The 4 Most Essential Vitamins for Optimal Health

Vitamins are essential for the body to grow and function properly. There are 13 essential vitamins, including vitamins A, C, D, E, K and B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, B6, B12 and folate). For those of us who aren't nutritionists, dieticians or natural health experts, the letters and numbers that explain the world of healthy foods can seem daunting. However, it is important to understand which vitamins are most important for optimal health.

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is primarily involved in improving vision, bones and reproductive health, in addition to helping the immune system. Colorful fruits and vegetables such as sweet potatoes, carrots, kale and other dark vegetables as well as liver and milk are rich sources of vitamin A. Vitamin D is also a fat-soluble vitamin that is stored in the liver and fatty tissues. It is found in proteins such as fish, poultry, meat and dairy products as well as in green leafy vegetables and beans.

Vitamin D helps the body build red blood cells and get energy from the foods you eat. B vitamins are water-soluble vitamins that play an important role in energy production, macronutrient metabolism and immune function. They are found in proteins such as fish, poultry, meat and dairy products as well as in green leafy vegetables and beans. B vitamins cannot be stored in fat cells for later use; they need to be a part of your regular diet.

Most Americans get enough B vitamins from food but supplements may be helpful for some people. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that many people associate with the immune system and preventing colds. However, this essential vitamin also helps digestion by supporting the health of teeth and gums and helping the body absorb iron. Vitamin E is found in sunflower, safflower and wheat germ oils, sunflower seeds, almonds, peanuts, spinach, chard, avocados and pumpkin.

It is an antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. Vitamin B7 (also known as biotin) is an essential vitamin that plays an important role in maintaining a healthy metabolism. Vitamin B6 is part of nearly 200 biochemical reactions in the human body but is best known for its role in regulating sleep, appetite and mood. Orange juice, cherries, red peppers, kale and grapefruit are some examples of foods in which this popular vitamin is found. Folate is a general term used to describe the different forms of vitamin B9. It is found in preformed vitamin A (retinol) and in beta-carotene which the body converts to an active form of vitamin A. Because we needed extra help to get the full amount of folate and folic acid in our diets the U.

S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also requires that folic acid be added to enrich certain foods (if fortified it will appear on the label).Getting enough vitamin D is crucial for your body to absorb the calcium it needs for healthy bones and teeth. Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to certain types of cancer and heart disease but unlike other vitamins our main source of vitamin D is not food but the sun. It's best to make sure you eat a balanced diet with as many whole foods as possible before resorting to supplements. If you need a boost here are the four most important vitamins for optimal health: Vitamin A; Vitamin D; B Vitamins; Vitamin C; Vitamin E; Vitamin B7; Vitamin B6; Folate.

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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