We grow up being told we need to eat our vitamins. To some, vitamins come in pill form, seem relatively insignificant, and could be taken or tossed. But vitamins are vital: the whole range are necessary for cell functioning and health. Several conditions can occur as a result of certain vitamin deficiencies. Each vitamin has a role, and we need to eat the right amounts of nutrient-rich vegetables, fruits, lentils, whole grains, lean meats, and fortified foods to prevent heart disease, cancers, osteoporosis, and other illnesses.

Individuals should consult their healthcare professional regarding their diet and making major changes. Your doctor or personal Integracare Caregiver can advise you on what to eat and what to avoid, plus which vitamins you may be at risk of being deficient in. Diet planning should always take vitamin intake into account, and they should always come from food sources before supplements, whenever possible.  

Here are the thirteen essential vitamins needed for proper health and functioning, some of their roles, plus which foods are good sources of them.

Vitamin A – for the maintenance of bones, teeth, soft tissues, membranes, and skin. It is also important for the immune system, vision, reproduction, and cell communication. Good sources: liver, fish oils, milk, eggs, leafy greens, orange and yellow vegetables, tomatoes, and fortified cereals.

Vitamin C – aka ascorbic acid, an antioxidant for the maintenance of teeth and gums, wound healing, immune function, biosynthesis of collagen and neurotransmitters, protein metabolism, and regenerating other antioxidants in the body. It is necessary for the body to absorb iron. A lack of vitamin C can cause scurvy. Good sources: citrus fruit, tomatoes, potatoes, broccoli, strawberries.

Vitamin D – is naturally made by the body when exposed to the sun, but many of us do not get adequate sun exposure. It is needed to absorb calcium, which is important for bone health. It is a good supplement to take because it is difficult to receive enough through food sources. Fortified foods are the best food source. Other sources: fish, dairy, eggs, and cheese contain small amounts.

Vitamin E – aka tocopherol, an antioxidant for the maintenance of red blood cells and to use Vitamin K. Good sources: nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils.

Vitamin K – needed for blood coagulation and possibly bone health. Good sources: leafy greens like spinach and broccoli and vegetable oils.

Vitamin B1 – aka thiamine, helps cells convert carbohydrates into energy and important for heart function and nerve cells. Good sources: fortified cereals, whole grains, meat, black beans, some seafood.

Vitamin B2 – aka riboflavin, works in conjunction with other B vitamins. Necessary for body growth and red blood cell production. Good sources: beef liver, fortified cereals, oats, dairy, mushroom, almonds.

Vitamin B3 – aka niacin, for the maintenance of skin and nerves. It also has cholesterol-lowering properties at high doses. Good sources: meat, seafood, mushrooms, dairy, soy meat, yeast extract.

Vitamin B5 – aka pantothenic acid, needed for metabolizing food, plus producing hormones and cholesterol. Good sources: fortified cereals, beef liver, shitake mushrooms, sunflower seeds, avocadoes.

Vitamin B6 – aka pyridoxine, helps with forming red blood cells, and plays a role in brain function and your body’s use of proteins. Good sources: chickpeas, meat, fortified cereal, potatoes, bananas. 

Vitamin B7 – aka biotin, to metabolize protein and carbohydrates, and for the production of hormones and cholesterol. Good sources: beef liver and eggs.

Vitamin B9 – aka folate, works in conjunction with B12 to form red blood cells, and it is needed for tissue growth and cell functioning. Good sources: beef liver, spinach, black-eyed peas, fortified cereals, rice, asparagus, brussel sprouts.

Vitamin B12 – is important for metabolism, red blood cells, and the central nervous system. Good sources: clams, beef liver, fortified cereals, fish, dairy, eggs. B12 is made by bacteria, so vegetarians and vegans can find supplements from non-meat sources.