The average American has at least one thing in common with every other average American. Most people know little about vitamins, nutrition and how it affects the body for better or worse. This is reflected by alarming statistics that show 92% of Americans are nutrient-deficient in some way, shape, or form.
The nutrition label adhered to all food stuffs is much more than a way to pass silent meal time chewing moments. Being able to use it to fill your body’s never-ending needs for vital vitamin nutrients by choosing hearty nutrient dense foods is what usually sets the healthy apart from the unhealthy. After all without knowing what riboflavin is, and why it matters if you get 2% or 100% of your RDA (recommended daily allowance), it is difficult to care.
There are vitamin nutrients necessary to maintain healthy human activity. Each vitamin serves a distinct and unique function in the body. All these vitamins need to be eaten on a daily basis. Knowing what each vitamin is, and how it functions can be a powerful motivating force.
Vitamins: What You Need and Why
Vitamin A can be found in yellow and green veggies like green and yellow bell peppers, spinach, cantaloupe, pumpkin, apricots and broccoli.
This vitamin is needed for a whole host of bodily functions. The body uses vitamin A as a vital component of cell division and growth. The skin, hair, teeth and bones along with other tissues all need vitamin A to be healthy.
The eyes need vitamin A so much that deficiencies can cause night blindness. Too much vitamin A can result in hair loss, liver problems and bone growths.
The RDA Vitamin A for women, aka retinol, is: 700 µg daily
Vitamin B1 is rich in beans and legumes, peas, nuts and whole grains.
Vitamin B1 is needed to keep the body’s energy levels high. The nervous system is also reliant upon vitamin B1.
Without vitamin B1 the body can fall prey to Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, which causes vision changes and impaired memory. Overdose can result in symptoms similar to anaphylactic shock.
The RDA for Vitamin B1, aka thiamine, for women is: 1.1 mg daily
Vitamin B2 is found in whole grain foods, spinach, asparagus, broccoli and turnip greens. This vitamin is used in the body to metabolize energy. The eyes benefit from vitamin B2, resulting in healthy vision. B2 also helps the body build tissues.
Insufficient B2 supplies can lead to anemia, sore throat, scaly skin and cracking lips. There are no known dangers of overdose.
The RDA for Vitamin B2, aka riboflavin, is: 1.3 mg daily
Vitamin B3 foods are of the green and leafy, or lean meat variety. Eating a large mixed greens and spinach salad topped with chicken would be an ideal source of vitamin B3.
The body uses vitamin B3 during the processes needed to create energy. It also aids in digestion. The nervous system also gets a boost from B3.
A vitamin B3 deficiency can lead to the development of pellagra. This disease embodies host of nasty symptoms including: extreme sensitivity to sunlight, aggression, lesions, diarrhea, weakness, confusion, insomnia, and dementia. An overdose of B3 is marked by liver damage.
The RDA for Vitamin B3, aka niacin, is: 16.0 mg daily
Vitamin B5 is found is foods like egg yolk, beef, molasses and broccoli.
The body cannot get energy from the foods it consumes without the help of vitamin B5. This means that energy synthesis is dependant upon B5.
Deficiencies of B5 in humans are very rare, but symptoms include tingling and pain in the feet. Overdoses are likewise rare so much so they are virtually unknown, and there is not any reliable information connected to them.
The RDA for Vitamin B5, aka Pantothenic acid, is: 5.0 mg daily
Vitamin B6 is abundant in pork, chicken, fish, whole grains, beans and nuts.
The plain and simple role of vitamin B6 in the body is cell growth, especially blood cells. This might seem microscopic, but in essence it is what makes the whole body function.
Not getting enough B6 results in anemia. Getting too much B6 causes nerve damage.
The RDA for Vitamin B6 is 1.3-1.7 mg daily.
Vitamin B7 – Biotin
Vitamin B7 or Biotin is involved in carbon dioxide transfer and therefore essential to the metabolism of carbohydrate and fat.
Biotin can be found in beans, breads, brewer's yeast, cauliflower, chocolate, egg yolks, fish, kidney, legumes, liver, meat, molasses, dairy products, nuts, oatmeal, oysters, peanut butter, poultry, wheat germ, and whole grains.
Biotin deficiency results in fatigue, depression, nausea, muscle pains, hair loss, and anemia.
The RDA for biotin is 300 micrograms per day.
Vitamin B9 is found in beans, leafy greens, fortified cereals, liver, yeast and sunflower seeds.
A very important nutrient, it helps with the formation of healthy babies. It has been in the news often lately because of this very function. Beyond developing fetuses, B9 also helps to grow healthy red blood cells.
Deficiencies in B9 cause low energy, anemia, poor immune function, brain fogginess, and birth defects.
The RDA for Vitamin B9, aka Folic Acid, is: 400 μg daily
Vitamin B12 is an important vitamin that you helps make red blood cells and DNA, and it keeps your nervous system working properly.
Deficiencies in B12 can cause symptoms of anemia, such as paleness, weakness and fatigue (severe tiredness). It can also cause depression, dementia and other serious problems with your nervous system. Damage to your nervous system that is caused by a low vitamin B-12 level can become permanent if you don't get treatment promptly.
The RDA for Vitamin B12 for women is: 2.4 mcg daily
It is mainly found in fish, shellfish, meat, fortified cereals and dairy products.
Thanks to the Florida Orange Commission, Vitamin C is a very well known vitamin and is commonly associated with citrus fruits in general and oranges in particular. Oranges are not the only good source of vitamin C. It can also be found in rosehips, blackberries, broccoli, parsley, red pepper, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, kiwi, black currents, strawberry, papaya and guava.
The primary role of vitamin C in the body is to boost and support healthy immune system function and promote healing in the body. This means fewer illnesses and less time sick when illness does occur. It also works with collagen and connective tissues to help the skin stay healthy and young looking. Hormone production and delivery is also helped along by vitamin C. Vitamin C also helps the body to absorb and use other nutrients like iron.
A deficiency in vitamin C is the cause of rickets. It is very difficult to get too much vitamin C, but it can happen. Symptoms of an overdose are generally mild but include: stomach cramps and diarrhea, gas, and joint pain.
The RDA for Vitamin C, aka Ascorbic acid, is: 90.0 mg daily
Vitamin D, or the sunshine vitamin, is one of the few that the body is able to make on its own. The skin can make vitamin D if exposed to enough natural sunlight daily. This is great news for people living in sunny, temperate regions, but those not living in such areas need to get their vitamin D from other sources like fortified milk and milk products, liver, eggs, and salmon.
The body needs vitamin D to process other vital minerals like calcium and phosphate. Teeth and bones depend on getting enough vitamin D.
Without adequate vitamin D diseases like rickets and osteomalacia develop. Too much vitamin D can cause the body to absorb calcium in huge amounts; this can result in urine stones, calcification, and nerve or muscle malfunctions.
The RDA for Vitamin D is: 5.0 µg-10 µg daily
Vitamin E is found in green leafy vegetables like collard greens and spinach, soybeans, wheat germ and safflower.
Vitamin E is a friendly vitamin. One of its primary functions is to protect the body’s supply of antioxidant vitamins A and C. Vitamin E also keeps red blood cells healthy.
Vitamin E deficiencies are very uncommon. The most common side effect a deficiency is a mild anemia in newborn babies. Likewise overdoses of vitamin E are not common, but the result is a bit more severe. One study found cognitive heart failure is associated with vitamin E overdose.
The RDA for Vitamin E is: 15.0 mg daily
Vitamin K is found in almost all green leafy vegetables. This is just one more reason for moms the nation over to tell children to eat their spinach, kale, cabbage, broccoli, or chard.
One of the primary and most important roles of vitamin K is to help blood clot normally. It also helps the body break down and use certain proteins.
If one is low in vitamin K, the blood will not clot properly and bleeding can become quite a dangerous prospect. To date there has not been any ill effects of vitamin K overdose.
The RDA for Vitamin K is: 120 µg daily
How to Get More Vitamins
It might sound easy. If you want to get more vitamins, simply change your diet. But, it isn't quite that simple. With groceries being more expensive than ever, it can be difficult to buy a wide variety of foods. This is where supplements can come in.
Before beginning a supplement, it's important to talk to a doctor. As we covered above, overdosing on certain vitamins can have drastic consequences for your health. You don't want to blindly take a supplement without first confirming that you are, in fact, deficient in a given nutrient. We advise against taking any supplements without a doctor's okay.
Finding foods that are rich in a variety of nutrients can help you fight off vitamin deficiency. These foods are often called “super foods” due to their wide range of nutrient offerings. Include super foods in your family's diet whenever you can. Common super foods include kale, collard greens, avocado, and sweet potatoes.
Knowing how each vitamin plays a certain role in the body and how interconnected each element of nutrition is will make a big difference in our meal and snack planning. This difference will be reflected in better health and greater ease when choosing which foods will grace our dinner table.
The content of this article should not be taken as professional medical advice. Always speak to a medical professional before making decisions pertaining to your health and the health of your family.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Lisa-S/Shutterstock.com.