Vitamins are crucial in many of the body's various physiological functions.
Essential for metabolism, immunity and overall health, unlike macronutrients such as proteins, carbohydrates and fats, vitamins are required in smaller amounts but are vital for maintaining good health.
Most vitamins need to come from food because the body doesn't produce them or produces very little, but some supplements can be taken to help enrich the body with the essential vitamins and minerals it needs.
In this blog, we'll examine each vitamin and its benefits and then offer our recommendations on the best vitamins and minerals to take to improve many of the body's processes, such as your sleep quality.
Table of contents:
What are vitamins?
Which vitamins should I take?
What do vitamins do?
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What are vitamins?
In simple terms, vitamins are organic compounds the body needs to function properly. Vitamins are the essential nutrients the body needs from food; too little of each can increase health problems and put the body at risk of developing certain health issues.
Each vitamin plays a different role in helping us maintain good health and bodily function; a person requires differing amounts of each.
The human body requires vitamins from our food because our bodies don't produce the vitamins we need, and for those we do, we don't produce them in significant enough amounts to maintain our health. We also struggle to acquire enough vitamin D, particularly in winter, as we naturally process this from sunlight.
Fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins
Vitamins can be categorised into two groups: fat-soluble and water-soluble.
Fat-soluble vitamins are those the body can store in its fatty tissue and the liver. Reserves of these vitamins can remain in the body for days or, in some cases, months. Dietary fats help the body absorb these vitamins through the intestinal tract. Vitamins A, D, E and K are all fat-soluble.
In contrast, water-soluble vitamins don't stay in the body long and cannot be stored. When we urinate, these vitamins leave the body, so it's important to ensure we have a more regular store of these vitamins to keep our body's levels topped up. Vitamin C and all the B vitamins are water-soluble.
Which vitamins should I take?
There are currently 13 recognised vitamins that the body needs to function healthily. Whilst most of these are readily available in our diets, they can also be supplemented. However, not exceeding the recommended daily amounts is important, as this could adversely affect your health. All information on recommended daily amounts of each vitamin in this blog has been sourced from NHS guidance.
Vitamin A is also known as retinol. It is essential for eye health, giving us clear vision in dim light, and it supports the immune system, helping it work effectively. Vitamin A also keeps the skin and the lining of body parts, such as the nose, healthy.
How much vitamin A do I need?
According to the NHS, adults aged 19-64 need the following amounts of Vitamin A per day:
- 700 µg (micrograms) a day for men
- 600 µg a day for women
You should be able to get it from your diet. As the body can store vitamin A, you don't need to take it daily.
Vitamin A is readily available in oily fish, cheese, eggs, liver pate and dairy products. Still, it can also be sourced through beta-carotene through yellow, red and green leafy vegetables and yellow fruit.
There are 8 different vitamin B types, each with different names and functions. Remember, B vitamins cannot be stored in the body, so need to be sourced daily. They are as follows:
Also known as thiamin, vitamin B1 helps the body break down, releases energy from food, and keeps the nervous system healthy. Thiamin is readily available in liver, whole grain breads, nuts and fresh fruits such as bananas and oranges.
How much vitamin B1 do I need?
Adults aged 19-64 require the following daily amounts of vitamin B1 in their diets:
- 1mg a day for men
- 0.8mg a day for women
Riboflavin, or vitamin B2, helps keep the eyes, skin and nervous system healthy and aids the body in releasing energy from foods. It can be found in milk, eggs, asparagus, mushrooms, plain yoghurt, chard, cottage cheese, fish and green beans, so it's easy to source from a balanced diet.
How much vitamin B2 do I need?
Adults aged 19-64 need roughly the following amounts of vitamin B2:
- 1.3mg a day for men
- 1.1mg a day for women
Vitamin B3, also known as niacin, helps the body release energy from foods and keeps the skin and nervous system healthy. Wheat flour, fish, meat, eggs and leafy greens are all good sources of niacin, making it easy to source daily.
How much vitamin B3 do I need?
Adults need roughly the following amounts of vitamin B3 in their daily diets:
- 16.5mg a day for men
- 13.2mg a day for women
Pantothenic acid is the chemical name for vitamin B5, and it's responsible for helping your body produce energy and hormones. It's found in varying amounts in nearly all vegetables, whole grains and meats, but good sources also include avocado, yoghurt, chicken, beef, eggs, mushrooms and some fortified cereals.
How much vitamin B5 do I need?
The UK has no set parameters for how much pantothenic acid is recommended daily, but you should get all you need from a healthy, balanced diet.
Pyridoxine, or Vitamin B6, can be found in various foods, including peanuts, pork, poultry, soya beans, oats, bananas and milk. It helps the body use and store protein and carbohydrates and form haemoglobin to help red blood cells carry oxygen around the body.
How much vitamin B6 do I need?
It is recommended that adults aged 19-64 need roughly the following amounts of vitamin B6:
- 1.4mg a day for men
- 1.2mg a day for women
Vitamin B7, known as biotin, is created naturally in the bowel. The body only needs very small amounts of biotin, contributing to the creation of fatty acids. Biotin also contributes to keratin, a protein which keeps your hair and nails healthy.
How much vitamin B7 do I need?
The body makes biotin naturally, so it doesn't need to source it from food. However, biotin is found in a variety of foods in small amounts.
Vitamin B9, known as folate or folacin, can be found in many foods. It contributes to forming healthy red blood cells and can reduce the risk of neural tube defects and congenital disabilities such as spina bifida in unborn babies. A lack of folate could lead to folate-related anaemia.
Folic acid is an artificial supplement version of folate. It is recommended for those trying for a baby or currently pregnant for the first 12 weeks, as it helps to remove the risk of the baby developing neural tube defects.
Good sources are found in various foods, including leafy greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, chickpeas, kidney beans and peas.
How much vitamin B9 do I need?
To remain healthy, adults need 200 µg (micrograms) of folate daily.
Vitamin B12 helps keep the nervous system healthy, makes red blood cells, helps the body release energy from food, and uses folate. It can be found in meat, fish, milk, cheese, eggs and fortified cereals, and it's worth keeping on top of because a lack of vitamin B12 could lead to vitamin B12 deficiency-related anaemia.
How much vitamin B12 do I need?
It's recommended that adults get 1.5mg of vitamin B12 daily, and it should be easy to source from your diet. However, it is difficult to find in a vegan diet, so it may need to be supplemented.
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, contributes to many important bodily functions, including protecting cells and keeping them healthy, maintaining healthy skin, bones, cartilage and blood vessels and helping to heal wounds.
A lack of vitamin C can lead to scurvy, although this is rare.
Vitamin C can be found in various fruits and vegetables, so it's easy to obtain from a healthy, balanced diet. Potatoes, peppers, strawberries, blackcurrants and citrus fruits are all good sources of vitamin C.
How much vitamin C do I need?
It's recommended that adults get 40mg of Vitamin C daily, as the body can't store it, so it's important to stay on top of your daily intake. Too much vitamin C, over 1000mg, can lead to stomach pain, flatulence and diarrhoea, but this should stop once you've stopped taking vitamin C.
vitamin D also aids teeth, bone and muscle health. A lack of vitamin D can contribute to bone deformities such as rickets in children and can also lead to osteomalacia, a condition that causes bone pain in adults.
In the UK, it's easy to obtain all of the Vitamin D you need from the sun between March and September. However, vitamin D supplements are recommended during the winter as achieving the recommended daily amounts from a healthy diet is difficult.
You can find vitamin D in small amounts in some foods such as oily fish, red meat, liver, eggs and fortified foods, but it may not be large enough to meet recommended daily amounts.
How much vitamin D do I need?
It is recommended that children from the age of 1 and adults get 10 micrograms of vitamin D daily.
Good for maintaining the skin and eyes and strengthening the immune system, vitamin E can be found in a wide variety of foods, including nuts and seeds, wheatgerm and plant oils, and you should be able to get all of the vitamin E you need from your diet.
How much vitamin E do I need?
It’s recommended that adults get the following amounts of vitamin E per day:
- 4mg a day for men
- 3mg a day for women
Vital for blood clotting and helping wounds heal, vitamin K can be found in green leafy vegetables, vegetable oils and cereal grains. Vitamin K also contributes to keeping bones healthy.
How much vitamin K do I need?
The recommended daily allowance of vitamin K is one microgram for every kilogram of their body weight. For example, a person weighing 52 kg would need 52 μg of vitamin K daily. The body can store vitamin K, so you don't need to have it every day.
What do vitamins do?
It's important to get as many of the 13 vitamins into your diet as possible, as each vitamin contributes something different to your health. However, some vitamins can help improve your sleep, ease the symptoms of menopause, and help boost your immune system, so it's good to try to meet the recommended daily amounts of these.
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Find all the vitamins and minerals you need to supplement your healthy diet by shopping the links above at Discount Supplements. Featuring options from industry-leading brands, find options tailored to your needs alongside multivitamins to boost your overall health.