Vitamins are organic nutrients that your body needs to maintain health. All vitamins are considered essential — yet, even though your body requires them, it can’t produce them by itself in adequate quantities. That means you have to get them from food, drink, or supplements. All told, there are 13 essential vitamins.
At Prestige Physicians in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, internists Dr. Kira Fenton and Dr. Cristina Savu strive to provide the best holistic care for our patients. That includes providing IV therapy to deliver the vitamins and minerals you may be lacking.
To help you understand how important vitamins are to good health, our team has put together this guide to the 13 vitamins your body needs.
Vitamins and minerals (inorganic nutrients) are called micronutrients because your body requires only small amounts of each. Failing to get even small amounts virtually guarantees disease. Some examples include:
- Scurvy: Inadequate vitamin C causes bleeding gums and listlessness.
- Blindness: Inadequate vitamin A impairs your vision.
- Rickets: Inadequate vitamin D results in soft, weak bones that lead to skeletal deformities.
Although vitamins and minerals are both micronutrients, they differ in basic ways. Organic vitamins can be broken down by heat, air, or acid, making them harder to store and absorb. Inorganic minerals retain their chemical structure and find their way into your body easily through the plants, fish, animals, and fluids you consume.
The 9 water-soluble vitamins
Water-soluble vitamins move easily throughout the body, with excess amounts usually excreted by the kidneys. You need water-soluble vitamins in frequent, small doses, but niacin, vitamin B6, folate, choline, and vitamin C have upper healthy limits — high levels of vitamin B6 over a long period of time has been shown to cause irreversible nerve damage. A balanced diet usually provides proper quantities of these vitamins.
Here are the nine water-soluble vitamins, their uses, and their sources.
1. Thiamine (vitamin B1)
Uses: Part of an enzyme crucial to energy metabolism; important to nerve function
Sources: Pork; whole-grain or enriched breads and cereals; legumes; nuts; and seeds
2. Riboflavin (vitamin B2)
Uses: Part of enzyme crucial to energy metabolism; important for vision and skin health
Sources: Milk and milk products; whole-grain, enriched breads and cereals; leafy green vegetables
3. Niacin (vitamin B3)
Uses: Part of enzyme crucial to energy metabolism; important for nervous system, skin, and digestive system health
Sources: Meat, poultry, fish, whole-grain or enriched breads and cereals, asparagus, mushrooms, leafy green vegetables, peanut butter
4. Pantothenic acid
Uses: Part of enzyme crucial to energy metabolism
Uses: Part of enzyme crucial to energy metabolism
Sources: Widespread in foods; produced by bacteria in intestinal tract
6. Pyridoxine (vitamin B6)
Uses: Part of enzyme crucial to protein metabolism; helps make red blood cells
Sources: Meat, fish, poultry, vegetables, fruits
7. Folic acid
Uses: Part of enzyme crucial to making DNA and new cells, particularly red blood cells
Sources: Leafy green vegetables and legumes, seeds, liver, orange juice, now added to most refined grains
8. Cobalamin (vitamin B12)
Uses: Part of enzyme crucial to making new cells; important for proper nerve function
Sources: Meat, fish and seafood, poultry, eggs, milk and milk products; not found in plant foods
9. Ascorbic acid (vitamin C)
Uses: Antioxidant; part of enzyme crucial to protein metabolism; helps iron absorption; important for immune system health
Sources: Found only in fruits and vegetables, especially citrus, cantaloupe, strawberries, kiwifruit, peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, papayas, mangoes, vegetables in the cabbage family
The 4 fat-soluble vitamins
The four fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the body’s cells and not excreted as easily as water-soluble vitamins. Since they’re stored, you don’t need to consume them as often as the water-soluble ones. Too much, though, can be toxic.
Here are the four fat-soluble vitamins, their uses, and their sources.
10. Vitamin A (and its precursor, beta-carotene)
Uses: Healthy vision, skin, and mucous membranes; bone and tooth growth; immune system health
Sources: Vitamin A (retinol) comes from animal sources; beta-carotene comes from plant sources, especially leafy, dark green vegetables and dark orange fruits and vegetables
11. Vitamin D
Uses: Proper calcium absorption; stored in bones
Sources: Egg yolks, liver, fortified milk and margarine, fatty fish. When exposed to sunlight, the skin makes vitamin D.
12. Vitamin E
Uses: Antioxidant; protects cell walls
Sources: Polyunsaturated plant oils; leafy green vegetables; wheat germ; whole-grain products; liver; egg yolks; nuts; and seeds
13. Vitamin K
Uses: Needed for proper blood clotting
Sources: Leafy green vegetables; green vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and asparagus; produced by bacteria in intestinal tract
Feeling rundown? You may be missing some important vitamins. Contact us by calling our office today to find your way to better health.