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As the saying goes: You are what you eat—but more importantly, you are what you don’t eat. Eating a balanced diet means foods full of the vitamins your body needs. Vitamins are organic compounds we absorb in small amounts through what we eat. There are two main categories of vitamins: fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins.
“Fat-soluble vitamins, as hinted in the name, exist in the body’s fatty tissues and liver. They can live in the body for long periods of time. On the other hand, water-soluble vitamins circulate the body through the bloodstream, and whatever isn’t absorbed, the body flushes out through urine,” said Jill Darminio, Lead Registered Dietician at Inspira Medical Center Vineland.
When the body doesn’t get enough of the vitamins it needs, you may experience vitamin deficiency. “Vitamin deficiency symptoms vary depending on which vitamin your body is lacking. Generally, this could look like fatigue, shortness of breath or brittle hair,” said Darminio. When left untreated, vitamin deficiency can lead to long-term illness within the nervous system, inflammation and poor bone health.
13 Vitamins Your Body Needs
The 13 vitamins critical to your daily life are: vitamins A, C, D, E, K and several B vitamins known as thiamine (B1) , riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), B6, biotin (B7), folic acid (B9) and B12. Each not only plays a different role in helping your body function, but also is stored differently.
“Vitamin A is fat-soluble, which means it can live in the body for a long time, and it helps with promoting eye health, while vitamin C is water-soluble, which means it gets flushed out of the body, and aids wound healing and bone formation. That is why you need to ensure you are eating enough different types of foods,” said Darminio.
Here’s a summary of your vitamins necessities:
- Vitamin A (fat-soluble): Promotes vision and bone health, can be found in eggs and milk
- Vitamin C (water-soluble): Supports skin health and wound healing, found in citrus fruits
- Vitamin D (fat-soluble): Boosts nerve, muscle and bone health, primarily found in fatty fish
- Vitamin E (fat-soluble): Helps with immunity and the metabolism, found in nuts and peanuts
- Vitamin K (fat-soluble): Generates proteins the body needs, like for blood clotting, found in vegetables and certain fruits like blueberries
- B Vitamins (water-soluble): Promotes overall bodily health, found in eggs, grains and meats
Vitamins Versus Supplements
While most vitamins are introduced to the body through the various food groups, like whole grains and starchy vegetables, fruits, dairy, fish, poultry, meat and eggs, some may need to find alternative sources for their vitamins due to dietary restrictions.
“Getting your vitamins directly from the foods you eat is recommended, but there are instances where personal dietary restrictions may inhibit this. For example, those with vegan or vegetarian diets often need to take B12, as this vitamin occurs naturally in very few plant-based foods. There are also many plant-based foods which are fortified with B12,” said Darminio. If you have already tried finding alternative food supplements with the nutritional benefits you need, you may want to speak with your health care provider about vitamin supplements. Together, you can take a holistic view of your diet and see where you can introduce some supplement support.
Inspira Health is a high reliability organization (HRO), which means safety is the top priority for patients and staff. To make an appointment, call 1-800-INSPIRA.