Vitamins are an essential part of how our body functions, but there is a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation about how to best get them into your cells and throughout your body.
Our parents and caretakers routinely reminded us that eating our vegetables was essential to getting all of the healthy vitamins and minerals we need to grow. Oftentimes, we might think taking a supplement is the best way to get essential vitamins the body needs, but sourcing these nutrients through food is even more effective. Shutterstock Many times vitamins are advertised as “natural” but the most natural approach is how people have done it for thousands of years— a healthy and nutritious diet filled with diverse and colorful fruits and vegetables. The more colors and varieties of produce you are eating, the more likely you are to consume a scope of key vitamins. Purchasing from small local farms that practice organic techniques can also help to ensure that your produce is as nutrient-dense as possible. Who may require supplementation?
There are certainly times when people may require vitamin supplementation because of a circumstance or condition that prevents them from adequately obtaining them. For example, people who follow a vegan diet may need to supplement with vitamin B12 (which is largely found in animal-based protein and sources) or people with cystic fibrosis may require supplements because they do not properly absorb many vitamins.
It is important to keep in mind that most supplements did not originate in pill form but, instead, are derived from traditional diets, such as the Mediterranean diet , that kept people healthy for thousands of years. While some people may need to take their vitamins in a pill form, for the average person, food can often be your medicine.
Below, you will see nine vitamins your body needs as well as several foods that are rich in each. Then, don’t miss The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now . Shutterstock Vitamin A isn’t actually a single vitamin but a whole family of different ones sometimes referred to as ‘retinoids’ such as retinol and carotenoids, including alpha-carotene and beta-carotene.
Function in the body: Vitamin A is important in keeping our reproductive and immune systems functioning and helps to keep our kidneys, heart, and lungs working well. It’s also essential for normal bone and tooth development. Another important job that vitamin A carries out is that it helps our eyes allow us to see in dark or dim light.
Risks of deficiency: The risk of vitamin A deficiency is pretty rare in well-nourished populations (such as the U.S.) because vitamin A is stored in the body, particularly in the liver. However, certain conditions such as pneumonia, urinary tract infections, cancer, and prostate disease may cause your body to excrete too much vitamin A.
People with fat malabsorption may not be able to absorb enough vitamin A and certain medications may also interfere with vitamin A absorption, such as cholestyramine and orlistat. A lack of vitamin A can cause your immune system to function poorly. It can also cause a number of eye diseases (such as blindness), poor bone growth, and skin problems at your hair follicles.
Risks of overuse: Vitamin A is stored in fat in the body, therefore, too much of the vitamin can lead to accumulation and toxicity. Symptoms include headache, double vision, tiredness, nausea, vomiting, or vertigo. Too much vitamin A can also lead to osteoporosis, bone fractures, and liver toxicity. Larger than recommended doses of vitamin A may cause birth defects, and so pregnant women or women of childbearing age should not intake more than the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance). Beta-carotene toxicity is much less likely, but eating large amounts of carrots daily can lead to yellow-orange skin color changes.
Top foods with vitamin A: Beef liver (3 oz cooked)
Baked sweet potato
Frozen spinach (½ cup cooked)
Skim milk fortified with vitamin A
Shutterstock Vitamin C is also known as ascorbic acid and is key for immune function .
Function in the body: Vitamin C is important in the growth and repair of tissue and helps to maintain healthy skin, teeth and bones. Vitamin C is also an antioxidant that helps protect our cells from being damaged by free radicals, toxins, and radiation. Vitamin C can also help absorb iron from food in the intestines. Despite being highly advertised for preventing and treating the common cold , good data to support this claim is still unavailable.
Risks of deficiency: Deficiency of vitamin C can lead to a condition known as scurvy. Scurvy can present with fatigue, gum swelling, corkscrew hairs, and poor wound healing. It was common many years ago among sailors who did not have access to fresh fruits on long journeys. Scurvy is very rare in the U.S. because only a very small amount of Vitamin C is needed from a normal diet to prevent a deficiency.
Risks of overuse: Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin and is not stored in the body, which just means that excess vitamin C is eliminated through urine. Large doses can still cause side effects, including nausea, stomach cramps, diarrhea, and more severely, can lead to the development of kidney stones. Patients with diabetes, recurrent kidney stones and poor kidney function should avoid high doses of vitamin C due to increased risk and complications of kidney stones.
Top foods with vitamin C: Raw red peppers (½ cup)
Orange juice (¾ cup)
Kiwi (one medium)
Frozen broccoli (½ cup cooked)
Baked white potato
Shutterstock Vitamin D is also known as calciferol. Research has shown that vitamin D can play a vital role in supporting the immune system and may help to mitigate the severity of symptoms associated with COVID-19 .
Function in the body : Vitamin D seems to have an endless number of functions in our body. These include bone mineralization and helping to maintain normal calcium levels in our blood. It also helps to reduce inflammation throughout the body and to maintain […]