Whether you’re trying to lose weight or just eat a more balanced diet, it’s important to get enough vitamins every day in order to maintain your health. Vitamins help your body grow and function optimally by boosting immunity, maintaining eye health, keeping your bones strong, raising your energy levels and much, much more.
When your body doesn’t get the vitamins it needs, however, your health can suffer and your risk of developing health issues can increase.
Getting vitamins from food vs. supplements
You may be wondering, “What about supplements? Isn’t it just easier to take a vitamin supplement every day than try to get the right daily intake of vitamins from food?”
Although supplements can have their place in a healthy diet — especially for people who suffer from vitamin deficiencies — they’re not a replacement for a varied, well-balanced diet. Whole, vitamin-rich foods supply the optimal balance of compounds that your body absorbs and uses.
6 essential vitamins and foods that contain them
All the essential vitamins work together to maintain your bodily functions and promote optimal health. However, each vitamin also has its own role in assisting the body with specific functions. Below are the main functions of six of the essential vitamins, as well as examples of good food sources for each one.
Vitamin A is extremely important for healthy eyesight, red blood cell production, immune function, skin health, bones and teeth. It can be found in fortified milk, organ meats, dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale, sweet potatoes, carrots, cantaloupe and apricots.
There are eight B vitamins — B-1, B-2, B-6, B-12, pantothenic acid, niacin, biotin and folic acid — and they have an important role in your body’s ability to create energy and release it when needed. They’re essential for proper nerve function and the formation of red blood cells, as well as a healthy metabolism, brain function, heart function and hormone production.
B vitamins can be found in meat, poultry, fish, leafy green vegetables, whole grains, yogurt, seafood and eggs.
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is especially important when your body is under stress because it helps maintain a healthy immune system and repair damage. It also works as a disease-fighting antioxidant that keeps your cells healthy, improves your body’s iron absorption and promotes teeth and gum health.
Vitamin C can be found in citrus fruits, orange juice, kiwis, guavas, papayas, strawberries, red and green bell peppers, broccoli, tomatoes and dark leafy greens.
Vitamin D is critical for the bone health, calcium absorption and proper immune system function. It can be found in milk, eggs, shiitake mushrooms and some seafood, including salmon, trout and oysters.
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect your cells from damage. It also works with the B vitamins to create red blood cells and helps your body use vitamin K and repair muscle cells.
Foods that contain vitamin E include bell peppers, asparagus, sunflower seeds, almonds and dark leafy greens like Swiss chard and spinach.
Vitamin K is essential to forming blood clots, and without it, a person could bleed to death from a small cut. It also helps maintain bone health. Foods containing vitamin K include dark leafy greens, asparagus, parsley, broccoli and brussels sprouts.
Eating a well-balanced diet full of whole foods is the best way to ensure your body is getting all the vitamins and nutrients it needs to stay healthy and function at its optimal level. Incorporate a variety of the foods listed above into your daily diet — your body will thank you!