast-paced lives, it can be challenging to eat a healthy, balanced diet. This is why vitamins are so important in maintaining health. Of course, the best nutrients come from whole foods, but vitamins are acceptable substitutes.

Consider vitamins as supplements, not replacements

Vitamins and other supplements should not replace healthy food. They should supplement the food that you eat on a daily basis. Even if you do eat a nutritious diet filled with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fibre, it is still helpful to add a multivitamin or supplements to your diet.

Follow recommended dosages

Even though vitamins are meant to help us maintain optimal health, taking too many can be harmful. It is important to read the labels on your vitamins and supplements to see the recommended daily dosage. Keep in mind the food you eat when you factor in your dosage, too. For example, if you eat citrus fruit throughout the day, you probably do not need a full dosage of a vitamin C supplement.

Talk to your healthcare provider

If you are planning to add vitamins and supplements to your diet, it is helpful to discuss your thoughts with your healthcare provider. Your health care provider might suggest that you take calcium if you are at risk of osteoporosis. You also might receive a recommendation for vitamin D and calcium if you live in an area that does not get much sunshine.

The human body needs 13 vitamins that include A, B, C, D, E, K and several B-complex vitamins. The body also needs minerals like iron, zinc, calcium, and potassium. Vitamins are sourced from fruits, vegetables, and other organic things while minerals are taken from inorganic sources. Most vitamins are recognizable by their letter designation, but some are better known by names like biotin or folate.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A supports the immune system and vision. Fortunately, foods with vitamin A are in abundance and can be found in leafy green vegetables, whole milk, and cereals. Vitamin A deficiencies are rare, but vitamin A is usually included in multivitamins. It can also be purchased alone and is usually recommended for pregnant women.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is another vitamin that is easily found in a variety of foods. Citrus fruits, berries, spinach, tomatoes, and cruciferous vegetables are loaded with it. However, many people still take vitamin C supplements, especially to fight off the cold and flu during the winter because it is an antioxidant that helps boost the immune system. Vitamin C also helps repair tissues in the body and is also known as ascorbic acid.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is useful for preventing osteoporosis because it works to build strong bones. It is also helpful in preventing and treating heart disease, multiple sclerosis, and a few cancers, too. Vitamin D can be absorbed into the body through food and through exposure to the sun. There are not many foods that have vitamin D, other than fatty fish, fortified dairy, and some fortified breakfast cereals. It is common for healthcare providers to recommend vitamin D supplements to people of all ages, especially in parts of the world that do not get much sunshine. Vitamin D also helps the body absorb calcium, so healthcare providers tend to recommend that people take both calcium and vitamin D.

Vitamin E and K

The antioxidant, vitamin E helps the cells communicate and it is useful in treating diabetes. It also builds red blood cells and boosts the immune system. Vitamin E and vitamin K work together to fight diseases like cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s. This vitamin can be found in nuts and seeds as well as enriched cereals and green vegetables. It is rare to have a vitamin E deficiency, but there are still many things that researchers do not know about vitamin E and how it helps the body. The vitamin is also called tocopherol.

Vitamin K helps the blood clot and helps bind calcium in the bones. It is found in leafy greens like spinach, kale, and romaine lettuce. It is also found in meat, eggs, and cruciferous vegetables. Without vitamin K, cuts would not clot. Babies are often given vitamin K at birth.

The B group of vitamins

Vitamin B has eight different types of vitamins including B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B8, and B12. Most B vitamins can be found in leafy greens, meats, enriched grains, seafood, and beans. Many are also added to fortify cereals and grains.

  • B1 is commonly known as thiamin and energizes the cells through food so DNA and RNA can be synthesized.
  • B2 is called riboflavin and also creates energy, but for the body. Riboflavin keeps the muscles, heart, and nervous system functioning properly, too.
  • B3 is better known as niacin and helps the body produce energy and keeps the skin functioning properly. It also works with the nervous and digestive systems.
  • B5 is in nearly all foods and it affects the body’s growth.
  • B6 helps the body maintain healthy red blood cells while boosting the immune system. B6 also breaks down protein and keeps the nervous system functioning, too. It can be found in typical foods that contain most B vitamins and is also in bananas.
  • B7 is also called biotin and helps the body break down carbs and proteins. It also plays a role in hormone production. It is found in peanuts, bananas, watermelon, and mushrooms. People often take biotin supplements to strengthen their hair, skin, and nails. People with B7 deficiencies often have skin rashes.
  • B8 is most commonly known as folic acid or folate. It is vital for the body to help make DNA, which is why it is so important for a pregnant woman. It also helps produce red blood cells.

B12 is known as cobalamin and helps the nervous system and it helps the body grow. This is commonly found in eggs, dairy, and shellfish. Vegans usually need to take B12 supplements. People with a B12 deficiency often have yellowing skin, memory problems, and weakness.

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