Many people today take vitamin supplements for a variety of reasons. There have been many clinical studies conducted to look into the correlation between vitamin supplements and the prevention of certain diseases. Understanding the results can be confusing, however, there have been some studies that show certain vitamins may help lower the risk ofspecific diseases.
It is important to note that taking vitamin supplements at the suggested levels recommended should be relatively safe for most people. individuals should not super-dose vitamins in an effort to achieve better health results. Also, people should discuss any vitamin supplement use with doctors, as some supplements may cause potentially harmful interactions with certain medications.
VITAMIN A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in many foods. Vitamin A is important for normal vision, the immune system, and reproduction. Vitamin A also helps the heart, lungs, kidneys, and other organs work properly.
There are two different types of vitamin A.
The first type, preformed vitamin A, is found in meat, poultry, fish, and dairy products.
The second type, provitamin A, is found in fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based products. The most common type of provitamin A in foods and dietary supplements is beta-carotene
WHAT FOODS PROVIDE VITAMIN A?
Vitamin A is found naturally in many foods and is added to some foods, such as milk and cereal. You can get recommended amounts of vitamin A by eating a variety of foods, including the following:
Beef liver and other organ meats (but these foods are also high in cholesterol, so limit the amount you eat).
Some types of fish, such as salmon.
Green leafy vegetables and other green, orange, and yellow vegetables, such as broccoli, carrots, and squash.
Fruits, including cantaloupe, apricots, and mangos.
Dairy products, which are among the major sources of vitamin A for North Americans.
Fortified breakfast cereals.
VITAMIN B12 is a nutrient that helps keep the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy and helps make DNA, the genetic material in all cells. Vitamin B12 also helps prevent a type of anemia called megaloblastic anemia that makes people tired and weak.
Two steps are required for the body to absorb vitamin B12 from food. First, hydrochloric acid in the stomach separates vitamin B12 from the protein to which vitamin B12 is attached in food. After this, vitamin B12 combines with a protein made by the stomach called intrinsic factor and is absorbed by the body. Some people have pernicious anemia, a condition where they cannot make intrinsic factor. As a result, they have trouble absorbing vitamin B12 from all foods and dietary supplements.
WHAT FOODS PROVIDE VITAMIN B12?
Vitamin B12 is found naturally in a wide variety of animal foods and is added to some fortified foods. Plant foods have no vitamin B12 unless they are fortified. You can get recommended amounts of vitamin B12 by eating a variety of foods including the following:
Beef liver and clams, which are the best sources of vitamin B12.
Fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and other dairy products, which also contain vitamin B12.
Some breakfast cereals, nutritional yeasts and other food products that are fortified with vitamin B12.
To find out if vitamin B12 has been added to a food product, check the product labels
WHAT IS VITAMIN B6 AND WHAT DOES IT DO?
Vitamin B6 is a vitamin that is naturally present in many foods. The body needs vitamin B6 for more than 100 enzyme reactions involved in metabolism. Vitamin B6 is also involved in brain development during pregnancy and infancy as well as immune function.
WHAT FOODS PROVIDE VITAMIN B6?
Vitamin B6 is found naturally in many foods and is added to other foods. You can get recommended amounts of vitamin B6 by eating a variety of foods, including the following:
Poultry, fish, and organ meats, all rich in vitamin B6.
Potatoes and other starchy vegetables.
Fruit (other than citrus), which are also among the major sources of vitamin B6 for North Americans.
VITAMIN C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble nutrient found in some foods. In the body, it acts as an antioxidant, helping to protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are compounds formed when our bodies convert the food we eat into energy. People are also exposed to free radicals in the environment from cigarette smoke, air pollution, and ultraviolet light from the sun. The body also needs vitamin C to make collagen, a protein required to help wounds heal. In addition, vitamin C improves the absorption of iron from plant-based foods and helps the immune system work properly to protect the body from disease.
WHAT FOODS PROVIDE VITAMIN C?
Fruits and vegetables are the best sources of vitamin C. You can get recommended amounts of vitamin C by eating a variety of foods including the following:
Citrus fruits (such as oranges and grapefruit) and their juices
Red and green pepper and kiwifruit, which have a lot of vitamin C.
Other fruits and vegetables—such as broccoli, strawberries, cantaloupe, baked potatoes, and tomatoes.
The vitamin C content of food may be reduced by prolonged storage and by cooking. Steaming or microwaving may lessen cooking losses. Fortunately, many of the best food sources of vitamin C, such as fruits and vegetables, are usually eaten raw.
VITAMIN D is a nutrient found in some foods that is needed for health and to maintain strong bones. It does so by helping the body absorb calcium (one of bone’s main building blocks) from food and supplements. People who get too little vitamin D may develop soft, thin, and brittle bones, a condition known as rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.
Vitamin D is important to the body in many other ways as well. Muscles need it to move, for example, nerves need it to carry messages between the brain and every body part, and the immune system needs vitamin D to fight off invading bacteria and viruses.
Together with calcium, vitamin D also helps protect older adults from osteoporosis. Vitamin D is found in cells throughout the body.
WHAT FOODS PROVIDE VITAMIN D?
Very few foods naturally have vitamin D. Fortified foods provide most of the vitamin D in American diets.
Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel are among the best sources.
Beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks provide small amounts.
Almost all of store-bought milk is fortified with 400 IU of vitamin D per quart. But foods made from milk, like cheese and ice cream, are usually not fortified.
Vitamin D is added to many breakfast cereals and to some brands of orange juice, yogurt, margarine, and soy beverages; check the labels.
CAN I GET VITAMIN D FROM THE SUN?
The body makes vitamin D when skin is directly exposed to the sun, and most people meet at least some of their vitamin D needs this way. Skin exposed to sunshine indoors through a window will not produce vitamin D. Cloudy days, shade, and having dark-colored skin also cut down on the amount of vitamin D the skin makes. However, despite the importance of the sun to vitamin D synthesis, it is prudent to limit exposure of skin to sunlight in order to lower the risk for skin cancer. Tanning beds also cause the skin to make vitamin D, but pose similar risks for skin cancer. People who avoid the sun or who cover their bodies with sunscreen or clothing should include good sources of vitamin D in their diets or take a supplement. Recommended intakes of vitamin D are set on the assumption of little sun exposure.
VITAMIN E is a fat-soluble nutrient found in many foods. In the body, it acts as an antioxidant, helping to protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals.
The body also needs vitamin E to boost its immune system so that it can fight off invading bacteria and viruses. It helps to widen blood vessels and keep blood from clotting within them. In addition, cells use vitamin E to interact with each other and to carry out many important functions.
WHAT FOODS PROVIDE VITAMIN E?
Vitamin E is found naturally in foods and is added to some fortified foods. You can get recommended amounts of vitamin E by eating a variety of foods including the following:
Vegetable oils like wheat germ, sunflower, and safflower oils are among the best sources of vitamin E.
Corn and soybean oils also provide some vitamin E.
Nuts (such as peanuts, hazelnuts, especially almonds) and seeds (like sunflower seeds) are also among the best sources of vitamin E.
Green vegetables, such as spinach and broccoli, provide some vitamin E.
Food companies add vitamin E to some breakfast cereals, fruit juices, spreads and other foods. To find out which ones have vitamin E, check the product labels.
VITAMIN K is an essential vitamin required for protein modification and blood clotting. Recent studies suggest that vitamin K may play a role in treating osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s, and that consuming increased levels of vitamin K can help protect against cancer and heart disease.
WHAT FOODS PROVIDE VITAMIN K?
Green leafy vegetables, such as kale, spinach, turnip greens, collards, Swiss chard, mustard greens, parsley, romaine, and green leaf lettuce.
Vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage.
Fish, liver, meat, eggs, and cereals (contain smaller amounts)
Unless you are taking medication to prevent blood clots, like Warfarin or Coumadin, there is no known risk of vitamin K toxicity, and no reason not to eat a lot of it.