It’s estimated that more than half of all Americans take some sort of multivitamin—which is no wonder, considering the staggering multitude of pills and potions that abound on the market. Not only can you ingest your vitamin-o-choice in pill form, you can also buy chewable gummy vitamins, vitamin-spiked beverages, dissolvable multivitamin tablets, and even calcium-fortified chocolate squares. But are multivitamins a waste of money—useless, even? That’s the conclusion that some experts reached in 2013, when a controversial editorial published in 2013 Annals of Internal Medicine argued that multivitamins have no beneficial effect on preventing cardiovascular disease or cancer. Although the jury is still out about the merit of popping your vitamins, why not get your nutrients the way nature intended? You know, from food? Here, we reveal 19 crucial vitamins and minerals—and how to sneak them into your diet.
For better eyesight, stock up on carrots. Vitamin A, found in plant-based foods such as fruits and vegetables or in animal products like meat and dairy, is a fat-soluble vitamin crucial for maintaining healthy hair, skin, teeth, and eyes. The most potent form of Vitamin A is the antioxidant beta-carotene, which is found in bright orange foods like pumpkin and carrots.
Thiamine (also called vitamin B1) is abundant in many foods, from yeast to cereal grains to beans and nuts. By nature, all B vitamins are crucial for energy metabolism, but thiamine also plays a key role in nervous system function and brain function.
Another member of the B vitamin group, riboflavin is important for body growth and red blood cell production and also carbohydrate metabolism. Dairy, eggs, beans, meat, nuts and dark leafy vegetables are all good sources of riboflavin.
Essential for processing fat in the body, lowering cholesterol levels, and regulating blood sugar levels, niacin is found in poultry, tomatoes, enriched bread and cereals, dark leafy greens, dairy, eggs, and nuts. When taken in large doses, niacin is thought to be an effective treatment for high cholesterol.
This B vitamin is a key player in nerve system functioning, metabolic processes, and adrenal function. It is also responsible for producing serotonin and norephrephine, two important neurotransmitters in the body. Bananas, avocados, and whole grains are all viable sources of vitamin B6.
Another one of the eight B vitamins, vitamin B12 contributes to brain functioning and the formation of red blood cells. You can find this key vitamin in shellfish, such as clams, as well red meat, poultry, eggs and other dairy foods.
Vitamin C, which has long been lauded as a common cold remedy, is needed for tissue growth and repair. It helps build and maintain healthy teeth, joints, cartilage, bones and blood vessels. A potent antioxidant, it helps reduce cellular damage caused by free radicals. All fruits and veggies contain some amount of vitamin C, so shield yourself against colds and flus by noshing on kiwi fruits, citrus fruits, berries, cantaloupe, tomatoes, broccoli and cauliflower.
Chromium, which is naturally occurring in meat, broccoli, apples and grape juice, helps to stabilize blood sugar levels, making this nutrient especially important for those with diabetes or pre-diabetes.
Although we get the majority of our vitamin D from direct sunlight, this crucial vitamin is found naturally in certain foods, including fatty fish like herring, mackerel and tuna. Vitamin D is important for bone health, cardiovascular health, and immune health. Emerging research even links vitamin D deficiencies with depression and other mental health issues.
Vitamin E is a powerful, fat-soluble antioxidant that shields the body against free radical damage. The best food source of vitamin E? Wheat germ, which packs more than 100% DV per serving, but it is also found in nuts and seeds, such as almonds and sunflower seeds.
Folic acid, a member of the B vitamin class, aids in red blood cell formation and DNA production. It is especially important in pregnant women, as insufficient folic acid levels can lead to neural tube defects in newborns. This crucial vitamin can be found in enriched grain products and leafy green veggies.
Iodine, which is found mainly in iodized salts and some types of seafood, is necessary for normal functioning of the thyroid gland, and can also help to prevent goiter, a swelling of the thyroid.
Have you been feeling fatigued, tired, or sluggish lately? You might have iron-deficiency anemia, one of the most common nutritional deficiencies in America. Iron is one of the building blocks of hemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen from your lungs to transport it throughout your the body. Without sufficient iron intake, your body can't make enough healthy oxygen-carrying red blood cells, leading to weakness and tiredness. To slash your risk of anemia, chow down on clams (the best source of iron), beef, beans, and pumpkin.
This fat-soluble vitamin plays a pivotal role in blood clotting and building strong bones. Where to find vitamin K? Reach for dark leafy greens, such as kale, Swiss chard or spinach.
This mineral supports a healthy immune system and regulates heart rhythm. Magnesium can be found in dark leafy greens (noticing a trend here?), nuts, fish, soybeans, and avocado.
Have you been experiencing mysterious muscle cramps lately? You might need to load up on potassium-rich foods. Potassium is a type of electrolyte that contributes to a healthy cardiovascular and musculature system. By curbing sodium levels in the body, potassium-rich foods can lower your risk of hypertension, stroke and heart disease. Sweet potatoes, bananas and yogurt are all brimming with potassium.
Although its primary responsibility is the formation of bones and teeth, phosphorus contributes to the formation of ATP, a molecule the body uses to store energy. Those with kidney disease should be careful to limit or reduce their intake of phosphorus-containing foods, including grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, as poor kidney function can lead to an excess buildup of phosphorus in the blood.
Selenium, which has gained a lot of attention for its antioxidant properties, prevents against cell damage and contributes to thyroid functioning. Although only a small amount of selenium is needed in the diet, you can find this mineral in Brazil nuts, which contain almost ten times the recommended daily value of selenium in a single serving.
Although we think of vitamin C as the body’s main defense against colds and infections, zinc is actually the key player when it comes to immune support and fending off illness. High-protein foods, such as beef, pork and lamb, contain high amounts of zinc; non-meat sources include nuts and legumes.
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