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Learning the Basics about Vitamins

Vitamins are essentials – the substances your body needs to function normally. You can usually get the vitamins you need from a healthy, balanced diet. Add a “rainbow of color” to your diet and you increase your chances of getting what you need.

But some people lack certain vitamins, so they need supplements. Ask your doctor whether or not you do. And, remember: too much of a good thing can be bad for you. So be careful not to overdo.

Here are the basics about vitamins:

Vitamin A helps with vision, bone growth, and reproduction. It also plays a role in cell division and promoting healthy surface linings in eyes and other places in your body. Sources of vitamin A include beef and chicken liver, carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, spinach, and cantaloupe.

B vitamins such as B6 and B12 are versatile, helping with many of the body’s functions. This includes forming red blood cells and helping your body get or make energy from food (a process called metabolism). You mostly find B vitamins in proteins such as tuna, salmon, poultry, beef liver, and dairy products. Some foods, such as breakfast cereals and breads, are also fortified with B vitamins.

Vitamin C helps the body form collagen (a fibrous protein) in blood vessels, bones, cartilage, and muscle. Fruits high in vitamin C include guava, oranges, kiwi, and strawberries. Vegetables high in vitamin C include raw red and green sweet peppers, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and sweet potatoes.

Vitamin D works with calcium to maintain bone strength and quality. Vitamin D is also involved in cell growth, as well as nerve, muscle, and immune functioning. And, it can reduce inflammation in the body. Few foods contain vitamin D. However, it is found in fatty fish such as salmon and tuna, and in fish liver oils. Orange juice, milk, and yogurt may be fortified with vitamin D. You may also get some vitamin D from sunlight.

Vitamin E is an antioxidant. It helps protect cells from damage. Vitamin E also is involved with immune function and metabolism. Sources of vitamin E include wheat germ oil, sunflower seeds, almonds, peanut butter, and sunflower or safflower oil.

Vitamin K helps make proteins for healthy bones and tissues and for blood clotting. Foods high in vitamin K include dark berries and green, leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, turnip greens, and collards.
Sometimes doctors prescribe vitamins. But sometimes vitamins may interact with certain medications. If you have questions about any of this, I’d be glad to talk it over with you.