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The 13 Essential Vitamins for a Healthy Life

Make sure you’re getting the 13 essential vitamins you need every day. Here’s a rundown on each vitamin and how to get them through your diet.

In This Healthy Insight:

  1. List of Essential Vitamins
  2. Essential Vitamins List: What they do and where you can find them
  3. Types of Vitamins and Supplements

List of Essential Vitamins

For more information on the building blocks of our formulas, you might like these:

Here’s some extra relevant vitamin content if you wanted to dig in for something a little more specific. If you have a problem, we probably have a supplement for it:

Essential Vitamins List: What they do and where you can find them

What does Vitamin A do?

Vitamin A is one of the four fat-soluble vitamins which also include D, E, and K. Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in fatty tissues. The other 9 vitamins are water-soluble and must be replenished daily. Vitamin A is important for good vision, clear skin, and a strong immune system. It also helps form and maintain healthy teeth, bones, soft tissue, and mucous membranes.

Foods with Vitamin A:

  • Carrots, apricots, cantaloupe
  • Baked potatoes
  • Dark leafy vegetables: spinach, broccoli
  • Egg yolks
  • Winter squash
  • Fortified milk and dairy
  • Chickpeas
  • Liver, cold-water fish

What does Vitamin C do?

One of the popular vitamins, Vitamin C supports a strong immune system, healthy skin and promotes wound healing. It is also important for growth and repair of tissues.

Foods with Vitamin C:

  • Citrus fruits and juices
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes

What does Vitamin D do?

The “sunshine vitamin” is made by your body after being exposed to sunshine for 10-15 minutes. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, which is why it’s often paired with this mineral. Calcium is essential for healthy bones and teeth. Recently, Vitamin D has also become popular for immune health.

Foods with Vitamin D:

  • Fatty fish like salmon, herring, tuna, sardines and mackerel
  • Mushrooms
  • Eggs
  • Cod liver oil
  • Fortified foods: milk, dairy, cereal, orange juice

What does Vitamin E do?

This antioxidant helps maintain a healthy immune system, form red blood cells and protect fatty acids.

Foods with Vitamin E:

  • Avocado, asparagus
  • Fortified cereals
  • Eggs
  • Dark green vegetables
  • Papaya, mango
  • Seeds, nuts
  • Vegetable oils

What does Vitamin K do?

Vitamin K is needed for blood clotting and for maintaining bone and heart health.

Foods with Vitamin K:

  • Cauliflower
  • Cereals
  • Liver, beef, eggs
  • Dark leafy vegetables

What does Vitamin B1 (thiamine) do?

B1 is vital for healthy metabolism since it helps convert carbohydrates into energy. It’s also important for heart function, appetite and healthy nerve cells.

Foods with Vitamin B1:

  • Dried milk
  • Eggs
  • Lean meats
  • Liver
  • Pork
  • Peas
  • Legumes
  • Fortified foods

What does Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) do?

Similar to B1, Vitamin B2 is vital for energy metabolism. It plays a role in growth, the production of red blood cells, vision and skin. Vitamin B also works synergistically with other B vitamins.

Foods with Vitamin B2:

  • Raw mushrooms
  • Lean meat
  • Chicken
  • Grains
  • Fortified foods

What does Vitamin B3 (niacin) do?

Vitamin B3 is popular for heart health and maintaining healthy skin and nerves.

Foods with Vitamin B3:

  • Legumes
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Nuts
  • Potatoes
  • Poultry

What does Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) do?

Vitamin B5 is essential for metabolism and also plays a role in cholesterol production and regulation of blood sugar levels.

Foods with Vitamin B5:

  • Kale
  • Lentils
  • Poultry
  • Sweet and white potatoes
  • Whole grain cereals

What does Vitamin B6 do?

Also called pyridoxine, Vitamin B6 is involved in about 200 biochemical reactions in the body including helping to produce myelin, the protective layer around cells. It’s best known, however, for its role in sleep, appetite and mood. Vitamin B6 also helps form red blood cells, maintain cognitive function, and supports the immune system.

Foods with Vitamin B6:

  • Avocado
  • Banana
  • Nuts
  • Whole grains
  • Meat, poultry, seafood

What does Vitamin B7 (biotin) do?

Vitamin B7 is important for the metabolism of proteins and carbohydrates and healthy skin, hair and nails. It’s often found in beauty supplements.

Foods with Vitamin B7:

  • Soybeans
  • Liver
  • Pork
  • Egg yolk
  • Milk
  • Semi-sweet chocolate

What does Vitamin B9 (folic acid/folate) do?

Best known as folic acid, Vitamin B9  works with B12 to help the formation of red blood cells. It also supports healthy cell growth and proper functioning of the nervous system. It’s particularly important for women in the early stages of pregnancy.

Foods with Vitamin B9:

  • Asparagus
  • Beets
  • Dried beans
  • Oranges
  • Peanut butter
  • Seafood
  • Romain lettuce

What does Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) do?

Vitamin B12 helps to keep your nerve and blood cells healthy and assists in energy production, but you need to be able to absorb it efficiently. This becomes more challenging with age since you have fewer digestive acids to help release B12.

Foods with Vitamin B12:

  • Meat
  • Greek yogurt
  • Eggs
  • Dairy
  • Poultry
  • Tuna, trout
  • Shellfish

Types of Vitamins and Supplements

When it comes to vitamins, there are many different forms to choose from.

Capsules

This is the most common and convenient type with two outer shells that hold the dry ingredients.

Liquid Vitamins

Ideal for individuals who have difficulty swallowing pills, liquid vitamins have increased in popularity. They’re often flavored and can be taken by the spoonful or added to your favorite beverage. 

Powders

Powders are another good option for those who have difficulty swallowing. Powders can be mixed with water, milk or added to smoothies and yogurts.

Softgels

Softgels are typically used for oil or liquid-based supplements (like Vitamin D) and are easier to swallow than tablets or capsules.

Tablets

Tablets often contain many inactive substances that dissolve but can cause stomach upset in certain individuals. They are an economical choice.

Gummy Vitamins

What began as a way to get children to take their vitamins, quickly expanded to adult use. Gummies’ delicious flavors, however, usually means less nutritional value, making it among the least effective way to consume vitamins.

Other

Americans’ love of convenience has given rise to vitamins brewed with your coffee, patches that adhere to the skin, and tasty, nutrient-rich energy bars.

With so many options to choose from, there’s no excuse for not getting the 13 essential vitamins your body needs. As always speak with your doctor about what’s right for you.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Individual results may vary.

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