The days of Flintstones’ vitamins have long been replaced by a dizzying selection of nutrients-in-pill form that assert improvements to your health for just about any condition imaginable. But sifting through all the hype can be daunting. Here’s a breakdown of your basic vitamin requirements, and what form they are best supplied in (spoiler alert—food sources always trump manufactured sources).
Your skin, hair, and eye-health all need adequate levels of vitamin A to function. As a cream, prescription strength Vitamin A in the form of retinol can help with acne and has anti-aging properties. Vitamin A can be found in liver, fish, cheese, and is a standard component of any multivitamin.
Also known as thiamine, it is important for heart, gut, and brain health, as well as circulation and metabolism. Good sources include beef, liver, beans, and nuts. Generally included in any multivitamin, when taken in conjunction with Vitamin B2 and Vitamin B3, thiamine is particularly helpful in warding off dementia in the elderly.
Known as riboflavin, this super vitamin is important in a number of systems including the body’s metabolism, immunity, and neurological function. It can be found in dairy products, edamame, fish, mushrooms, dark leafy greens, and asparagus and broccoli.
In addition, whole grains contain riboflavin, and it is typically added as a fortifier to cereal and bread. Because it has a small degree of bioavailability, this vitamin is a particularly important one to seek out in supplement form. Not only does it help the absorption of other vitamins and minerals, but it plays a role in virtually every aspect of health.
Deficiencies in this riboflavin can contribute to a number of ailments ranging from eye problems, adrenal complications, and circulation disorders.
Niacin is another vitamin typically used to fortify grains. It helps with indigestion, skin issues, neurological conditions like migraines, and cardiac disease. It can be found in meat and meat alternatives like soy, as well as in any standard multi or B-complex vitamin supplement.
Pantothenic acid helps with skin issues, cholesterol, arthritis and even regulates stress. Included in any B-complex vitamin or naturally sources from mushrooms, fish, avocado, eggs and chicken.
Pyridoxine can help with reproductive issues, including morning sickness, as well as diabetes and insomnia. It can be found in milk, cheese, fish, carrot, spinach, and sweet potato. Included in B-complex vitamins as one of the essential eight B vitamins.
Biotin is a great vitamin to take for hair, nail, and skin health. IT can be found in liver, peanuts, pork, cheese, raspberries, cauliflower, and egg yolk.
Also known as folic acid, this vitamin is essential for blood production, brain growth, and gout. It can be found in leafy greens, citrus, beans, bread, rice, and pasta. Pregnant woman need to take additional supplements of folic acid to prevent neural tube defects in their developing babies.
A lack of Vitamin B12—or cyanocobalamin—can mimic a number of neurological conditions and is important to prevent anemia, liver and kidney diseases, and attacks on the brain, like stroke. One of the few vitamins that is not well absorbed in the gut, those deficient in cyanocobalamin must have it administered via intramuscular injection.
Ascorbic acid helps with just about every system in the body, but is especially needed for immune health, blood pressure regulation, and brain function. An essential antioxidant, it can be found in high amounts in citrus fruits and is a part of any decent multivitamin.
Vitamin D is needed for healthy bones and teeth. Recently, it has been studied for its cancer-fighting capabilities. It can be ingested through dairy products, or taken alone as a supplement, particularly for people who live in overcast climates because it requires activation from sunlight to be used in the body.
Also known as tocopherol, is important for eye, brain, reproductive, and skin health. Often included in lotions and creams, it can also be consumed in nuts, oils, sunflower seeds, and green, leafy vegetables.
Vitamin K is needed for proper blood clotting, nerve conduction, and bone health. It can be found mainly in plants, especially in green, leafy veggies like kale and spinach. This vitamin is not typically one that people are deficient in, as only small amounts are needed.