We hope everyone knows that foods are our best source of necessary vitamins and minerals. We need these vitamins and minerals to help our bodies maintain its optimal functioning for health. Here we discuss the essential vitamins, what their function and the foods you can eat to ensure you get them.
There are 13 essential vitamins that are required for normal cell growth, function and development. We need varying amount so these vitamins, but they are the ones most important to keep us healthy.
Vitamin A: This is an important vitamin in maintaining the health of our bones, teeth, soft tissues, skin, and mucous membranes (the linings of internal areas such as the respiratory tract and digestive tract)
Vitamin B6: Also known as pyridoxine, it helps to maintain brain function and the formation of red blood cells. Protein depletes the concentration of this so if you eat a lot of meat it is worth eating more foods with this vitamin.
Vitamin B12: This vitamin is an important part of metabolism, which helps maintain our overall health. Our bodies also need it for maintenance of the central nervous system and it helps the formation of red blood cells.
Vitamin C: Probably one of the best known of all the essential vitamins, it is also known as ascorbic acid. A powerful anti-oxidant, it protects your cells from damage from free radicals. Free radicals are created during metabolism and have been linked to many diseases such as cancer, arthritis and other long term illnesses. Vitamin C encourages healthy gums and teeth. It is used to help the body absorb iron.
Vitamin D: This vitamin is known as the sunshine vitamin as it needs at least 15 minutes of sunshine 3 times per week to promote synthesis. Since it is extremely hard to get enough vitamin D through food sources alone, many people who live in areas with little sunshine may have difficulties in getting enough and a vitamin D supplement may be needed. Vitamin D is important in helping the body absorb calcium, an important mineral that is needed for healthy bones and teeth. It also helps maintain normal levels of phosphorus and calcium in the blood. Deficiency of vitamin D has been linked to depression.
Vitamin E: A very powerful antioxidant, vitamin E helps the body use vitamin K, which is not an essential vitamin but is necessary to help our red blood cells coagulate and form blood clots when we bleed, and plays an important role in the formation of healthy red blood cells.
Biotin: One of the B vitamins, it is a vital component in the metabolism of carbohydrates and proteins. It is also a necessary part in making hormones and the body’s natural cholesterol. It’s also used in the formation of bile acids which are a necessary part digestion, and allows the body to form vitamin D and certain hormones.
Niacin: Another B vitamin, it plays an important role in maintaining healthy nerves and skin. It also helps reduce cholesterol in our bodies.
Folate: Part of the B vitamin complex, it is vital for the production of our DNA, which tells our cells how to grow and how to function. It is also used in conjunction with B12 to form red blood cells. A deficiency in folate (folic acid) has been linked to certain birth defects like spina bifida. Most pregnancy vitamins contain folic acid or folate for this reason.
Pantothenic acid: Another one of the B complex vitamins, it is vital for the metabolism of food. It also plays a key role in cholesterol formation and hormone production.
Riboflavin: Vitamin B12, this works with other B vitamins to form red blood cells. It is also an important part of our body’s growth.
Thiamine: Also known as vitamin B1, it is part of the B vitamin complex. Part of the energy producing chain, it helps convert carbohydrates into energy that our body can use. Thiamine is also essential for normal heart and nerve cell function.
Food Sources Of The Essential Vitamins
Most of the essential vitamins can be found naturally in foods we eat. There are a few that do require food fortification to ensure that we get enough of them in our diets. This list of vitamins and the foods that we can find them will help you to make sure that you are getting the appropriate amount of vitamins from natural sources.
- Vitamin A: Organ meats such as liver have the highest concentration of vitamin A. But, if you don’t like those or are vegetarian, fruit and vegetable choices include: carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, spinach, collard greens, Kale, turnip greens and dark colored fruits.
- Vitamin B6: Meats, poultry, whole grains, dried beans (legumes), nuts, avocados and bananas
- Vitamin B12: Sardines have the highest amount of vitamin B12. However if you can’t stomach them, other meat products that have vitamin B12 are salmon, lamb, shrimp, scallops, halibuts, grass-fed beef and milk, yogurt and cod. For vegetarians and vegans, fortified cereals and soy products are the best choice.
- Vitamin C: For this vitamin, you will need to include papaya, bell peppers, strawberries, broccoli, pineapple, Brussels sprouts, kiwi, oranges, cantaloupe and kale in your diet.
- Vitamin D: Fatty fishes such as salmon and mackerel are the best sources of vitamin D. However, very few foods have vitamin D naturally and finding foods that are fortified with it are going to be the best sources for most people.
- Vitamin E: The best natural or food sources of vitamin E are: Sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach, Swiss, chard, turnip greens, papaya, mustard greens, collard greens, asparagus and bell peppers.
- Biotin: The best source of biotin is Swiss chard.
- Niacin: The best sources of Niacin are shitake or crimini mushrooms, chicken, tuna, turkey, halibut, lamb, grass-fed beef, sardines and peanuts.
- Folate: Foods that are rich in folate include: lentils, pinto beans, garbanzo beans, black beans, navy beans, kidney beans, collard greens, turnip greens and lima beans.
- Pantothenic Acid: To get vitamin B5, you will need to include avocados, yogurt, crimini and shitake mushrooms, corn, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, pasture raised eggs, broccoli and collard greens in your diet.
- Riboflavin: For this B complex vitamin, eating yogurt, soy beans, crimini mushrooms, spinach, almonds, pasture raised eggs, grass-fed cow’s milk, green peas and collard greens will give you enough for your body to function properly.
- Thiamine: Good sources of thiamine (vitamin B1) are tuna, sunflower seeds, navy beans, black beans, dried peas, green peas, pinto beans, lentils, lima beans and sesame seeds.