Your Body Needs These 13 Essential Vitamins to Function Properly
Plus, the foods you need to eat to make sure you get them.
We all want to make sure that we're meeting our body's daily nutritional needs, which is why so many of us take multivitamins. After all, hitting the target intake of those 13 (yes, 13!) vitamins is integral to good health. To help you get there, we talked to two medical experts; here, they share exactly which vitamins your body needs and how to ensure that you're getting enough of each of them every day.
The Essential Vitamins
The body's essential vitamins are the following: Vitamins A, C, D, E, K, plus the B vitamins, which are thiamine (B-1), riboflavin (B-2), niacin (B-3), pantothenic acid (B-5), pyroxidine (B-6), biotin (B-7), folate (B-9), and cobalamin (B-12). While these are the "essentials," holistic nutritionist Julie Hefner says other must-haves include minerals, like zinc, magnesium, potassium, calcium, and probiotics. If most of those sound familiar, that's because they are; they often appear together in multivitamin formulas and in big, bold print on the packaging of foods.
What to Eat
While 13 vitamins may seem like a lot, Hefner explains that you're likely already getting them by eating a healthy, varied diet; she suggests including plenty of leafy green vegetables at every meal or making a daily smoothie with vitamin-rich ingredients, like spinach, kale, and berries. If kale smoothies don't sound appetizing, you can hit your daily 13 another way. "Adding supplements to your wellness regimen as needed to fill in any nutrition gaps is always okay," she says, adding that whether you increase the amount of veggies you have in your diet, or go the supplement route, the most important thing to remember is to strive for a well-balanced diet.
According to Hefner, monitoring for deficiencies begins with checking in with our bodies on a daily basis. "Our bodies are great at telling us if something isn't right," she says. Take a look at your nails and hair, she says—peeling of the former and dullness or thinning of the latter could indicate that your levels are off, as can sudden low energy or shortness of breath while exercising. If you're noticing any of these symptoms, check in with your doctor, who can order a blood test to identify any lacking nutrients.
Don't Overdo It
Before you reach for those supplements, Carrie Taylor, R.D.N, L.D.N, R.Y.T and lead registered dietitian nutritionist with Big Y World Class Markets, says you need to make sure you are not taking too much of a fat soluble vitamin. "Some vitamins are fat soluble, meaning your body needs them to be combined with the fat from your food to be absorbed and utilized," she says. Vitamins A, D, E, and K fall under this category; don't take more than the daily recommendation, since they will not pass freely through your body like water soluble vitamins (which include vitamin C and the B-vitamins) do.