It can be easy to lose track of all the vitamins out there. It's even easier to forget how exactly they help our bodies. Let’s see, vitamin A heals wounds and vitamin C improves eyesight, wait, what was it again? There are so many, it feels like there should be a vitamin Z. Here are the basics for vitamins, what they do and how to get them in healthy amounts.|
Function: As well as being necessary to new cell growth, vitamin A helps fight infections, and is essential for healthy skin, good blood, strong bones and teeth. It also plays essential roles in the kidneys, bladder, lungs and membranes, as well as helping maintain good eyesight. Vitamin A also helps eyes adjust to changes in levels of light.
Sources: Fish liver oils, liver, dairy products, carrots, cantaloupe, peaches, squash, tomatoes, and all green and yellow fruits and vegetables can fuel the body with vitamin A. Note: Many plants contain beta carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A. Dark green leafy vegetables and yellow and orange vegetables and fruits are excellent sources of beta carotene.
Recommended daily intake: It is recommended that women consume 800 mcg and men consume 1000 mcg of vitamin A daily. Like other fat-soluble vitamins, vitamin A can be harmful when too much is consumed. Too much can lead to toxicity and other health problems, including an increased risk of fractures in postmenopausal women, nausea, blurred vision, and irritation. In more severe forms of overconsumption, it can lead to hair loss, growth retardation, and an enlarged spleen and liver. Too little vitamin A (though rare in the United States) can lead to night blindness, eye inflammation, and diarrhea.
Function: Vitamin B-6 helps the brain function at its peak and the body convert protein to usable energy. It is also needed for the production of red blood cells and antibodies.
Source: Meats, whole grain products, bananas, green leafy vegetables, pecans, eggs, and milk are excellent sources of B-6.
Recommended daily intake: Women require 1.6 mg of B-6 daily, while men need 2 mg. Daily intake of over 250 mg can lead to nerve damage. Pregnant women should not take more than the recommended amount as it could harm a developing fetus. As a water-soluble vitamin, B-6 must be replenished each day. Any B-6 not used is eliminated in urine, thus new sources are always needed.
Function: Vitamin B-12 works with folic acid to produce healthy red blood cells. Also, it plays key roles in maintaining health of the nervous system, absorption of foods, protein synthesis, carbohydrate and fat metabolism, and normal digestion.