Vitamins are a group of substances that are essential for normal cell function, growth, and development.
There are 13 essential vitamins, meaning they are needed for the body to function. They are:
Vitamins are grouped into two categories:
Each of the vitamins listed below has an important job in the body. A vitamin deficiency occurs when you do not get enough of a certain vitamin. Vitamin deficiency can cause health problems.
Not eating enough fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, whole grains and fortified dairy foods may increase your risk for health problems, including heart disease, cancer, and poor bone health (osteoporosis).
Niacin (vitamin B3):
Thiamine (vitamin B1):
Pyroxidine (vitamin B6):
NOTE: Animal sources of vitamin B12 are absorbed much better by the body than plant sources
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid):
Many people think that if some is good, a lot is better. This is not always the case. High doses of certain vitamins can be poisonous. Ask your doctor what is best for you.
The Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for vitamins reflect how much of each vitamin most people should get each day.
The best way to get all the daily vitamins you need is to eat a balanced diet that contains a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, fortified dairy foods, legumes (dried beans), lentils, and whole grains.
Dietary supplements are another way to get the vitamins you need if the food you eat is not supplying enough vitamins. Supplements can be helpful during pregnancy and for special medical problems.
If you take supplements, DO NOT take more than 100% of the RDA. Be very careful about taking large amounts of fat-soluble vitamin supplements -- vitamins A, D, E, and K. Because these vitamins are stored in fat cells, they can build up in your body and may cause harmful effects.
Escott-Stump S, ed. Nutrition and Diagnosis-Related Care. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2008.
Sarubin Fragaakis A, Thomson C. The Health Professional's Guide to Popular Dietary Supplements. 3rd ed. Chicago, IL. American Dietetic Association; 2007.
Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes: Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, and Choline. National Academy Press, Washington, DC, 2000.
Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes: Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Arsenic, Boron, Chromium, Copper, Iodine, Iron Manganese, Molybdenium, Nickel, Silicon, Vanadium, and Zinc. National Academy Press, Washington, DC, 2001.
Updated by: Alison Evert, MS, RD, CDE, Nutritionist, University of Washington Medical Center Diabetes Care Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
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