We all see different vitamins listed on supplements and food nutrient fact panels and talked about on the 5:00 news, but did you ever wonder exactly what each vitamin is? Well below is a table with all the vitamins and some information about each.
Note that the RDA column is the minimum amount of that vitamin necessary to avoided diseases of deficiency, it is not the amount you want to strive for. The level of each which has been proven through published medical research to provide therapeutic benefits like disease prevention, cancer prevention, etc are often far greater than the RDA. Think of the RDA as just passing school with a D. What you want for good health the A+ level.
What is listed below are the essential vitamins and minerals that your body can’t produce, or possibly produces very little. So these are necessary for life and to avoid diseases of deficiency lHere are some of the diseases of vitamin deficiency: Scurvy (C), rickets (D), pellagra (B3), beri beri (B1), biotin deficiency (B7), ariboflavinosis (B2), vitamin K deficiency, hypocobalaminemia (B12), paraesthesia (B5), night blindness (A). Click here is a list of the symptoms of each of these diseases. There aren’t names for the mineral difienciey diseases, but each can have sibilating or life threatening consequences. The one which is very common is osteoporosis. It is usually though of as a deficiency of calcium, but it is really a deficiency of calcium, magnesium, boron, vitamin D and K.
Many will assume that they can get enough of what they need from their diet alone. The answer is mixed. You can probably get the RDA levels or at least enough to avoid devieiency, but you probably can’t get the optimal levels. For example here is a sample of what you’d need eat every day to get the optimal levels:
- Vitamin C – 1300mg – 18 medium oranges
- Vitamin D – 1800 IU – 44 large eggs
- Vitamin E – 400 IU – 2 lbs of sunflower seeds and one quart of corn oil
- Zinc – 20 mcg – 5 chicken breasts
- Magnesium – 300 mcg – 2.5 cups of beans.
Below are the vitamins followed by the minerals.
|Vitamin (common names)||Benefits||Recommended amount (daily RDA* or daily AI**)||Upper limit (UL) per day||Good food sources||Did you know?|
|VITAMIN A(Retinol, retinal, and retinoic acid — three active forms of vitamin A in the body — are retinoids, “preformed” vitamin A. Beta carotene can easily be converted to vitamin A as needed.)||Essential for vision. Lycopene may lower prostate cancer risk. Keeps tissues and skin healthy. Plays an important role in bone growth. Diets rich in the carotenoids alpha carotene and lycopene seem to lower lung cancer risk. Carotenoids act as antioxidants. Foods rich in the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin may protect against cataracts||M: 900 mcg (3,000 IU)W: 700 mcg (2,333 IU)Some supplements report vitamin A in international units (IU’s).||3,000 mcg (about 10,000 IU) But use only beta carotene||Sources of retinoids:beef, liver, eggs, shrimp, fish, fortified milk, cheddar cheese, Swiss cheeseSources of beta carotene:sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkins, squash, spinach, mangoes, turnip greens||Many people get too much preformed vitamin A from food and supplements.Large amounts of supplemental vitamin A (but not beta carotene) can be harmful to bones.Your supplement should have all of its vitamin A as beta carotene. Your body easily converts it into vitamin A as needed.|
|THIAMIN(vitamin B1)||Helps convert food into energy. Needed for healthy skin, hair, muscles, and brain||M: 1.2 mg, W: 1.1 mg||Not known||Pork chops, ham, soymilk, watermelons, acorn squash||Most nutritious foods have some thiamin.|
|RIBOFLAVIN(vitamin B2)||Helps convert food into energy. yNeeded for healthy skin, hair, blood, and brain||M: 1.3 mg, W: 1.1 mg||Not known||Milk, yogurt, cheese, whole and enriched grains and cereals, liver||This along with folate and vitamins B6 and B12 are critical for maintenance of hearty healthy levels of homocysteine.|
|NIACIN (vitamin B3, nicotinic acid)||Helps convert food into energy. Essential for healthy skin, blood cells, brain, and nervous system. Can help control blood lipids like cholesterol and triglycerides.||M: 16 mg, W: 14 mg||35 mg||Meat, poultry, fish, fortified and whole grains, mushrooms, potatoes, peanut butter||Niacin occurs naturally in food and can also be made by your body from the amino acid tryptophan, with the help of B6.|
|PANTOTHENIC ACID (vitamin B5)||Helps convert food into energy. Helps make lipids (fats), neurotransmitters, steroid hormones, and hemoglobin||M: 5 mg, W: 5 mg||Not known||Wide variety of nutritious foods, including chicken, whole grains, broccoli, mushrooms, avocados, tomato products||Deficiency causes burning feet and other neurologic symptoms.|
|VITAMIN B6(pyridoxal, pyridoxine, pyridoxamine)||Aids in lowering homocysteine levels and may reduce the risk of heart disease. Helps convert tryptophan to niacin and serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays key roles in sleep, appetite, and moods. Helps make red blood cells. Influences cognitive abilities and immune function||31–50: M: 1.3 mg, W: 1.3 mg51+: M: 1.7 mg, W: 1.5 mg||100 mg||Meat, fish, poultry, legumes, tofu and other soy products, potatoes, noncitrus fruits such as bananas and watermelons||Many people don’t get enough of this nutrient.This along with riboflavin, folate and vitamin B12 are critical for maintenance of hearty healthy levels of homocysteine.|
|Vitamin B12(cobalamin)||Aids in lowering homocysteine levels and may lower the risk of heart disease. Assists in making new cells and breaking down some fatty acids and amino acids. Protects nerve cells and encourages their normal growth Helps make red blood cells||M: 2.4 mcg, W: 2.4 mcg||Not known||Meat, poultry, fish, milk, cheese, eggs, fortified cereals, fortified soymilk||Some people, particularly older adults, are deficient in vitamin B12because they have trouble absorbing this vitamin from food. A lack of vitamin B12 can cause memory loss, dementia, and numbness in the arms and legs.|
|BIOTIN||Helps convert food into energy and synthesize glucose. Helps make and break down some fatty acidsNeeded for healthy bones and hair||M: 30 mcg, W: 30 mcg||Not known||Many foods, including whole grains, organ meats, egg yolks, soybeans, and fish||Your body needs very little biotin. Some is made by bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. However, it’s not clear how much of this the body absorbs.|
|VITAMIN C(ascorbic acid)||Foods rich in vitamin C may lower the risk for some cancers, including those of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, and breast. Long-term use of supplemental vitamin C may protect against cataracts. Helps make collagen, a connective tissue that knits together wounds and supports blood vessel walls. Helps make the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine Acts as an antioxidant, neutralizing unstable molecules that can damage cellsBolsters the immune system||M: 90 mg, W: 75 mgSmokers: Add 35 mg||2,000 mg||Fruits and fruit juices (especially citrus), potatoes, broccoli, bell peppers, spinach, strawberries, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts||Vitamin C works along with Vitamin E to recharge its antioxidant powers. This is a case where the two together are far superior to either individually.|
|CHOLINE||Helps make and release the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which aids in many nerve and brain activities. Plays a role in metabolizing and transporting fats||M: 550 mg, W: 425 mg||3,500 mg||Many foods, especially milk, eggs, liver, and peanuts||Normally the body makes small amounts of choline. But experts don’t know whether this amount is enough at certain ages.|
|VITAMIN D(calciferol)||Helps maintain normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus, which strengthen bones. Helps form teeth and bones. Supplements can reduce the number of non-spinal fractures. Necessary for the bone mineralization. Greatly boosts the immune system. Reduced levels of vitamin D in the winter are a major cause of the winter colds and flu.||31–50: 5 mcg (200 IU) 51–70: 10 mcg (400 IU) 71+: 15 mcg (600 IU)||4,000 IU (Current research is supporting higher levels, some up to 10,000 IU)||Fortified milk or margarine, fortified cereals, fatty fish||Many people don’t get enough of this nutrient.While the body uses sunlight to make vitamin D, it cannot make enough if you live in northern climes or don’t spend much time in the sun.|
|VITAMIN E(alpha-tocopherol)||Acts as an antioxidant, neutralizing unstable molecules that can damage cells. Protects vitamin A and certain lipids from damage. Diets rich in vitamin E may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Supplements may protect against prostate cancer.||M: 15 mg, W: 15 mg (15 mg equals about 22 IU from natural sources of vitamin E and 33 IU from synthetic vitamin E)||1,000 mg (nearly 1,500 IU natural vitamin E; 2,200 IU synthetic)||Wide variety of foods, including vegetable oils, salad dressings and margarines made with vegetable oils, wheat germ, leafy green vegetables, whole grains, nuts||Vitamin E does not prevent wrinkles or slow other aging processes. There are several forms of vitamin E. The only effective form is d-alpha tocopherol. (dl-alpha-tocopherol is the much cheaper and very poorly absorbed form found in most cheap supplements.)|
|FOLIC ACID(folate, folacin)||Vital for new cell creation. Helps prevent brain and spine birth defects when taken early in pregnancy; should be taken regularly by all women of child-bearing age since women may not know they are pregnant in the first weeks of pregnancy. Can lower levels of homocysteine and may reduce heart disease risk May reduce risk for colon cancer. Offsets breast cancer risk among women who consume alcohol||M: 400 mcg, W: 400 mcg||1,000 mcg||Fortified grains and cereals, asparagus, okra, spinach, turnip greens, broccoli, legumes like black-eyed peas and chickpeas, orange juice, tomato juice||Many people don’t get enough of this nutrient. Occasionally, folic acid masks a B12 deficiency, which can lead to severe neurological complications. That’s not a reason to avoid folic acid; just be sure to get enough B12.|
|VITAMIN K(phylloquinone, menadione)||Activates proteins and calcium essential to blood clotting. May help prevent hip fractures||M: 120 mcg, W: 90 mcg||Not known||Cabbage, liver, eggs, milk, spinach, broccoli, sprouts, kale, collards, and other green vegetables||Intestinal bacteria make a form of vitamin K that accounts for half your requirements.If you take an anticoagulant, keep your vitamin K intake consistent.|
|Mineral (common names)||Benefits||Recommended amount (daily RDA* or daily AI**)||Upper limit (UL) per day||Good food sources||Did you know?|
|CALCIUM||Builds and protects bones and teeth. Helps with muscle contractions and relaxation, blood clotting, and nerve impulse transmission. Plays a role in hormone secretion and enzyme activationHelps maintain healthy blood pressure||31–50: M: 1,000 mg, W: 1,000 mg 51+: M: 1,200 mg, W: 1,200 mg||2,500 mg||Yogurt, cheese, milk, tofu, sardines, salmon, fortified juices, leafy green vegetables, such as broccoli and kale (but not spinach or Swiss chard, which have binders that lessen absorption)||Adults absorb roughly 30% of calcium ingested, but this can vary depending on the source. Calcium should always be taken with magnesium, vitamin D & K, and boron to insure absorption into the bones and to eliminate the risk of heart disease and cancers which have recently appeared in the news.|
|CHLORIDE||Balances fluids in the body. A component of stomach acid, essential to digestion||Food and Nutrition Board 1989 guidelines: M: 750 mg, W: 750 mg||Not known||Salt (sodium chloride), soy sauce, processed foods||New recommendations (DRIs) for chloride are under development by the Institute of Medicine.|
|CHROMIUM||Enhances the activity of insulin, helps maintain normal blood glucose levels, and is needed to free energy from glucose||31–50: M: 35 mcg, W: 25 mcg 51+: M: 30 mcg, W: 20 mcg||Not known||Meat, poultry, fish, some cereals, nuts, cheese||Unrefined foods such as brewer’s yeast, nuts, and cheeses are the best sources of chromium.|
|COPPER||Plays an important role in iron metabolism. Helps make red blood cells||M: 900 mcg, W: 900 mcg||10,000 mcg||Liver, shellfish, nuts, seeds, whole-grain products, beans, prunes||More than half of the copper in foods is absorbed.|
|FLUORIDE||Keeps dental cavities from starting or worsening only when applied directly to the tooth enamel. DO NOT let it contact your gums.||M: 4 mg, W: 3 mg||10 mg||Water that is fluoridated, toothpaste with fluoride, marine fish, teas||This is a potent neuro toxin and should not come in contact with skin or consumed in drinking water.|
|IODINE||Part of thyroid hormone, which helps set body temperature and influences nerve and muscle function, reproduction, and growth. Prevents goiter and a congenital thyroid disorder||M: 150 mcg, W: 150 mcg||1,100 mcg||Iodized salt, processed foods, seafood||To prevent iodine deficiencies, some countries add iodine to salt, bread, or drinking water.|
|IRON||Helps hemoglobin in red blood cells and myoglobin in muscle cells ferry oxygen throughout the body. Needed for chemical reactions in the body and for making amino acids, collagen, neurotransmitters, and hormones||31–50: M: 8 mg, W: 18 mg 51+: M: 8 mg, W: 8 mg||45 mg||Red meat, poultry, eggs, fruits, green vegetables, fortified bread and grain products||Many women of childbearing age don’t get enough iron.Women who do not menstruate probably need the same amount of iron as men.Because iron is harder to absorb from plants, experts suggest vegetarians get twice the recommended amount (assuming the source is food).|
|MAGNESIUM||Needed for many chemical reactions in the body. Works with calcium in muscle contraction, blood clotting, and regulation of blood pressureHelps build bones and teeth||31+: M: 420 mg, W: 320 mg||350 mg (Note: This upper limit applies to supplements and medicines, such as laxatives, not to dietary magnesium.)||Green vegetables such as spinach and broccoli, legumes, cashews, sunflower seeds and other seeds, halibut, whole-wheat bread, milk||The majority of magnesium in the body is found in bones. If your blood levels are low, your body may tap into these reserves to correct the problem.|
|MANGANESE||Helps form bones. Helps metabolize amino acids, cholesterol, and carbohydrates||M: 2.3 mg, W: 1.8 mg||11 mg||Nuts, legumes, whole grains, tea||If you take supplements or have manganese in your drinking water, be careful not to exceed the upper limit. Those with liver damage or whose diets supply abundant manganese should be especially vigilant.|
|MOLYBDENUM||Part of several enzymes, one of which helps ward off a form of severe neurological damage in infants that can lead to early death||M: 45 mcg, W: 45 mcg||2,000 mcg||Legumes, nuts, grain products, milk||Molybdenum deficiencies are rare.|
|PHOSPHORUS||Helps build and protect bones and teeth. Part of DNA and RNA. Helps convert food into energy. Part of phospholipids, which carry lipids in blood and help shuttle nutrients into and out of cells||M: 700 mg, W: 700 mg||31–70: 4,000 mg 71+: 3,000 mg||Wide variety of foods, including milk and dairy products, meat, fish, poultry, eggs, liver, green peas, broccoli, potatoes, almonds||Certain drugs bind with phosphorus, making it unavailable and causing bone loss, weakness, and pain.|
|POTASSIUM||Balances fluids in the body. Helps maintain steady heartbeat and send nerve impulses Needed for muscle contractions A diet rich in potassium seems to lower blood pressure. Getting enough potassium from your diet may benefit bones||Food and Nutrition Board 1989 guidelines: M: 2,000 mg, W: 2,000 mg||Not known||Meat, milk, fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes||New recommendations (DRIs) for potassium are under development by the Institute of Medicine.Food sources do not cause toxicity, but high-dose supplements might.|
|SELENIUM||Acts as an antioxidant, neutralizing unstable molecules that can damage cells. Helps regulate thyroid hormone activity||M: 55 mcg, W: 55 mcg||400 mcg||Organ meats, seafood, walnuts, sometimes plants (depends on soil content), grain products||Researchers are investigating whether selenium may help reduce the risk of developing cancer.|
|SODIUM||Balances fluids in the body. Helps send nerve impulses Needed for muscle contractions. Impacts blood pressure; even modest reductions in salt consumption can lower blood pressure||Food and Nutrition Board 1989 guidelines: M: 500 mg, W: 500 mg||Not determined||Salt, soy sauce, processed foods, vegetables||While experts recommend that people limit sodium intake to 2,400 mg, most Americans consume 4,000–6,000 mg a day.New recommendations (DRIs) for sodium are being developed by the Institute of Medicine.|
|SULFUR||Helps form bridges that shape and stabilize some protein structures. Needed for healthy hair, skin, and nails||Unknown||Unknown||Protein-rich foods, such as meats, fish, poultry, nuts, legumes||Sulfur is a component of thiamin and certain amino acids. There is no recommended amount for sulfur. Deficiencies occur only with a severe lack of protein.|
|ZINC||Helps form many enzymes and proteins and create new cells. Frees vitamin A from storage in the liver. Needed for immune system, taste, smell, and wound healing. When taken with certain antioxidants, zinc may delay the progression of age-related macular degeneration||M: 11 mg, W: 8 mg||40 mg||Red meat, poultry, oysters and some other seafood, fortified cereals, beans, nuts||Because vegetarians absorb less zinc, experts suggest that they get twice the recommended requirement of zinc from plant foods.|
|*Recommended dietary allowance **Adequate intake|
Some information source from Harvrd Health and Linus Pauling Institute.