Remember to Take Your Vitamins

What are Vitamins?

We hear about vitamins all the time, but what are they exactly?  Here is a simple definition:

A vitamin is a nutrient required by our bodies that we cannot produce on our own.  As a result, vitamins must be obtained from the food we eat.

This isn’t a perfect definition, but I think it is close enough to get the point across.

What Vitamins Do We Need and Where Can We Get Them?

There are a lot of different opinions on what vitamins we need and how we should get them.  Some recommend taking supplements while others suggest we can get everything we need by choosing our foods appropriately.  Some discuss the pros and cons of enrichment (adding the vitamins to food).

I don’t think there is any one right answer, and people need to decide based on their own individual health and circumstances.

What is your opinion?  Do you think we can get all the vitamins we need from the food we eat, or are supplements a requirement?  Please leave a comment.

The following sections describe some the common vitamins we need, why we need them, and some natural food sources that contain the vitamins.

(Information was obtained from the Dietitians of Canada and the Health Canada Dietary Reference Intakes Tables.)


Vitamin A (Beta carotene):

What Does It Do?

Helps maintain good vision (necessary for night vision), resistance to infections, and supports growth and repair of body tissues.

Vitamin A is fat soluble.

Where CAN We Get It?

Liver, eggs, whole milk, dark green leafy vegetables, yellow and orange vegetables, and fruit.

How Much Do We Need Per Day?

  • Adult Male 600 – 900 µg
  • Adult Female 600 – 700 µg
  • Children 400 – 500 µg

Vitamin B-1 (Thiamine):

What Does It Do?

Helps metabolize carbohydrates, maintain appetite and normal digestion. Essential for nervous tissue function.

Thiamine is water soluble.

Where CAN We Get It?

Oatmeal, enriched breads and grains, rice, dairy products, fish, pork, liver, nuts, legumes.

How Much Do We Need Per Day?

  • Adult Male 0.9 – 1.2 mg
  • Adult Female 0.9 – 1.1 mg
  • Children 0.2 – 0.6 mg

Vitamin B-2 (Riboflavin):

What Does It Do?

Helps body break down amino acids, regulates energy, growth, hormones, and formation of red blood cells. Supports cellular breathing. Prevents red, cracked lips and burning tongue.

Riboflavin is water-soluble.

Where CAN We Get It?

Dairy products, eggs, organ meats, enriched breads and grains, green leafy vegetables.

How Much Do We Need Per Day?

  • Adult Male 0.9 – 1.3 mg
  • Adult Female 0.9 – 1.1 mg
  • Children 0.3 – 0.6 mg

Vitamin B-3 (Niacin):

What Does It Do?

Niacin assists in the functioning of the digestive system, skin, and nerves. It is also important for the conversion of food to energy.

Niacin is water-soluble.

Where CAN We Get It?

Organ meats, peanuts, brewer’s yeast, enriched breads and grains, meats, poultry, fish and nuts.

How Much Do We Need Per Day?

  • Adult Male 12 – 16 mg
  • Adult Female 12 – 14 mg
  • Children 2 – 8 mg

Vitamin B-5 (Pantothenic Acid):

What Does It Do?

Helps body metabolize carbohydrates, fats, and make steroids.

Where CAN We Get It?

Chicken, beef, potatoes, oat cereals, tomato products are reported to some of the major sources of pantothenic acid.

How Much Do We Need Per Day?

  • Adult Male 4 – 5 mg
  • Adult Female 4 – 5 mg
  • Children 1.7 – 3 mg

Vitamin B-6:

What Does It Do?

It helps maintain normal nerve function and acts in the formation of red blood cells. It is also required for the chemical reactions of proteins. The higher the protein intake, the more need there is for vitamin B6.
Deficiency can cause dizziness, nausea, confusion, irritability and convulsions.

Vitamin B-6 is water-soluble.

Where CAN We Get It?

Brewer’s yeast, wheat germ, pork, liver, whole-grain cereals, potatoes, milk, fruits and vegetables.

How Much Do We Need Per Day?

  • Adult Male 1.0 – 1.7 mg
  • Adult Female 1.0 – 1.5 mg
  • Children 0.1 – 0.6 mg

Vitamin B-12:

What Does It Do?

Contributes to red blood cell health and development.

Where CAN We Get It?

B12 is synthesized by intestinal bacteria. B12 is available only from fish, poultry, meat or dairy sources in food.

How Much Do We Need Per Day?

  • Adult Male 1.8 – 2.4 µg
  • Adult Female 1.8 – 2.4 µg
  • Children 0.4 – 1.2 µg

Vitamin C:

What Does It Do?

Important for wound healing, bone fractures, and resistance to infections. Strengthens blood vessels. Helps body absorb non-heme iron when the two are ingested together. (

Vitamin C is water-soluble.

Where CAN We Get It?

Citrus fruits, leafy vegetables, tomatoes, strawberries.

How Much Do We Need Per Day?

  • Adult Male 45 – 90 mg
  • Adult Female 45 – 75 mg
  • Children 15 – 50 mg

Vitamin D:

What Does It Do?

Regulates absorption of calcium and phosphorus for bone health.

Vitamin D is fat soluble.

Where CAN We Get It?

Liver, butter, fortified milk, fatty fish (fish liver oils).

How Much Do We Need Per Day?

  • Adult Male 5 – 15 µg
  • Adult Female 5 – 15 µg
  • Children 5 µg

Vitamin K:

What Does It Do?

Helps make factors that promote blood clotting.

Vitamin K is fat soluble.

Where CAN We Get It?

Green leafy vegetables, liver, wheat bran, tomatoes, cheese, egg yolk.

How Much Do We Need Per Day?

  • Adult Male 60 – 120 µg
  • Adult Female 60 – 90 µg
  • Children 2.0 – 55 µg

Folic Acid:

What Does It Do?

Essential for blood cell formation, protein metabolism, and prevention of neural tube defects.

Folic acid is water-soluble.

Where CAN We Get It?

Liver, lima and kidney beans, dark green leafy vegetables, beef, potatoes, whole wheat bread.

How Much Do We Need Per Day?

  • Adult Male 300 – 400 µg
  • Adult Female 300 – 400 µg
  • Children 65 – 200 µg

 

Posted in Ingredients, Nutrition

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