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Vitamins and Nutrition



Vitamins and nutrients

Your body needs vitamins and minerals to work right. They do so many things, like keep your teeth strong and help you see.

There are 13 vitamins that your body needs: A, D, E, K, C and 8 different B vitamins. Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat-soluble, which means they stay in your body until you need them. B vitamins and vitamin C are water-soluble. These types are used by your body right away. You can get all of these vitamins from the food you eat. Also, with the help of sunlight, your skin can make vitamin D. Your own body can also make vitamin K.

Like vitamins, you can get important minerals that your body needs each day from eating food. We need certain minerals, like calcium, in larger amounts, and others, like iron, in very small amounts each day.

You can get the vitamins and minerals that you need by eating fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products, and meats. These charts show what each vitamin or mineral does in your body and what foods you should eat to get them. Vitamin pills cannot replace eating healthy foods.


What it does

Some good food sources

Vitamin A Helps you have healthy skin and hair. Also helps with sight, growth, and development.
  • Fortified cereals (cereals that have vitamin A added to them)
  • Mango, cantaloupe, apricot
  • Green vegetables like spinach, kale, turnip greens
  • Carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin
  • Liver
  • Dairy products, like milk, with vitamin A in them
Vitamin C Keeps your gums and teeth healthy, and helps your body absorb iron, which is really important. Fruits and vegetable sources are best, such as:
  • strawberries
  • grapefruits
  • oranges
  • melons
  • mangos
  • broccoli
  • bell peppers
  • tomatoes
  • brussel sprouts
  • cauliflower
  • spinach


Vitamin D Builds strong bones.
  • Fortified cereal
  • Fortified milk (be careful—not all dairy products have vitamin D)
  • Fatty fish
Vitamin E Protects cells in the body.
  • Nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds)
  • Vegetable oils
Vitamin K Clots blood, builds protein, and regulates blood calcium levels.
  • Dark green vegetables
  • Soybean and canola oil
Thiamin (also called vitamin B1) Keeps the nervous system healthy and is needed for energy metabolism.
  • Fortified cereals
  • Whole-grain breads
  • Enriched grain products
  • Rice
  • Beans
  • Nuts
Riboflavin (also called vitamin B2) Gives the body energy and helps normal growth of body tissues.
  • Almonds
  • Dairy products
  • Avocados
  • Fortified grain products
  • Dark green vegetables
Niacin (also called vitamin B3) Breaks down food to give you energy.
  • Fortified cereals
  • Meat and fish
  • Peanuts & peanut butter
  • Whole grain products
Vitamin B6 Helps the brain function right. It also helps the body build proteins to grow and develop.
  • Poultry, fish, pork, beef
  • Nuts, beans
  • Eggs
  • Vegetables
  • Bananas, avocados
  • Fortified cereals
Folate (also called folic acid) Prevents birth defects when taken before and during pregnancy.
  • Cooked, dry beans
  • Peas, peanuts
  • Oranges, orange juice
  • Dark-green leafy vegetables like spinach and mustard greens
  • Fortified cereals
  • Enriched grain products
Vitamin B12 Promotes normal growth and development and help make red blood cells.
  • Animal sources such as salmon, trout, beef, poultry, milk, cheese, and eggs are the best.
  • Fortified cereals
Pantothenic Acid Needed for energy metabolism.
  • Peas
  • Starchy beans-pinto, black & navy beans
  • Lean meat, poultry, fish
  • Whole-grain cereals
Biotin Needed for energy metabolism.
  • Egg yolk, liver



What it does

Some good food sources

Calcium Builds strong bones and teeth.
  • Milk, yogurt, cottage cheese
  • Canned sardines
  • Fortified cereals and juices
  • Calcium-fortified soymilk and tofu
Iron Helps red blood cells carry oxygen to different parts of the body.
  • Organ meats such as liver and chicken gizzard
  • Beef, pork
  • Most legumes such as soybeans and lima beans
Potassium Assists in muscle contraction. It’s also used to balance fluids in the body cells.
  • Fruits and vegetables, like apricots, orange juice, bananas, tomatoes, lima beans, potatoes, plantains
  • Milk, yogurt
Zinc Important for normal growth and sexual development. Your eyes, bones, skin, hair, and nails especially need zinc.
  • Beef and other meats (turkey, fish, and pork)
  • Oysters
  • Whole-grain bread made with yeast
  • Soybeans


Do I need vitamin and mineral supplements? top

Vitamin tablets are sometimes called supplements. A dietary supplement is any product taken by mouth that has a "dietary ingredient." The ingredients in dietary supplements may include vitamins, minerals, herbs, and amino acids, as well as substances such as enzymes, organ tissues, metabolites, extracts or concentrates. Dietary supplements can be found in many forms such as pills, tablets, capsules, liquids or powders. The labels for these products all have to call them dietary supplements.

Steroids are supplements, too, and they can put your health in real danger. Stay away from steroids unless a doctor has given them to you. To learn more, read:
Dietary Supplements: Facts vs. Fads
Are Steroids Worth the Risk?

Some people need vitamin-mineral supplements to meet their nutritional needs. For example, people who rarely eat dairy products may need a calcium supplement. Supplements of some nutrients, such as vitamin A and selenium, can be harmful if taken in large amounts. It is important to note that many supplements have labels that say they are "all natural." While this may be true, "natural" doesn't necessarily mean safe. Supplement advertisers often make promises about what their products can do for you. While some supplements can be good for your health, many do not live up to their claims for better health – they may actually be harmful to you. Be especially wary of products that say things like: "miraculous cure," "secret ingredient," "ancient remedy," and other impressive sounding claims.

It's also important to know that supplements do not need FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approval to be sold. Unlike prescription or over-the-counter medicines, supplements do not have to undergo review to make sure they are safe or that they work.

It is always important to check with your doctor before taking any supplements. Some supplements may harm you, even if the label says they can improve your health.

Fiber top

There are also other important nutrients you can get in foods. One of them is fiber. Some good sources of fiber are dried beans, oats, barley, wheat bran, whole grains, cereals, seeds, and the skins of many fruits and vegetables. Here are just a few reasons why it’s important to eat foods with fiber:

  • It can help your heart.
  • It can help keep you from getting cancer.
  • It helps you digest food better.

Water top

Water is also essential for a healthy body. It makes up about 2/3 of your body weight…so drink lots of it! For more information on water, check out Water Science for Schools.


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