I think it’s safe to assume that everyone knows that vitamins are an essential component of a healthy diet. However, I think most of us will probably admit to not knowing exactly why we need each vitamin and why it is vital to our body. I think the B vitamins are particularly confusing. I’m not claiming I’ve got the definitive guide here but I have collected together all the good stuff I think we should all know.
1. Vitamin a
RDV for women – 700 mcg
Also known as retinoic acid, retinal, and retinol, vitamin A helps promote bone growth and keeps skin and tissues healthy. Eating food rich in carotenoid alpha carotene, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, squash, and turnip greens helps provide your body with enough vitamin A because your body can convert beta-carotene to vitamin A. Its deficiency can cause issues like night blindness and dry cornea, etc. Eat shrimp, eggs, liver, beef, cheddar cheese, and fortified milk or take a supplement. Avoid overdosing or it may cause vomiting, hair loss, birth defects, and skin dryness.
2. Vitamin B1
RDV for women - 1.1mg
Also called thiamin, vitamin B1 helps convert what you eat into energy. It's equally important for healthy hair, skin, muscles, and brain. Its deficiency can cause several complications, including beriberi, a disease that causes problems such as body weakness, weight loss, and brain damage. Be sure to make ham, pork chops, acorn squash, and watermelons part of your diet to reach your minimum daily requirement of vitamin B1.
3. Vitamin B2
RDV for women - 1.1mg
Just like vitamin B1, vitamin B2 or riboflavin, plays a role in converting food into energy. It also keeps your hair, blood, skin, and brain healthy. Vitamin B2 deficiency may lead to a condition called ariboflavinosis that causes symptoms such as throat swelling, cracked lips, low red blood cell count, and bloodshot eyes. You can get vitamin B2 from yogurt, milk, mushrooms, meat, leafy green vegetables, whole grains, and liver.
4. Vitamin B3
RDV for women - 14mg
Also called niacin, you need it to reverse high cholesterol and prevent heart disease. A vitamin B3 deficiency may cause pellagra, which comes with symptoms such as skin lesions, light sensitivity, and aggression. Eating fish, poultry, fortified grains, potatoes, mushrooms, and peanut butter may help prevent complications. Don't exceed your minimum daily requirement because overdose may lead to liver damage.
5. Vitamin B5
RDV for women - 5mg
Vitamin B5 or Pantothenicacid is essential for the production of neurotransmitters, lipids, hemoglobin, and steroid hormones. Its deficiency may cause burning feet and a number of other neurological problems. You can find vitamin B5 in a wide variety of nutritious foods, such as mushrooms, chicken, avocados, broccoli, and tomato products.
6. Vitamin B6
RDV for women - 1.3mg
Vitamin B6 is also known as pyridoxamine, pyridoxine, or pyridoxal. Your body needs this vitamin to keep your homocysteine levels low, which in turn reduces the risk of heart disease. It also helps convert tryptophan to serotonin and niacin, which regulate your mood, appetite, and sleep. Pregnant women need pyridoxine to help their baby’s brain develop properly. Its deficiency can cause anemia and other skin disorders, such as cracks around the mouth. You may also feel depressed and confused due to insufficient vitamin B6. Simply start eating more poultry, fish, meat, potatoes, bananas, non-citrus fruits, and soy products to meet your daily vitamin B6 intake. Avoid overdose as that may lead to nerve damage.
7. Vitamin B7
RDV for women - 30mcg
Vitamin B7 or biotin helps synthesize glucose, strengthens fingernails, and supposedly prevents baldness. Its deficiency causes dermatitis and inflammation of the small intestine. Soybeans, egg yolks, fish, organ meats, and whole grains are all rich sources of vitamin B7.
8. Vitamin B9
RDV for women - 400mcg
Also called folic acid, it reduces the risk of birth defects and encourages the growth of red blood cells. Its deficiency can cause anemia and diarrhea, whereas women with a B9 deficiency may give birth to babies with certain defects. You can find it in many foods like asparagus, broccoli, okra, cereals, black-eyed peas, chickpeas, tomato juice, and orange juice. Too much vitamin B9 may lead to lung or prostate cancer, so don't exceed your recommended daily allowance.
9. Vitamin B12
RDV for women - 2.4mcg
It helps prevent heart disease and assists in breaking down some amino acids and fatty acids. Eat at least 2.4mcg of B12 a day to avoid complications, such as dementia, memory loss, and numbness in the arms and legs. This usually happens due to a condition called hypocobalaminemia that causes gradual brain and spinal cord deterioration. It is advisable for patients age 50 or older to take a B12 supplement to prevent depression, paranoia, and behavioral issues. Adding fish, poultry, meat, fortified soymilk, eggs, and cheese to your diet will also help.
10. Vitamin C
RDV for women - 75mg
Vitamin C or ascorbic acid lowers the risk for esophagus, breast, stomach, and mouth cancers. It also protects against cataracts and makes collagen to help your wounds to heal quickly. It boosts your immune system and neutralizes unstable molecules to protect your cells. Symptoms like depression, fatigue, and connective tissue defects such as rash, gingivitis, impaired wound healing, and internal bleeding means you're vitamin C deficient. Add more fruits and citrus juices to your diet with broccoli, potatoes, spinach, bell peppers, Brussels sprouts, and tomatoes to stay healthy.
11. Vitamin D
RDV for women - 31-50yrs: 5mcg / 51-70yrs: 10mcg
Do you experience issues like muscle weakness, bone pain, dementia, erectile dysfunction, or schizophrenia? It could be because you have a vitamin D deficiency. Also known as ergocalciferol, vitamin D helps regulate phosphorus and calcium in your blood. It helps form bones and teeth and offers protection against non-spinal fractures. Fortified milk, margarine, fatty fish, and fortified cereals are some great choices to meet your minimum daily requirement of vitamin D. But you also need to get outdoors to get the most valuable source of vitamin d – sunlight.
12. Vitamin E
RDV for women - 15mg/day
Issues like age spots, fragile red blood cells, mild anemia, cataracts, nonspecific neurological deficits, and a decrease in sex drive may indicate a deficiency of vitamin E or alpha-tocopherol. Your body needs vitamin E to protect certain lipids and vitamin A from damage. It neutralizes free radicals and also helps prevent Alzheimer's disease. Eating salad dressings, vegetable oils, leafy green vegetables, whole grains, margarines, and nuts will help prevent these complications.
13. Vitamin K
RDV for women - 90mcg
If you're getting any less than 90mcg of vitamin K or menadione a day, you may experience heavy menstrual periods with blood in the urine or stool. Excessive bleeding from wounds, increased prothrombin time, and bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract are also signs of a vitamin K deficiency. Vitamin K is essential for blood clotting. Enjoy milk, eggs, cabbage, kale, broccoli, spinach, collards, and green veggies to prevent complications and health issues.
One thing you should know is about vitamin supplements. If you eat a healthy balanced diet, with representations from all the food groups and including lots of fruit and vegetables, you should NOT need any vitamin supplements. There is nothing you need that you can’t get from food. If your diet however is restricted in any way – veganism, vegetarianism, gluten-free, dairy free, pescetarianism etc - it is important to understand what vitamins you might not be getting enough of.
Are you getting enough vitamins?