4 Essential Vitamins: What You Need to Know

Learn about 4 essential fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K that are important for optimal health. Find out what each letter does from A (vitamin A) to Z (zinc) and how to get them from food or dietary supplements.

4 Essential Vitamins: What You Need to Know

Vitamins are organic compounds that the body needs to perform all its essential functions, such as tissue growth, the regulation of metabolism and the maintenance of a healthy immune system. There are 13 essential vitamins, vitamins A, C, D, E, K and B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, B6, B12 and folic acid). Of these 13 essential vitamins, four fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K are particularly important for optimal health. The best way to get all the vitamins you need every day is to eat a balanced diet that contains a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, fortified dairy products, legumes (dried beans), lentils and whole grains.

If you need a boost, dietary supplements are another way to get the vitamins you need if the foods you eat don't provide enough vitamins. Look for a supplement that contains the vitamin or mineral you need without a lot of other unnecessary ingredients.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is often found in carrots and other vegetables with similar pigmentation. Orange juice, cherries, red peppers, kale and grapefruit are some examples of foods where this popular vitamin is found.

Vitamin A helps resist infections and keep nerves healthy.

Vitamin D

In today's high-tech world, many people spend time away from the sun and therefore supplement vitamin D3 to ensure healthy levels. Vitamin D helps the body get energy from food or helps the blood to clot properly.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. The richest sources of vitamin E are nuts and seeds such as almonds and sunflower seeds.

Vitamin K

Vitamin K helps with blood clotting and bone health. The richest sources of vitamin K are fish, beef liver, potatoes and other starchy vegetables, and fruits (except citrus fruits).

However, excessive consumption of some vitamins and minerals can be harmful. Therefore it is important to consult with your doctor before taking any dietary supplements. For those of us who aren't nutritionists, dieticians or natural health experts, the letters and numbers that explain the world of healthy foods can seem quite overwhelming. But one thing is certain: experts recommend feeding the body with healthy foods before resorting to supplements. The best thing you can do is to make sure you eat a balanced diet with as many whole foods as possible.

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Darlene Flint
Darlene Flint

A blogger who covers about health supplements in depth and educating people before they start taking it.