An Everyday Guide to Vitamins

There are many benefits to vegetarian and vegan lifestyles, but you’ll also make some nutritional sacrifices. If you ever walk down the aisles of your local pharmacy or scroll through an online vitamin shop, it may seem like there’s a vitamin for every letter of the alphabet. It’s overwhelming. Which vitamins do what? What should you realistically be getting? Why are you taking them? What does each one do for your body?

There are 13 essential vitamins and other important nutrients for your body. Each one has a specific purpose to help your body run at its most basic level – from constructing DNA to helping your blood stick together. Most vitamins are easily attainable through your diet, but often times it’s not enough. If you are just beginning a new diet, or if you’re looking to balance your nutrition, here are some essentials to be aware of.

Supplements for Health

  • Vitamin A – This antioxidant improves health of eyes, cuts risk of heart disease, and may slow the aging of your skin.
  • Vitamin C promotes healthy teeth and gyms and helps the body absorb iron, maintain tissue, and heal wounds. Despite popular belief, Vitamin C doesn’t appear to help the common cold or its symptoms, but it has been linked to cancer prevention, lower risk of cardiovascular disease, and a slowed advancement of cataracts.
  • Vitamin D gets the nickname the Sunshine Vitamin because you get it by 10 to 15 minutes of sun exposure 3 times a week. The vitamin helps the body absorb calcium and can reduce the risk of breast cancer by up to 50 percent. Though typically found in milk, eggs or fish, you can find good sources of Vitamin D in fortified cereals or soy milk.
  • Vitamin E plays a role in red blood cell development. It’s an antioxidant that helps your body against free radicals.
  • Vitamin K is what keeps little scratches from seeping incessantly. By helping coagulation in your blood, vitamin K is pretty essential to everyday health and may help promote bone health.

The B Vitamins

  • Vitamin B1 (thiamine) helps the body turn carbohydrates into energy. B1 is typically absorbed with grains, but many processed grains like white bread must be fortified with thiamine during baking.
  • Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) works with the other B vitamins to help the body grow and produce red blood cells. B2 can help with a variety of ailments, from carpal tunnel syndrome to possibly reducing the occurrence of migraine headaches when taken in high doses.
  • Vitamin B3 (niacin) helps your body lower harmful cholesterol and lowers the risk of heart disease.
  • Vitamin B6 is often used to help prevent morning sickness in pregnant women. It helps form red blood cells, as well as maintain brain function.
  • Vitamin B12 improves metabolism, muscle tone and a sharp mind. It is vital in maintaining nerves, red blood cells and used to create new DNA. The body needs it to maintain a healthy nervous system. B12 is usually found in animal-derived foods, but it is a crucial element for health. B12 supplements, soy beverages or brewer’s yeast are great sources for B12.
  • Vitamin B5, also known as Pantothenic acid is essential for growth. It helps the body process and use food, as well as plays a role in the production of hormones and cholesterol.
  • Folic Acid – Insufficient folic acid (also known as folate or Vitamin B9) can lead to anemia, and some experts think it plays a role in heart health and preventing cancer. The body needs folic acid to synthesize and repair DNA. It’s also essential for pregnant women or women who wish to become pregnant, as it has been shown to reduce a number of serious birth defects.

Essential Nutrients

  • Iron is one mineral that most typically comes from meat, so it is important for vegans and vegetarians to monitor their iron intake. Iron deficiencies can lead to decreased energy and impaired mental and physical function. If you take an iron supplement with breakfast, you should know that drinking milk will block iron absorption, while orange juice (vitamin C) will enhance it.
  • Zinc is a crucial part of a vegan diet, aiding your immune system and wound response. Luckily, mainstays like spinach, grains and nuts are chock-full of zinc.
  • Calcium intake is a greater concern for women than men, but it is essential for everyone. Fortified soy milk, broccoli and kale are all great sources of calcium.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential and may have a number of benefits. They are typically found in seafood, but flaxseed oil or hemp seed supplements can be good sources of these fatty acids.

The B vitamins are among the most essential, helping your body produce energy, heal itself and give you energy. Since many of these vitamins are prevalent in meat and some leafy greens, you should consider taking B vitamin supplements if you have a specialty diet.

As always, be sure to check with your doctor before beginning a vitamin regimen, as too much of a good thing can sometimes be a bad thing. Specifically, always work with a doctor to manage an iron deficiency to ensure you only take what you need.  Supplements for health is a great way to help maintain or regain you health!

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About the Author:

Mike Cushing is a blogger and freelance writer for writer for Medical ID Bracelet Marketplace, a Hope Paige company that provides fashionable and functional medical alert bracelets.