Which Vitamins Are Really Essential?

See what people are saying about this article on our Facebook page!Facebook

Nearly every "health-conscious" food product or dietary supplement comes with the same catchphrase: "Packed with essential vitamins and minerals." But with a vitamin existing for almost every letter of the alphabet, which ones are really essential for you?

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there are 13 vitamins that are crucial to proper body function. The list includes:

  1. Vitamin A: Found in dairy, meat, and seafood, vitamin A helps promote healthy teeth and skin.
  2. Vitamin C: Works to maintain healthy teeth and gums and promotes the healing of wounds. Eat plenty of berries, citrus, and melons for this antioxidant.
  3. Vitamin D: Known as the vitamin that the body produces after exposure to sunlight, it can also be found in dairy, fish, and oysters. It also works to maintain bone health.
  4. Vitamin E: Found in seeds and leafy greens, such as spinach and kale, vitamin E plays a role in the formation of red blood cells.
  5. Vitamin K: Rarely listed as an essential vitamin, but without it our blood cells would turn into jelly. It can be found in cereals, cabbage, and spinach.
  6. Vitamin B1 (thiamine): An excellent aide to heart health, thiamine helps convert carbohydrates into energy. B1 can be found in foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and fish.
  7. Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): Promotes proper body growth and function of red blood cells. Dairy, leafy green vegetables, liver, kidneys, legumes, tomatoes, and mushrooms can help you get your daily dose of B2.
  8. Vitamin B3 (niacin): Known for its ability to lower cholesterol, niacin also helps maintain healthy nerves and skin. Eat dairy, eggs, or lean meats for your daily helping of this essential vitamin.
  9. Pantothenic acid: Found in lean meats, dairy, eggs, potatoes, and beans, pantothenic acid works to metabolize food.
  10. Vitamin H (biotin): Vitamin H helps the body process protein, fats, and carbohydrates. Reach for onions, cabbage, cucumber, and cauliflower.
  11. Vitamin B6: Try some tuna, chicken, or bananas to aid brain function and help the body utilize protein.
  12. Vitamin B12: Want a fully functioning metabolism? Eat meat, fish, and shellfish for your daily dose.
  13. Folate (folic acid): Essential for the production of DNA, which controls tissue growth and cell function, any woman who may be pregnant should get plenty of this vitamin. Not only is folate found in fortified foods, but it's also in leafy greens. 

How to Get the Vitamins You Need

According to the Institute of Medicine, the best and easiest way to ensure you're receiving the appropriate amount of essential vitamins is through a balanced diet. As a basic guide, fill your plate with approximately half fruits and vegetables, a quarter dedicated to lean meat or seafood, and a quarter given to whole grains.

If your doctor finds that you have a deficiency or a condition that requires more of a particular vitamin (e.g. osteoporosis, which requires more vitamin D than the average daily serving), she may suggest supplementation. It is essential that you follow your physician's suggestions. When it comes to vitamins, there can be too much of a good thing.

See what people are saying about this article on our Facebook page!Facebook


Institute of Medicine, Dietary Reference Intakes: Vitamins

National Institutes of Health (NIH), Vitamins