Vitamin A keeps your heart, lungs, liver and other organs working properly. Also called beta-carotene, it’s important for reproductive, vision and immune system health.
You can get vitamin A from beef liver, salmon, broccoli, carrots, squash, green leafy vegetables, cantaloupe, apricots, mangoes, dairy products and fortified cereals.
They all help convert carbohydrates, fats and proteins into energy. Several B vitamins are also necessary for cell development, growth and function.
You may need more B vitamins if you’re elderly, have had gastrointestinal surgery, have a gastrointestinal disorder, or if you abuse alcohol. Women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or plan to become pregnant may need more B vitamins, particularly folate, which has been shown to prevent birth defects, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Up to 15 percent of people are deficient in B12. You may also need more B12 if you have pernicious anemia or are a vegan or vegetarian.
You can get vitamin B from meat, poultry, fish, organ meats, eggs, legumes, seeds, nuts, whole grains, and fortified cereals, breads and pastas.
Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C boosts the immune system and increases iron absorption from plant-based foods and supplements. Since it’s an antioxidant, vitamin C protects our cells from damaging free radicals. It also aids in wound healing by helping our body produce collagen.
If you smoke, you need 35 more mg of vitamin C per day than non-smokers because it takes more vitamin C for your body to repair the cell damage caused by free radicals in tobacco smoke.
You can get vitamin C from citrus fruits and juices, kiwi fruit, red and green peppers, strawberries, cantaloupe, broccoli, brussels sprouts, tomatoes, tomato juice and baked potatoes (cooking it this way, with the skin on, retains the folate, B6 and vitamin C.)
Vitamin D builds strong bones by helping our body absorb calcium from food and supplements. It also boosts the functioning of the immune system.
People who avoid the sun or use sunscreen — all smart precautions for skin cancer prevention — may need supplements, as well as people with a malabsorption disorder where the body has difficulty absorbing nutrients (such as Crohn’s or celiac disease).
Vitamin D isn’t found naturally in many foods. Known as the “sunshine vitamin,” most of the vitamin D our body gets is absorbed from the sun through our skin. Foods with vitamin D include salmon, tuna, mackerel, beef liver, egg yolks, mushrooms, and fortified dairy and nut milks and cereals.
Vitamin E protects our cells from free radicals, boosts our immune system and helps prevent blood clots.
You can get vitamin E from sunflower, safflower and wheatgerm oils, sunflower seeds, almonds, peanuts, spinach, Swiss chard, avocados and butternut squash.
Vitamin K is necessary for blood clotting and healthy bones. You may need more vitamin K if you have had bariatric surgery to lose weight or have a malabsorption disorder.
You can get vitamin K from spinach, kale, lettuce, broccoli, soybeans, blueberries, figs, meat, cheese, eggs, and vegetable oils.