Which Vitamins and Minerals Does Your Body Really Need?

You don’t have to spend long in the vitamin and supplement aisle of just about any store to realize that there are a lot of vitamins and supplements advertised as essential for good health. Thankfully, you don’t have to go broke buying hundreds of bottles of vitamins. Which vitamins does your body really need? Let’s take a look.       `

Vitamin A
keeps your vital organs – heart, lungs, liver – work properly. Vitamin A also is important for reproductive, vision and immune system health. Found in: broccoli, carrots, green leafy vegetables, salmon, beef liver, mangoes, squash, cantaloupe, apricots, fortified cereals and dairy products. Recommended Dietary Allowance: 900 mcg RAE for men (equivalent to 3,000 IU) and 700 mcg RAE for women (equivalent to 2,333 IU)

Vitamin B helps convert carbohydrates, fats and proteins into energy. There are eight essential B vitamins: B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9 and B12, several of which are necessary for cell development, growth and function. Found in: eggs, fish, poultry, organ meats, whole grains, legumes, seeds, nuts and fortified cereals, breads and pastas. Recommended Daily Allowance: For women: B1: 1.1 mg; B2: 1.1 mg; B3: 14 mg; B5: 5 mg (RDA not established); B6: 1.3 mg; B7: 30 mcg (RDA not established); B9: 400 mcg; B12: 2.4 mcg. For men: B1: 1.2 mg; B2: 1.3 mg; B3: 16 mg; B5: 5 mg (RDA not established); B6: 1.3 mg; B7: 30 mcg (RDA not established); B9: 400 mcg; B12: 2.4 mcg

Vitamin C increases iron absorption boosts the immune system. As an antioxidant, it protects our cells from damaging free radicals. It produces collagen, which also helps wounds heal. Found in: red and green peppers, citrus fruits and juices, baked potatoes, strawberries, kiwi, cantaloupe, brussels sprouts, broccoli, tomatoes, tomato juice and baked potatoes. Recommended Daily Allowance: 65-90 mg

Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium from food and supplements, which builds strong bones. It also boosts immune system function. Found in: The “sunshine vitamin” mostly gets absorbed from the sun through our skin. Foods with vitamin D include beef liver, fish, egg yolks, mushrooms and fortified dairy, nut milks and cereal. Recommended Daily Allowance: Opinions vary, but the Mayo Clinic recommends600 IU for people ages up to 70 years, and 800 IU for people over 70 years

Vitamin E boosts our immune system, protects cells from free radicals and helps prevent blood clots. Found in: wheatgerm, safflower and sunflower oils, sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach, avocados, peanuts, butternut squash and Swiss chard. Recommended Daily Allowance: 15 mg

Vitamin K is necessary for blood clotting and healthy bones. People who have had bariatric surgery to lose weight or have a malabsorption disorder might need to take a supplement. Found in: kale, spinach, broccoli, lettuce, blueberries, soybeans, figs, cheese, meat, eggs and vegetable oils. Recommended Daily Allowance: Men: 120 mcg; women: 90 mcg

Calcium: Crucial for structural support, about 99 percent of the body’s calcium is found in bones and teeth. The remainder is found in the blood, muscles and intracellular fluids, where it supports metabolic, neurological and muscular functions. Found in: dairy products (cheese, milk, yogurt), fortified non-dairy milks (almond, soy and rice milks), tofu (if prepared with calcium), sardines with bones, fortified orange juice, kale, collard greens and broccoli. Recommended Daily Allowance: Men/women 19–50: 1,000 mg; men 51-70: 1,000 mg; women 51-70: 1,200; men/women 71+: 1,200 mg

Iron is an essential part of building red blood cells that move oxygen via the blood from the lungs to the cells throughout your body. Vegetarians should consume almost twice as much iron because irons is found predominantly in animal products. Found in: seafood,meat (especially red meat and liver), lentils, tofu, beans, cashews and broccoli. Recommended Daily Allowance: Men (all ages): 8 mg; women (19-50): 18 mg & (51+): 8 mg

Magnesium regulates various processes in the body, including muscle and nerve function, heart rhythms and glucose control. Found in: peanuts, cashews, potatoes, brown rice, beans, dairy products, beef, chicken, oats, spinach, broccoli and almonds. Recommended Daily Allowance: Men: 19-30: 400 mg; 31+: 420 mg; women: 19-30: 310 mg; 31+: 320 mg

Zinc is essential for normal growth and development during pregnancy and childhood and plays an important role in immune function. Zinc is found mostly in meats, so vegans and vegetarians might need to take supplements. Found in: seafood (especially oysters, lobster and clams), poultry, red meat, dairy products, nuts, beans and whole grains. Recommended Daily Allowance: men: 11 mg; women: 8 mg

Just because these are essential vitamins and minerals does not mean you need to rush out and buy a bottle of each. Many factors, including age, diet, lifestyle, illnesses and disorders determine whether you get and absorb enough of each. Always ask your doctor before you begin taking a vitamin or supplement.

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