Did you grow up taking those sweet chalky Flintstone vitamins as a kid? I can still hear my mother insisting I choke them down so I’d grow up big and strong.
We often talk about vitamins, especially in the wellness industry. Being full of vitamins and minerals is a huge selling point for food manufacturers. Generally, we consider vitamins to be “good” or “healthy”, but we don’t get much deeper into the weeds than that.
What exactly are vitamins, and why do we need them? Keep reading to learn more.
What Are Vitamins?
Vitamins are organic compounds, which means they contain carbon. Our bodies use the compounds to regulate our metabolic function and ensure they continue functioning properly.
Typically, vitamins are grouped into one of two categories: water-soluble and fat-soluble.
Water-soluble vitamins aren’t stored in the body, which means after our body uses what it needs, the remaining vitamins exit the body when you urinate. As a result, you have to consume water-soluble vitamins constantly in order to prevent deficiencies.
On the other hand, your body naturally stores fat-soluble vitamins in your liver, fat tissue, and muscles.
What Do Vitamins Do For Your Health?
Your parents were right when they told you that you needed vitamins to grow up big and strong.
Every multicellular organism requires certain vitamins to grow and develop. The nutrients provided by vitamins allow chemical reactions to occur, which produce things like bone and muscle in prenatal fetuses. Once a child is born, vitamins help those structures grow and develop in healthy ways.
Even after we’re fully grown, vitamins remain essential. The cells in our bodies that make up all our vital organs need the nutrients from vitamins in order to stay healthy. Plus, vitamins help us convert food into energy so we can continue living our lives.
Are All Vitamins Necessary?
When perusing the vitamin aisle of your local pharmacy or health foods store, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer number of different vitamins available for purchase. Despite the wide variety of different vitamin supplements on the market today, only a few are necessary to sustain life.
What Vitamins Are Important For Daily Consumption?
There are only 13 essential vitamins vital to keeping us alive. They are as follows:
- Vitamin A: Present in dark green fruits and veggies, vitamin A helps us maintain healthy skin and bones.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C is often associated with citrus fruits and is often taken in supplement form at the onset of a cold. Vitamin C helps wounds heal themselves and helps keep teeth and gums healthy.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D can be taken orally or with food, but we mostly absorb this vitamin from exposure to the sun. Vitamin D helps strengthen bones by assisting in the absorption of calcium.
- Vitamin E: Vitamin E helps us produce healthy red blood cells and can be found in leafy vegetables and nuts.
- Vitamin K: Vitamin K can be found in a wide variety of foods and is needed for blood clotting and bone health.
- Vitamin B1 (thiamine): Vitamin B1 is predominantly found in lean meats and legumes. Its main roles are helping regulate heart function and helping convert food into energy.
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): Vitamin B2 is mostly found in meat but can also be found in dairy products and certain nuts. It helps promote red blood cell production and helps the other B vitamins function properly.
- Vitamin B3 (niacin): Often found in poultry and fish, vitamin B3 helps keep cholesterol levels in check and helps maintain a healthy nervous system.
- Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid): Vitamin B5 is in several different types of foods, including chickpeas, poultry, and avocados. It also helps maintain cholesterol levels and helps us break down food.
- Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine): Vitamin B6 helps us maintain brain function and assists in the creation of proteins. You can find it in several types of food, including meat, bananas, and cereals.
- Vitamin B7 (biotin): Vitamin B7, which can be found in egg yolks, legumes, and pork, helps break down proteins and carbohydrates.
- Vitamin B9 (folate or folic acid): Folate is in many foods, including leafy greens, beans, and whole grains. Its role in the production of DNA makes it particularly essential for pregnant women.
- Vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin): Vitamin B12 plays a huge role in the metabolic process and helps us turn food into energy. It’s abundant in meat, fish, and dairy products.
Which Vitamins Should I Be Taking As Supplements?
These 13 important vitamins for men and women are needed to sustain life. Vitamin deficiencies can have nasty effects on your overall health, so it’s essential you maintain the intake of these organic compounds.
Most doctors recommend trying to get the bulk of your vitamins from your diet, as vitamin-rich foods typically contain other healthy things like fiber. However, it’s not feasible for everyone due to dietary restrictions or food access. In that case, multivitamins and vitamin supplements can help your body get the nutrients it needs to survive.
Always consult your physician before starting a new vitamin regimen, and only take them as directed.