The Most Important Vitamin for Your Body: Vitamin D

Vitamin D is the most important vitamin for the body in general, and it is very likely that you are not getting enough. It plays a role in so many body functions and the staggering number of people who suffer from it make it a must-have for your daily diet. Vitamin D is not found naturally in many foods, but it can be absorbed from the sun through the skin. Foods with vitamin D include salmon, tuna, mackerel, beef liver, egg yolks, mushrooms, and fortified dairy and nut milk and cereals.

Vitamin A is also important for the body. It helps the heart, lungs, liver, and other organs work properly. Also called beta-carotene, it is important for reproductive, visual and immune system health. You can get vitamin A from beef liver, salmon, broccoli, carrots, pumpkin, leafy greens, cantaloupe, apricots, mangoes, dairy products, and fortified cereals.

Vitamin B is also essential for your body. Also known as ascorbic acid, it boosts the immune system and increases iron absorption from plant-based foods and supplements. As an antioxidant, vitamin C protects our cells from damaging free radicals. It also helps wound healing by helping our bodies produce collagen.

You can get vitamin B from meat, poultry, fish, offal, eggs, legumes, seeds, nuts, whole grains, and fortified cereals, breads and pasta. If you smoke, you need 35 mg more vitamin C a day than non-smokers because your body needs more vitamin C to repair cellular damage caused by free radicals in tobacco smoke. You can get vitamin C from citrus fruits and juices, kiwi, red and green peppers, strawberries, melon, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, tomato juice and baked potatoes (cooking it this way with the skin on retains folate, vitamin B6 and vitamin C). It also stimulates the functioning of the immune system. Vitamin E protects our cells from free radicals, boosts our immune system and helps prevent blood clots. You can get vitamin E from sunflower, safflower and wheat germ oils; sunflower seeds; almonds; peanuts; spinach; chard; avocados; and pumpkin. Vitamin K is needed for blood clotting and bone health.

You may need more vitamin K if you have had bariatric surgery to lose weight or have a malabsorption disorder. You can get vitamin K from spinach; kale; lettuce; broccoli; soybeans; blueberries; figs; meat; cheese; eggs; and vegetable oils. Approximately 99 percent of the body's calcium is found in bones and teeth where it's crucial for structural support. The rest is found in blood muscles and intracellular fluids where it is a fundamental part of many metabolic neurological and muscular functions. Postmenopausal women (who have a high risk of osteoporosis) and people who don't consume dairy products (a primary source of calcium) are the most likely to need calcium supplements.

You can get calcium from dairy products (such as milk cheese and yogurt); fortified non-dairy milks (such as almond soy and rice milks); fortified orange juice; boned sardines; tofu (if prepared with calcium); kale; and broccoli. Iron is an essential part of the formation of red blood cells specifically hemoglobin a protein that binds oxygen to oxygen through the blood from the lungs to cells throughout the body. Vegetarians need to consume almost twice as much iron a day because iron from plant-based foods is less available to the body than iron found in animal products. Pregnant women and people with iron deficiency anemia may also need supplements. You can get iron from meat (especially red meat and liver); seafood; lentils; beans; tofu; cashew nuts; and broccoli. Some vitamins (such as vitamin E) are dangerous in high doses and others may interact negatively with other medications or medical treatments.

Contact your pharmacist for more information on supplements. For children and adults the recommended daily dose of Vitamin D is 15 micrograms (600 IU). For people over 70 it's 20 micrograms (800 IU). For those of us who aren't nutritionists dieticians or natural health experts the letters and numbers that explain the world of healthy foods may seem rather daunting. One thing is certain: experts recommend fueling your body with healthy foods before resorting to supplements. The best option is to make sure you eat a balanced diet with as many whole foods as possible.

If you need a boost here's the information on which letter does what from A (i.e. vitamin A) to Z (or zinc). Eat these 7 foods when you want a midnight snack 8 unexpected health benefits of milk thistle 11 foods that help you sleep through the night. Vitamins help your body grow and function the way it should. There are 13 essential vitamins: vitamins A C D E K and B vitamins (thiamine riboflavin niacin pantothenic acid biotin B6 B12 and folic acid).

The following list of vitamins and minerals can help you understand how the different types of vitamins and minerals work in your body how much of each nutrient you need each day and what types of foods you should eat to make sure you're getting an adequate supply. Look for a supplement that contains the vitamin or mineral you need without a lot of other unnecessary ingredients. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for vitamins and minerals is the average daily intake a person needs to avoid deficiencies and stay healthy. 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). According to the American Pregnancy Association women who are pregnant breastfeeding or planning to become pregnant may need more B vitamins particularly folate which has been shown to prevent birth defects. For example vitamin K may reduce the ability of the common anticoagulant warfarin to prevent blood from clotting. Supplements can be used to get the recommended daily amount of vitamins and minerals you need.

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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