Your body needs a wide variety of nutrients to stay healthy. Deficiencies in any one area can lead to health problems. Plus, the typical American diet generally doesn’t include the recommended amounts of many nutrients.1 That means it’s especially important for us to make conscious choices, both in the foods we eat and the supplements we take, to make sure we get the essential vitamins and nutrients we need for maintaining optimal health.
Here is a list of the alphabet vitamins, their functions in the body, foods that contain them, and signs of vitamin deficiencies:
Vitamin A: The Amazing Vitamin for Healthy Hair, Skin and Nails
You probably know that vitamin A is good for your vision, but do you know what else it does? Vitamin A is essential for healthy hair, skin and nails. It supports growth and development, skin and bone formation, immune function and of course, vision! That’s a lot of work for one little vitamin to do, which is why it’s so important for you to get enough vitamin A in your diet.
The best vitamin A sources are orange-colored foods like cantaloupe, carrots, pumpkin and sweet potatoes. You can also get vitamin A from some unexpected sources such as eggs, dairy products, spinach, broccoli and other green leafy vegetables.
Vitamin A deficiencies can cause skin issues, impaired immune function, vision problems, fat malabsorption, and disorders of the liver.2 Help your body stay healthy by supplementing your diet with our potent Vitamin A Softgels to nourish your eyes, skin and immune system.
Vitamin B: The Boosting Vitamins for Energy and Vitality
Scientists originally thought Vitamin B was a single nutrient. Later, they discovered there are several nutrients in the B-complex family of vitamins.3 Each B vitamin performs specialized functions in your body. The benefits of B vitamins range from helping reduce daily stress to promoting healthy energy levels, protecting against free radicals, and supporting cardiovascular nutrition.
Symptoms of a vitamin B deficiency depend on the type of vitamin B that you lack. Signs of a vitamin B deficiency range from fatigue to impaired immune system function.
Here is a list of all the B vitamins and common food sources for each B vitamin:
- B1 (thiamin) - beans, peas, pork, nuts, sunflower seeds, whole grains and enriched grain products
- B2 (riboflavin) - eggs, nuts, pork, sunflower seeds, whole grains and enriched grain products
- B3 (niacin) - beans, beef, enriched grain products, nuts, pork, poultry, seafood, whole grains
- B5 (pantothenic acid) - avocados, beans, peas, broccoli, eggs, milk, mushrooms, poultry, seafood, sweet potatoes, whole grains, yogurt
- B6 (pyridoxine) - chickpeas, fruits (but not citrus), potatoes, salmon, tuna
- B7 (biotin) - avocados, cauliflower, eggs, fruits, liver, pork, salmon, whole grains
- B8 (inositol) - lecithin granules and oil, beef heart, liver, brown rice, enriched cereals, citrus fruits, nuts, molasses, leafy green vegetables
- B9 (folic acid) - asparagus, avocado, beans, peas, enriched grain products, green leafy vegetables, orange juice
- B12 - dairy products, eggs, fortified cereals, meats, poultry, seafood
As you can see, some foods provide multiple types of vitamin B, but it is still a lot to think about. Fortunately, you can get a broad spectrum of B vitamins in B-complex supplements, like Swanson Health's Real Food B-Complex.
Vitamin C: The Immunity Vitamin for Anti-aging and Good Health
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps your body protect itself from free radicals. Vitamin C also supports immune function and the formation of collagen, which is an essential component of connective tissue. Vitamin C also boosts your body’s ability to absorb non-heme iron (a kind of iron found in plant-based foods).
You can get vitamin C from citrus fruits, kiwi, strawberries, cantaloupe, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, red and green peppers and many other fruits and vegetables. You can also add vitamin C to your diet with supplements. Try Swanson Health’s Vitamin C with Rose Hips since rose hips help enhance absorption and potency of vitamin C.
Vitamin C deficiencies can result in fatigue, impaired immune function, poor collagen synthesis, joint pain and other issues.4
Vitamin D: The Sunshine Vitamin for Healthy Bones and Teeth
Vitamin D is the only alphabet vitamin that is on the FDA’s list of “nutrients of public health concern.” That’s because 75%-90% of people in the U.S. are vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D is essential for bone growth and mineralization, as well as the absorption of calcium. It also boosts immune function, helps support cardiovascular health and nervous system function.
Vitamin D is frequently called the “sunshine vitamin” since your body produces it naturally after enough sun exposure. If you don’t spend much time in the sun, or if you wear sunscreen when you do, there’s a good chance you are deficient in vitamin D and need to get it from other sources. Vitamin D3 supplements are the most convenient way to get your daily fill, but you can also get vitamin D from fatty fish, beef liver, egg yolks, mushrooms and fortified milk or breakfast cereals.
Possible signs of vitamin D deficiency can include issues with bone and gut health.5
Vitamin E: The Antioxidant Vitamin with Immune Function Support
The most widely touted benefits of vitamin E are related to its antioxidant effects. Vitamin E helps protect cells from the effects of free radicals, supports immune system function, and supports the cardiovascular system.
Foods rich in vitamin E include vegetable oils like wheat germ, sunflower and safflower oil, nuts, green vegetables and vitamin E fortified foods. Make sure to supplement your diet with vitamin E if you don’t get enough from natural food sources.
Although vitamin E deficiencies are rare, symptoms can include issues with eye health and immune system function.6
Vitamin K: The Beneficial Vitamin for Blood and Bone Health
Like vitamin B, vitamin K is a family of nutrients including multiple forms of both vitamin K1 and vitamin K2, though they have similar and complementary functions. The benefits of vitamin K include helping your cardiovascular system function well and keeping your bones strong and healthy.
Green vegetables such as broccoli, kale, turnip greens, collards, Swiss chard and mustard greens are all great food sources of vitamin K. If you don’t eat a lot of greens, take a concentrated vitamin K supplement like Swanson’s Premium Vitamin K-1.
Signs of vitamin K deficiency can include blood and circulation issues, and sometimes certain bone issues.7
Are You Getting Enough Alphabet Vitamins?
Ideally, most of our vitamins and nutrients should come from eating a wide variety of natural, unprocessed foods, but the reality is that most of us don’t always eat that way. Even if you are aware of all the benefits of vitamins and inspired to eat well, it can be overwhelming to try and monitor your daily intake. That’s why we recommend supplementing your healthy diet with either the individual vitamins that you are lacking or a multivitamin to help cover the bases like our Daily Essentials kit.
Did you find this article helpful? Check out our blog for more tips on healthy living and sign up for Swanson Health emails to get special promotions delivered straight to your inbox.
You might also enjoy reading Say Hello to the Sunshine Vitamin: Top Foods High in Vitamin D and Vitamin K2: Types, Benefits and Food Sources.
1 Fortify Your Knowledge About Vitamins: FDA. https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm118079.htm (Accessed 11/29/2017)
2 Vitamin A: Merck & Co. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/nutritional-disorders/vitamin-deficiency,-dependency,-and-toxicity/vitamin-a (Accessed 11/29/2017)
3 Vitamin B-Complex. Michigan Medicine, University of Michigan. http://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/hn-2922005 (Accessed 11/29/2017)
4 Vitamin C Fact Sheet for Health Professionals: National Institutes of Health. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminC-Health%20Professional/ (Accessed 11/29/2017)
8 Vitamin D Fact Sheet for Health Professionals: National Institutes of Health. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/ (Accessed 11/29/2017)
5 5 Signs You're Not Getting Enough Vitamin D: Prevention. https://www.prevention.com/health/symptoms-of-vitamin-d-deficiency (Accessed 11/29/2017)
6 The Role of Vitamin E in Human Health and Some Diseases: US National Library of Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3997530/ (Accessed 11/29/2017)
7 Vitamin K Fact Sheet for Health Professionals: National Institutes of Health https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminK-HealthProfessional/ (Accessed 11/29/2017)