As with most things when it comes to health, fitness, and nutrition, the average person partakes in practices for one big bold reason…BECAUSE THEY SHOULD. It is a better than average chance they don’t know why, just they should. One of the biggest mystery “Shoulds” in the healthy world is none other than vitamins.
We eat vitamin rich fruit and vegetables, eat vitamin fortified food, and take multi vitamin supplements. How many of you though have stopped to wonder just what these vitamins are, and what purpose they serve? Don’t be ashamed, raise your hand. Well guess what, this article will remove the mystery with a quick cheat sheet to know what every last letter is doing in your body. Ready?
Review this handy chart, use it to get the most out of your health and even impress your family and friends with your stunning vitamin knowledge. Yeah that last one is a stretch.
Vitamins in red are fat soluble. This means they are absorbed by fat to be utilized by the body. Also note that the “B vitamins” are listed separate because there is no actual vitamin B.
Origin Purpose Additional Information
|A||Orange vegetables, sweet potato, broccoli, greens, pumpkin, liver oil (beef, pork, fish)||Eye health, skin health, immune function and protection against respiratory infection.||Beta-carotene is the preferred source in supplement form as retinyl palmitate or retinyl acetate can build up in the liver and become toxic.|
|C||Peppers (all colors), kiwi, Brussel sprouts, citrus fruit,||Antioxidant protection, boost immune health, collagen production,||Vitamin C’s image of a cure all wonder supplement is highly unproven from as simple as fighting colds, to fighting cancer and cardiovascular disease.|
|D||Sunlight, cod liver oil, tuna, sardines, fortified milk||Enhances calcium absorption, aides in osteoporosis prevention, boosts immunity function, aides in cardiovascular health||Vitamin D is rare in dietary sources. The sun remains one of the best sources. However due to the importance of reduced sun exposure supplementation is optimal in the form of D3 or Cholecalciferol.|
|E||Nuts, peanuts, vegetable oil, corn & soybean oil.||Prevention against toxins, eye disorders, neurological disease, treatment of skin disorders (topically)||d-alpha-tocopherols is the preferred supplemental source as it absorbs better.|
|K||Leafy greens, broccoli, cabbage, asparagus,||Improves function of enzymes that form blood clotting factors,||Supplemental K1 (plant source) and K2(animal source) are generally safe. Synthetic K3 has been found to have toxic side effects and was banned by the FDA in the U.S.|
|B1 (Thiamin)||Whole grains, yeast, oats, flax, asparagus, kale||Improves ability to manage stress||Deficiency is rare but can occur in people with Crohn’s disease and alcoholics|
|B2 (Riboflavin)||Milk, eggs, cheese, leafy vegetables||Involved in energy production and usage of fatty acids||Used in treatment of jaundice in infants|
|B3 (Niacin)||Chicken, beef, fish, liver, peanuts, legumes||Has a role in energy transfer through metabolism of glucose||A flushing (redness, warmth, itching) can occur as a side effect in some people. This usually subsides in 15-30 minutes.|
|B6 (Pyridoxine)||Pork, turkey, beef, banana, potato||Involved in amino acid metabolism||Food preparation and packaging methods can reduce B6 concentrations by 50% or more making supplementation benefitial.|
|B7 (Biotin)||Peanuts, leafy greens, Swiss chard||Metabolism of lipids, hair and skin health||Pregnancy and breast feeding women may require more biotin|
|B9 (Folic acid)||Green leafy vegetables, avocado, beans, peas||Necessary for cell division as part of normal growth, especially in developing babies and infants.||Folic acid intake while pregnant has been shown to reduce birth defects|
|B12 (Cobalamin)||Fish, shell fish, poultry, beef||Production of blood cells in bone marrow, brain and nervous system function||There are few known plant or vegan sources of B12, hence vegetarians would greatly benefit from supplementation.|
Now that you have this handy list, you may ask “Why not list dosages?”
This was intentionally omitted for several reasons. The Recommended Daily Allowances or RDA are highly debated and an inaccurate blanket standard. Many individual and environmental factors influence a person’s vitamin needs. Furthermore, the average American diet is void in many vitamin rich foods. This is Due to pollution and industrialization of farming. The vitamin content of foods is not as rich as it was in previous decades. Finally, those who partake in intense workouts or athletic events require more nutrients than an average individual.
Simply put, there are too many variables.
A quality multivitamin supplement is one of the best ways to compensate for nutritional gaps in your diet and lifestyle. Due to the fact vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat soluble it is advised to take this supplement with a meal.