What Exactly Do Vitamins and Minerals Do?
Vitamin A (retinol)
- Benefits: Eyesight, appetite, growth, and taste. Oral and topical retinoids are also used to treat acne and other common skin conditions.
- Signs of Deficiency: Night-blindness, which is the inability to see in darkness or low-light. A deficiency can also increase a person’s risk of infection and result in anemia.
- Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA): 900 mcg/day ages 14 and up.
- Food Sources: Liver, fish oil, milk, eggs, carrots, green leafy vegetables, squash, cantaloupe, broccoli, and fortified cereals.
Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
- Benefits: Useful in supporting the nervous system and repairing alcohol-damaged nerve tissues. This vitamin is useful in treating digestive problems, such as chronic diarrhea, ulcerative colitis, and poor appetite. Thiamine is also useful for boosting the immune system, easing diabetic pain, and assisting people with heart disease and vision problems due to glaucoma or cataracts.
- Signs of Deficiency: Fatigue, depression, irritability, tingling sensations in the hands and feet, poor appetite, and difficulty concentrating.
- Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA): 1.1 mg for women; 1.2 mg for men.
- Food Sources: Most foods will contain small amounts, but larger quantities can be found in organ meats and pork. Other good sources are whole grains, rice, brewer’s yeast, wheat germ, and blackstrap molasses.
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
- Benefits: Growth of skin, hair, and nails. It is also used for treating acne, muscle cramps, carpal tunnel syndrome, and blood disorders like red blood cell aplasia. This vitamin is possibly effective for treating migraine headaches and preventing cataracts.
- Signs of Deficiency: Chapped lips, eye irritability, sensitivity to light, infections of the throat and mouth, sore lips and tongue, bloodshot eyes.
- Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA): 1.4 mg
- Food Sources: Milk, red meat, green vegetables, enriched flour, nuts, and eggs.
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
- Benefits: Useful in the treatment of anemia, helping the body to absorb carbohydrates and protein, and preventing problems with the nervous system. It is also shown to minimize the side effects of drugs like cycloserine and can prevent certain types of seizures in newborns.
- Signs of Deficiency: Inflammation, problems with nutrient absorption, and an overactive thyroid.
- Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA): 1.3 mg/day for men and women ages 19-50. At age 51, it is recommended that men increase their daily dosage to 1.7 mg
- Food Sources: Fish, liver, bananas, carrots, spinach, milk, chicken, cheese, pork, whole grains, potatoes, and dried beans
Vitamin B12 (cobalamin)
- Benefits: Creates new red blood cells and helps new nerves to form. It can also be used to boost the mood, to reverse memory loss, and to improve the immune system.
- Signs of Deficiency: Early signs are tingling of the hands and feet and fatigue. Long-term damage that can result may include dementia, deafness, and blindness.
- Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA): 2.4 microgram in adults; 2.6 mcg in pregnant women
- Food Sources: Eggs, shellfish, meat, cheese, milk, liver, fortified cereals.
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)
- Benefits: Boosts the immune system to protect against eye disease, prenatal health problems, cardiovascular disease, and wrinkling skin. Also helps to heal wounds and reduce cholesterol.
- Signs of Deficiency: Fatigue, wounds that are slow to heal, bleeding gums.
- Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA): 500mg
- Food Sources: Citrus fruits, chili peppers, kiwi fruit, red and green bell peppers, berries, tomatoes, kale, cauliflower, potatoes, and broccoli.
- Benefits: This vitamin is essential for growth, repair, and formation of bones and assists with normal absorption of calcium in the body. High levels of vitamin D may also reduce the risk of developing colorectal cancer.
- Signs of Deficiency: Bone pain, unhealthy teeth, muscle weakness, cognitive impairments within older adults.
- Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA): 600 IU for adults up to age 70; 800 IU for adults over the age of 70.
- Food Sources: Milk products, tuna, salmon, herring, sardines, and fish oil. While not a food source, sunlight is actually one of the best ways to get a healthy dose of vitamin D.
Vitamin E (tocopherol)
- Benefits: Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant, so it is useful in fighting toxins. It is effective in treating the movement disorder ataxia and is possibly effective for the treatment of memory loss in patients living with Alzheimer’s disease, blood disorders, bladder cancer, and nerve damage resulting from chemotherapy.
- Signs of Deficiency: Muscle weakness, anemia, vision changes, male infertility, and other neurological problems.
- Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA): 15 mg
- Food Sources: Nuts, soy beans, seeds, vegetable oil, cereals, broccoli, sprouts, spinach, wheat germ oil, and eggs.
- Benefits: Aids in the production of red blood cells, and is essential in the prevention of certain birth defects during pregnancy, including cleft lips, cleft palates, and spina bifida.
- Signs of Deficiency: Fatigue due to anemia.
- Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA): 200 micrograms. However, women who are intending to conceive, and women who are pregnant, should take 400 mcg. This dosage should be continued through the first trimester of pregnancy.
- Food Sources: Carrots, okra, yeast, asparagus, liver, lemons, egg yolks, melon, tomato juice, apricots, pumpkin, mushrooms, avocado, beans, and orange juice.
- Benefits: Promotes strong bones and teeth and prevents osteoporosis, a condition characterized by weak bones that are easily broken. Also assists with blood clotting, muscle contraction, and nerve function.
- Signs of Deficiency: Unhealthy teeth and bones that break easily.
- Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA): 1,000 mg/day for adults up to age 50; 1,200 mg/day for women over age 51.
- Food Sources: Milk, cheese, yogurts, sardines, spinach, collard greens, kale, turnips, fortified cereals, soybeans, enriched breads and grains.
- Benefits: Helps to form red blood cells and transfers oxygen to various parts of the body. Iron is essential in muscle function and supplying adequate oxygen to the brain.
- Signs of Deficiency: Fatigue, lack of energy, concentration difficulties, and irritability.
- Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA): 18 mg for adults; 27 mg for pregnant women.
- Food Sources: Lean red meat, nuts, oily fish, egg yolks, green leafy vegetables, beans, and fortified grains.
- Benefits: Keeps the immune system health, regulates the blood pressure, and promotes the breakdown of carbohydrates, fat, and protein.
- Signs of Deficiency: Skin lesions, poor heart health, muscle cramps, tremors, diarrhea, respiratory issues, dizziness, slow wound healing, type II diabetes, growth problems among children.
- Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA): 310mg – 400mg.
- Food Sources: Meat, shellfish, milk, nuts, legumes, spinach, and whole grains. Foods that contain dietary fiber should also provide magnesium, and the mineral is often added to cereals and other fortified food products.
- Benefits: Boosts the immune system to help treat ear infections and the common cold. Can also be used to fight night blindness, macular degeneration, and cataracts.
- Signs of Deficiency: Slow wound healing, acute diarrhea, stunted growth in children, lesions on the eyes, throat, and skin.
- Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA): 8 mg for adult females; 11 mg for adult males. Pregnant women are encouraged to increase their dosage to 11 mg.
- Food Sources: Oysters, nuts, lobster, crab, beans, dairy products, and whole grains.