The 13 Essential Vitamins and Minerals You Need for Optimal Health

We all know that vitamins and minerals are essential for our health, but how many of them are there? There are 13 essential vitamins that the body needs for optimal health: vitamins A, C, D, E, K and B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, B6, B12 and folic acid). These vitamins have different functions to help the body function properly. The Institute of Medicine has determined the upper limits for 24 nutrients. This chart is for adults 19 years of age and older. It is important to note that these recommendations do not apply to pregnant or breastfeeding women, as they have different nutritional needs.

Vitamins and minerals are considered essential nutrients because they work together to perform hundreds of functions in the body. They help strengthen bones, heal wounds and boost the immune system. They also convert food into energy and repair cellular damage. If you're eating a balanced, healthy diet, you're probably already getting adequate amounts of the essential nutrients your body needs to function at its best. However, if you are on a restricted diet or have certain health conditions, you may need a multivitamin or other dietary supplements.

It is important to consult with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any supplement, including a multivitamin, to avoid consuming too much of a good thing. There are two types of vitamins: water-soluble and fat-soluble. Water-soluble vitamins have many functions in the body, one of the most important being to help release the energy found in the foods you eat. The kidneys continuously regulate the levels of water-soluble vitamins, eliminating excess from the body through urine. These vitamins are not easily excreted and, when taken in excess, can build up in the body and cause unwanted and potentially dangerous adverse effects. Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat-soluble vitamins that bind to stomach fat and are then stored in fatty tissues and the liver.

It is more difficult to transport these vitamins from food and other sources into the body because cooking, storing and simply exposing them to air can inactivate these more fragile compounds.Vitamin K is the name of the group of several compounds that help the body produce the proteins needed for blood clotting. Vitamin K is found in green leafy vegetables, cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli or cabbage), fish, liver, meat and eggs. The recommended daily dose (RDA) and the AI (adequate intake) are the amounts of a vitamin or mineral you need to stay healthy and well nourished. The elderly, vegetarians, vegans, and people who have had weight-loss surgery are at risk of developing a vitamin B12 deficiency. Fat-soluble vitamins enter the blood through lymphatic channels in the intestinal wall instead of easily entering the bloodstream like most water-soluble vitamins.

Apparently, vitamin C pills had no effect and mortality from selenium was slightly reduced; however more research is needed on these nutrients. Together this quartet of vitamins helps keep the eyes, skin, lungs, gastrointestinal tract and nervous system in good condition. It was once believed that taking vitamin E supplements could also prevent a variety of diseases such as heart disease, cancers and Alzheimer's disease; however this has not been proven.

Ben Liebhardt
Ben Liebhardt

Amateur travel fanatic. General web buff. Certified travel junkie. Twitter nerd. Infuriatingly humble web practitioner. Certified beer nerd.

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