Vitamins and Minerals:
While these aren’t energy providers for the body, vitamins and minerals do provide essential components which keep the body working. If we didn’t have everything from vitamin A to potassium we wouldn’t last long. As there is quite a list of these we’ve kept things down to single sentence descriptions. Fortunately you don’t have to worry too much about most of these (except vitamin D3) as a diet containing an array of fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and lean meats will have plenty of all of these.
- C: Helps make collagen for wound healing, is an antioxidant, and it helps us recover faster from colds and the flu.
- A: Helps with vision, bone growth, and is an antioxidant, most people get plenty in their diet.
- B1: Thiamin convert food into energy, helps prevent heart failure and is essential for healthy skin, hair, muscles, and brain.
- B2: Riboflavin also works in food to energy conversion and helps with skin, hair, blood, and brain.
- B3: Niacin helps with food to energy and helps the skin, blood cells, and nervous system work.
- B5: Pantothenic acid also works in food to energy conversion and help with the creation of lipids which are essential for a wide range of functions in the body.
- B6: This one helps with sleep, appetite, mood, ability to think and fight off infection.
- B12: Protects nerves and helps create red blood cells, too little can cause anemia.
- D: This works together with calcium to keep our bones healthy and strong, also helps us fight seasonal depression.
- E: An antioxidant which also helps strengthen the immune system.
- Folic Acid: Especially important to take during pregnancy, as vital for development of brain. Too little will also cause anemia.
- K: Found in green, leafy vegetables, important for blood clotting.
- Calcium: Builds healthy bones and teeth. Important in muscles, nerves, and many other areas.
- Chromium: Helps insulin to keep blood sugar levels normal.
- Copper: Important for providing iron for red blood cells.
- Iron: Used in red blood cells and too little can cause anemia. Iron also works with vitamin C to eliminate ingested lead from the body.
- Magnesium: This is a multi-use mineral. Helps with muscles, blood clotting, blood pressure, and bones.
- Potassium: This is important for your nerves, heart, muscles, and body fluid regulation.
- Sodium (salt): Similar to potassium, too much also causes high blood pressure. Check out the section on Salt for more.
- Zinc: Helps the immune system, taste, smell, and wound healing. (remember to take zinc and vitamin C with a cold or flu)
Another helpful list from Harvard School of Health
5 Quick Tips: Getting the Right Vitamins
- Eat a healthy diet. A multivitamin provides some insurance against deficiencies but is far less important for health than the healthy food patterns described on this website. Choose a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and healthy oils, and low in red meat and unhealthy fats—let the Healthy Eating Pyramid be your guide.
- Choose a daily multivitamin. A daily multivitamin is an inexpensive nutrition insurance policy. Try to take one every day.
- Think about D. In addition to its bone health benefits, there’s growing evidence that getting some extra vitamin D can help lower the risk of colon and breast cancer. Aim for getting 1,000 to 2,000 IU of vitamin D per day—this likely will require an extra vitamin D pill, in addition to your multivitamin.
- Say no to “megas.” In general, avoid mega-dose vitamins and mega-fortified foods. Higher doses of vitamin E may help to prevent heart disease, but in general, the amount in a standard multivitamin is enough to have health benefits. A standard multivitamin also has a day’s worth of folic acid, so you should avoid foods that have high amounts of folic acid added to them. Vitamin D is an exception, as many people need more than the RDA.
- Avoid “super” supplements. Don’t be swayed by the wild health claims of the many health supplements advertised on TV and the Internet. If they sound too good to be true, you can be sure they are. Save your money for healthy food and a good vacation.
A great summary of vitamins and minerals