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What are vitamins?

Vitamins and minerals are substances that are found in foods we eat. Your body needs them to work properly, so you grow and develop just like you should. When it comes to vitamins, each one has a special role to play. There are two types of vitamins: When you eat foods that contain fat-soluble vitamins, the vitamins are stored in the fat tissues in your body and in your liver. They wait around in your body fat until your body needs them. Fat-soluble vitamins are happy to stay stored in your body for awhile — some stay for a few days, some for up to 6 months!

Then, when it's time for them to be used, special carriers in your body take them to where they're needed. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are all fat-soluble vitamins. Water-soluble vitamins are different. When you eat foods that have water-soluble vitamins, the vitamins don't get stored as much in your body. Instead, they travel through your bloodstream. Whatever your body doesn't use comes out when you urinate pee. So these kinds of vitamins need to be replaced often because they don't stick around!

This crowd of vitamins includes vitamin C and the big group of B vitamins — B1 thiamin , B2 riboflavin , niacin, B6 pyridoxine , folic acid, B12 cobalamine , biotin, and pantothenic acid. Your body is one powerful machine, capable of doing all sorts of things by itself. But when it comes to vitamins, it can use some help. That's where food comes in. Your body is able to get the vitamins it needs from the foods you eat because different foods contain different vitamins. The key is to eat different foods to get an assortment of vitamins. Though some kids take a daily vitamin, most kids don't need one if they're eating a variety of healthy foods.

This vitamin plays a really big part in eyesight. It's great for night vision, like when you're trick-or-treating on Halloween. Vitamin A helps you see in color, too, from the brightest yellow to the darkest purple. Can lower levels of homocysteine and may reduce heart disease risk May reduce risk for colon cancer. Offsets breast cancer risk among women who consume alcohol. Fortified grains and cereals, asparagus, okra, spinach, turnip greens, broccoli, legumes like black-eyed peas and chickpeas, orange juice, tomato juice. Occasionally, folic acid masks a B 12 deficiency, which can lead to severe neurological complications.

That's not a reason to avoid folic acid; just be sure to get enough B Activates proteins and calcium essential to blood clotting. May help prevent hip fractures.

The Best Vitamins for Women

Cabbage, liver, eggs, milk, spinach, broccoli, sprouts, kale, collards, and other green vegetables. Intestinal bacteria make a form of vitamin K that accounts for half your requirements. If you take an anticoagulant, keep your vitamin K intake consistent. Builds and protects bones and teeth.

Helps with muscle contractions and relaxation, blood clotting, and nerve impulse transmission. Plays a role in hormone secretion and enzyme activation. Helps maintain healthy blood pressure. Yogurt, cheese, milk, tofu, sardines, salmon, fortified juices, leafy green vegetables, such as broccoli and kale but not spinach or Swiss chard, which have binders that lessen absorption.

Diets very high in calcium may increase the risk of prostate cancer. Balances fluids in the body. A component of stomach acid, essential to digestion. Salt sodium chloride , soy sauce, processed foods. Enhances the activity of insulin, helps maintain normal blood glucose levels, and is needed to free energy from glucose. Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, potatoes, some cereals, nuts, cheese. Unrefined foods such as brewer's yeast, nuts, and cheeses are the best sources of chromium, but brewer's yeast can sometimes cause bloating and nausea, so you may choose to get chromium from other food sources.

Plays an important role in iron metabolism and immune system. Helps make red blood cells.

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Liver, shellfish, nuts, seeds, whole-grain products, beans, prunes, cocoa, black pepper. More than half of the copper in foods is absorbed. Encourages strong bone formation. Keeps dental cavities from starting or worsening. Water that is fluoridated, toothpaste with fluoride, marine fish, teas. Harmful to children in excessive amounts. Part of thyroid hormone, which helps set body temperature and influences nerve and muscle function, reproduction, and growth. Prevents goiter and a congenital thyroid disorder. Iodized salt, processed foods, seafood.

To prevent iodine deficiencies, some countries add iodine to salt, bread, or drinking water. Helps hemoglobin in red blood cells and myoglobin in muscle cells ferry oxygen throughout the body. Needed for chemical reactions in the body and for making amino acids, collagen, neurotransmitters, and hormones. Red meat, poultry, eggs, fruits, green vegetables, fortified bread and grain products.

Many women of childbearing age don't get enough iron. Women who do not menstruate probably need the same amount of iron as men. Because iron is harder to absorb from plants, experts suggest vegetarians get twice the recommended amount assuming the source is food.

Needed for many chemical reactions in the body Works with calcium in muscle contraction, blood clotting, and regulation of blood pressure. Helps build bones and teeth. This upper limit applies to supplements and medicines, such as laxatives, not to dietary magnesium. Green vegetables such as spinach and broccoli, legumes, cashews, sunflower seeds and other seeds, halibut, whole-wheat bread, milk.

Vitamins (for Kids)

The majority of magnesium in the body is found in bones. If your blood levels are low, your body may tap into these reserves to correct the problem. Helps metabolize amino acids, cholesterol, and carbohydrates. Fish, nuts, legumes, whole grains, tea. If you take supplements or have manganese in your drinking water, be careful not to exceed the upper limit.

Those with liver damage or whose diets supply abundant manganese should be especially vigilant. Part of several enzymes, one of which helps ward off a form of severe neurological damage in infants that can lead to early death. Legumes, nuts, grain products, milk. Helps build and protect bones and teeth. Part of phospholipids, which carry lipids in blood and help shuttle nutrients into and out of cells.

Wide variety of foods, including milk and dairy products, meat, fish, poultry, eggs, liver, green peas, broccoli, potatoes, almonds. Certain drugs bind with phosphorus, making it unavailable and causing bone loss, weakness, and pain. Helps maintain steady heartbeat and send nerve impulses. Needed for muscle contractions.

A diet rich in potassium seems to lower blood pressure. Getting enough potassium from your diet may benefit bones. Meat, milk, fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes. Food sources do not cause toxicity, but high-dose supplements might.

What this guide covers

Helps regulate thyroid hormone activity. Organ meats, seafood, walnuts, sometimes plants depends on soil content , grain products. Researchers are investigating whether selenium may help reduce the risk of developing cancer, but with mixed results. Helps send nerve impulses.

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Impacts blood pressure; even modest reductions in salt consumption can lower blood pressure. Salt, soy sauce, processed foods, vegetables. While experts recommend that people limit sodium intake to 2, mg, most Americans consume 4,—6, mg a day. Helps form bridges that shape and stabilize some protein structures.

Needed for healthy hair, skin, and nails.

Protein-rich foods, such as meats, fish, poultry, nuts, legumes. Sulfur is a component of thiamin and certain amino acids. There is no recommended amount for sulfur. Deficiencies occur only with a severe lack of protein.

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