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Health Connection: January 2020

Top 10 Essential Vitamins and Minerals Your Body Needs

Along with other nutrients, such as proteins, carbohydrates and dietary fats, vitamins and minerals help our body to grow and thrive. Each of these 10 essential vitamins and minerals plays a different role in our overall health. Most of us get what we need in our daily diets, with different foods providing different vitamins and minerals. However, some people may have conditions that require vitamin or mineral supplementation in addition to what they get through their normal diet.

Vitamin A
Vitamin A keeps your heart, lungs, liver and other organs working properly. Also called beta-carotene, it’s important for reproductive, vision and immune system health.

You can get vitamin A from beef liver, salmon, broccoli, carrots, squash, green leafy vegetables, cantaloupe, apricots, mangoes, dairy products and fortified cereals.

Vitamin B
There are eight different essential B vitamins — B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B7 (biotin), B9 (folate) and B12 (cobalamin).

They all help convert carbohydrates, fats and proteins into energy. Several B vitamins are also necessary for cell development, growth and function.

You can get vitamin B from meat, poultry, fish, organ meats, eggs, legumes, seeds, nuts, whole grains, and fortified cereals, breads and pastas.

Vitamin C
Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C boosts the immune system and increases iron absorption from plant-based foods and supplements. Since it’s an antioxidant, vitamin C protects our cells from damaging free radicals. It also aids in wound healing by helping our body produce collagen.

You can get vitamin C from citrus fruits and juices, kiwi fruit, red and green peppers, strawberries, cantaloupe, broccoli, brussels sprouts, tomatoes, tomato juice and baked potatoes.

Vitamin D
Vitamin D builds strong bones by helping our body absorb calcium from food and supplements. It also boosts the functioning of the immune system.

Vitamin D isn’t found naturally in many foods. Known as the “sunshine vitamin,” most of the vitamin D our body gets is absorbed from the sun through our skin. Foods with vitamin D include salmon, tuna, mackerel, beef liver, egg yolks, mushrooms, and fortified dairy and nut milks and cereals.

Vitamin E
Vitamin E protects our cells from free radicals, boosts our immune system and helps prevent blood clots.

You can get vitamin E from sunflower, safflower and wheatgerm oils, sunflower seeds, almonds, peanuts, spinach, Swiss chard, avocados and butternut squash.

Vitamin K
Vitamin K is necessary for blood clotting and healthy bones. You may need more vitamin K if you have had bariatric surgery to lose weight or have a malabsorption disorder.

You can get vitamin K from spinach, kale, lettuce, broccoli, soybeans, blueberries, figs, meat, cheese, eggs and vegetable oils.

Calcium
Roughly 99 percent of calcium in the body is found in bones and teeth, where it is crucial for structural support. The remainder is found in the blood, muscles and intracellular fluids, where it is a critical part of many metabolic, neurological and muscular functions. Postmenopausal women (who have an elevated risk of osteoporosis) and people who don’t consume dairy products (a primary source of calcium) are the most likely to require calcium supplements.

You can get calcium from dairy products, fortified non-dairy milks, fortified orange juice, sardines with bones, tofu, collard green, kale and broccoli.

Iron
Iron is an essential part of building red blood cells, specifically hemoglobin, a protein that bonds with oxygen to oxygen through the blood from the lungs to the cells throughout your body. Vegetarians need to consume almost twice as much iron daily because the iron in plant-based food is less available to the body than the iron found in animal products. Pregnant women and people with iron-deficient anemia may also need supplements.

You can get iron from meat (especially red meat and liver), seafood, lentils, beans, tofu, cashews and broccoli.

Magnesium
Magnesium plays an important role in the function of more than 300 enzymes that regulate various processes in the body, including muscle and nerve function, heart rhythms and glucose control. Older adults and people with diabetes may need supplements.

You can get magnesium from almonds, spinach, cashews, peanuts, beans, potatoes, brown rice, dairy products, oats, chicken, beef and broccoli.

Zinc
Zinc is a mineral that plays an important role in immune function and is essential for normal growth and development during pregnancy and childhood. Vegetarians may also need supplements since the zinc found in plant-based foods is less available to the body than that found in meat and fish.

You can get zinc from red meat, poultry, seafood, dairy products, whole grains, beans and nuts.

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