The 13 Essential Vitamins You Need to Live a Healthy Life

Vitamins are essential for your body to grow and function properly. There are 13 essential vitamins that your body needs: vitamins A, C, D, E, K and the B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, B6, B12 and folic acid).

Vitamin A

helps keep your teeth, bones, skin and mucous membranes healthy. You can get it from dark green leafy vegetables, dark-colored fruits, egg yolks, liver, fish and beef.

Folate works in conjunction with vitamin B12 to produce red blood cells. It is also necessary for DNA production, making it an essential vitamin for pregnant women. You can get it from beans, green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, peanut butter, wheat and brewer's yeast. Vitamin B12 is not found naturally in plants or grains.

If you are vegan, you should consider taking a vitamin B supplement to reduce your risk of developing anemia due to vitamin B12 deficiency. However, if you do not get enough of the 13 essential vitamins, you will become ill and may even die. Foods with vitamin D include salmon, tuna, mackerel, beef liver, egg yolks, mushrooms and fortified dairy products and nut milk as well as cereals. You can get vitamin E from sunflower, safflower and wheat germ oils; sunflower seeds; almonds; peanuts; spinach; chard; avocados; and butternut squash. You can get vitamin K from spinach; kale; lettuce; broccoli; soybeans; blueberries; figs; meat; cheese; eggs; and vegetable oils.

As with vitamins, a healthy and balanced diet should provide all the minerals that your body needs to function properly. Too much of the fat-soluble vitamins can cause toxic accumulation in body fat and too many antioxidants such as vitamins A and E can paradoxically contribute to the development of cancer. In fact some free radicals (the molecules that absorb antioxidants) are needed to kill bacteria and potential cancer cells.

Fat-soluble vitamins

are mainly found in foods that are high in natural fats such as dairy products; eggs; and blue fish. You may need more vitamin K if you have had bariatric surgery to lose weight or have a malabsorption disorder.

You can easily get all of them from your diet if you do not have a disease that prevents you from absorbing them properly so thoughtful foods can replace that multivitamin. Some population groups (with very little or no exposure to sunlight) do not get enough vitamin D from sunlight and are at greater risk of suffering from a vitamin D deficiency. There are eight different essential B vitamins: B1 (thiamine); B2 (riboflavin); B3 (niacin); B5 (pantothenic acid); B6 (pyridoxine); B7 (biotin); B9 (folate)) and B12 (cobalamin). You can get vitamin C from citrus fruits and juices; kiwis; red and green peppers; strawberries; melon; broccoli; Brussels sprouts; tomatoes; tomato juice and roasted potatoes (cooking it this way with the skin on retains folate; vitamin B6 and vitamin C). Trace elements are also essential nutrients that your body needs to function properly but in much smaller amounts than vitamins and minerals. However it is important to note that too much of these vitamins can cause the accumulation of toxic substances in the body and too many antioxidants can cause the development of certain types of cancer.

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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