It’s common knowledge that you need vitamins for your body to function at its peak, but how much do you really know about them? Plus, can you really get all the vitamins you need each day solely from the foods you eat, or do you need to take a multi-vitamin? Can meal replacement shakes help you reach your daily vitamin intake?
Learn all about how vitamins are intricately connected to your health (and even potentially to your weight loss goals) in this article. Plus, see which vitamins carry the greatest risk for a deficiency, and how you can get enough of them in your diet. Read on to discover more!
What Are Vitamins?
Vitamins are organic compounds that you need to live and thrive, but your body cannot make them on their own. Therefore, it is best to get your daily vitamin needs from foods. If you cannot do that, then you can always take a dietary supplement.
There are 13 known vitamins, all of which have “daily required amounts” because it’s best to get them in small quantities. That’s because there are two different types of vitamins (fat-soluble and water-soluble), and the fat-soluble ones get stored in your body.
Types of Vitamins
The fat-soluble vitamins are vitamins A, D, E and K. What makes them different from water-soluble is they actually get stored in the fatty tissues of your body and in your liver. They can stay in your body as “reserves” for days or even months. For this reason, you have to be careful not to overdose in fat-soluble vitamins.
The water-soluble vitamins include vitamin C and all of the B vitamins. Unlike fat-soluble vitamins, this type does not get stored in your body. Instead, whatever your body doesn’t use immediately gets flushed out in your urine. Due to this, these vitamins need to be replenished more frequently.
The 13 Essential Vitamins for Optimal Health & Vitality
Benefits: Protects eyes from night blindness and supports overall eye health; supports your healthy immune system; helps treat and prevent acne; supports bone health; promotes reproductive health and proper baby development.
Deficiency symptoms: Night-blindness and keratomalacia, an eye disorder.
Best food sources: Liver, cod liver oil, some cheeses, butter, eggs, milk, leafy greens including kale, spinach and collard greens, broccoli, sweet potato, carrots, pumpkin, and cantaloupe.
Vitamin B-1 (thiamin)
Benefits: Essential to healthy growth and function of organs (including the brain and heart).
Best food sources: pork, liver, eggs, yeast, whole-grains, cereal grains, brown rice, sunflower seeds, kale, asparagus, cauliflower, potatoes, and oranges.
Vitamin B-2 (riboflavin)
Benefits: Helps break down fats and drugs.
Best food sources: Meat, fish, eggs, cottage cheese, yogurt, okra, chard, green beans, asparagus, bananas and persimmons.
Vitamin B3 (niacin, niacinamide)
Benefits: Helps maintain healthy skin, nerves, and digestion. High doses are sometimes prescribed to improve cholesterol levels.
Best food sources: Liver, heart, kidney, chicken, beef, fish (tuna, salmon), eggs, milk, legumes, nuts, whole-grains, avocados, leafy veggies, broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, dates.
Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)
Benefits: Supports the health of your brain and nervous system.
Best food sources: Meats, whole-grains, broccoli, avocados.
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
Benefits: Assists in the production of new red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body; supports a strong immune system.
Deficiency symptoms: May cause anemia, peripheral neuropathy, or damage to parts of the nervous system (not brain or spinal cord).
Best food sources: Meats, milk (not dried), whole-grains, bananas, nuts, veggies.
Vitamin B7 (biotin)
Benefits: Promotes healthy hair, nails and skin; Supports nerve function.
Best food sources: Liver, egg yolk, veggies.
Vitamin B9 (folic acid, folate)
Benefits: Helps make DNA and genetic material; helps reduce risk of birth defects during pregnancy.
Best food sources: Liver, legumes, baker’s yeast, fortified grain products, legumes, sunflower seeds, several fruits.
Vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin, hydroxocobalamin, methylcobalamin)
Benefits: Helps with red blood cell formation and preventing anemia; helps prevent birth defects; reduces risk of macular degeneration (an eye disease); may help improve mood and depression; promotes a healthy brain and memory; may boost energy; supports healthy hair, nails and skin.
Best food sources: Meat, fish, shellfish, poultry, eggs, milk and dairy products, fortified cereals, fortified nutritional yeast, fortified soy products.
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)
Benefits: Promotes a healthy immune system; supports healthy, youthful skin and anti-aging; helps reduce inflammation.
Best food sources: Liver, fruits and veggies.
Vitamin D (ergocalciferol, cholecalciferol)
Benefits: Helps maintain healthy bones and teeth; supports healthy immune, brain and nervous systems; Supports cardiovascular health.
Deficiency symptoms: Rickets and osteomalacia, softening of the bones.
Best source: Exposure to ultraviolet B (UVB) through sunlight or other sources leads to vitamin D production in the skin. Lesser sources include beef liver, fatty fish, eggs and mushrooms.
Vitamin E (tocopherols, tocotrienols)
Benefits: Protects your cells from damage; supports a healthy immune system; promotes healthy, youthful skin.
Best source: Eggs, milk, almonds, whole-grains, leafy green veggies, avocado, kiwi.
Vitamin K (Phylloquinone, menaquinones)
Benefits: Supports strong, healthy bones; promotes good cognitive health; supports heart health and healthy blood pressure levels.
Deficiency symptoms: May cause bleeding diathesis (unusual susceptibility to bleeding).
Best food sources: Leafy green veggies, parsley, avocado, kiwi.
Vitamins for Weight Loss
As you can easily see in the detailed list above, there seem to be vitamins for just about everything! Vitamins for energy, vitamins for skin, vitamins for hair loss and vitamins for memory. But what about vitamins for weight loss?! Do they actually exist?
Although vitamins will not directly cause you to lose weight, if you’re deficient in certain vitamins, it could make weight loss much harder. And, in fact, it may make weight gain more likely – since your body suffers from a vitamin deficiency in more ways than one.
Research in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition showed that people who were obese had 5 to 12% lower levels of all micronutrients. In addition, some specific deficiencies stood out. Compared to those who were a normal weight, obese adults were lacking in vitamins A, C and magnesium. And they were less likely to meet recommendations for calcium, vitamin D and vitamin E.
Worried you may not be getting sufficient doses of all 13 essential vitamins? If you don’t eat a healthy, clean and balanced diet, there’s a good chance you may be lacking. In addition, if you follow a certain dietary program such as being a vegetarian, have your doctor test your nutrient levels to make sure you’re not deficient. If you follow a vegan diet, it’s highly recommended that you at least supplement with vitamins D and B12, along with certain minerals.
When in doubt, make sure you supplement with a high-quality multi-vitamin or individual vitamin supplements. While vitamin B12, D and C supplements are all popular, make sure you’re getting all the nutrients you need.
If you live a busy lifestyle and aren’t getting enough fresh fruits and vegetables, you should drink a meal replacement shake once or twice a day. Many of them, including our top-rated shakes, include an abundance of vitamins and minerals to help you meet your health needs while on-the-go. Plus, many are low in calories and don’t contain any sugar, so they’re also beneficial for weight loss.