Vitamins have several important functions, including helping the body produce energy, transporting oxygen throughout the body, supporting bone health, synthesizing and repairing muscle tissue. If you have a deficiency in any vitamin your body won’t function as well.
There are two main categories of vitamins:
Fat-soluble vitamins - stored in the body’s fat tissue
Water-soluble vitamins - excreted in urine (with the exception of one – vitamin B12 - which does stay in your body longer)
Because our bodies must use water-soluble vitamins right away and we excrete any that are not used, it is important to consume them every day.
How can you make sure you are getting enough? Focus on eating a diet that includes the foods below:
Vegetables (including beans and lentils) & Fruits
Vegetables contain fiber, minerals (minerals help build your body including your bones, teeth, hair and more), and they are important sources of folate (folic acid), vitamins A and C. Fruits are also an important source of fiber, minerals, vitamin C and folate (folic acid). Folic acid helps the body form new cells including red blood cells. Vitamin A supports eye and skin health while also protecting against infections. Vitamin C is necessary for tissue growth and repair, would healing and keeping gums and teeth healthy. Plus it helps the body absorb iron from plant foods.
Grains are not only a source of fiber and minerals but they contain the water-soluble B vitamins thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folate. The B vitamins are necessary for metabolism – they help your body use the energy in food. And the B vitamins are also essential for a healthy nervous system.
Fortified Dairy Foods
Milk is the top source of calcium in the diets of Americans over the age of 2. Yogurt and cheese are also calcium-rich. In addition, fortified milk and fortified yogurt also contain vitamin D, which supports bone health, the nervous system, and muscle functioning. More than 90% of Americans do not consume enough vitamin D from foods alone. So, take a look at your diet and add dairy or other foods fortified in calcium and vitamin D. Or, consider a supplement.
People who cut down on their calorie intake, follow restrictive diets (such as a very low carbohydrate diet), eliminate one or more food groups, or follow a vegetarian or vegan diet are more likely to fall short on their vitamin and mineral needs. The best thing you can do is eat a balanced diet that includes a wide variety of foods (more different, healthy foods means you are more likely to consume more nutrients) and, consider dietary supplements and fortified foods to help fill any nutrient gaps.
Fulgoni VL. Foods, fortificants, and supplements: where do Americans get their nutrients? J Nutr 2011;141(10):1847-54.