Miniguide to Vitamins

Biotin   |   Folate   |   Pantothenic Acid   |   Vitamin A   |   Vitamin B-1   |   Vitamin B-2   |   Vitamin B-3   |   Vitamin B-6   |   Vitamin B-12   |   Vitamin C   |   Vitamin D   |   Vitamin E   |   Vitamin K

Image of a variety of vitamins in pill form.

The following can help you plan a diet that provides adequate amounts of the essential vitamins indicated. Diet, however, cannot always satisfy the need for all vitamins. Pregnancy, menstruation, illness, crash dieting, food allergies, use of medication, or other circumstances may call for vitamin supplements. Check with your doctor about taking vitamin supplements. Follow his or her advice.

* Reference Daily Intake (RDI) is a value set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in nutrition labeling. It is based on the highest Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for each nutrient, to assure that needs be met for all age groups.

Biotin

Primary Functions

Get the Nutrients You Need

Helps release energy from protein. Also involved in metabolism of fats and carbohydrates and formation of fatty acids. Works with other B vitamins.

Food Sources

Liver and other organ meats, egg yolks, nuts, legumes, cauliflower, mushrooms, green beans, dark green vegetables.

Dietary Reference Intake (DRI)*

30 micrograms

Deficiency Symptoms

Deficiencies do not occur under normal circumstances. Raw egg whites can destroy biotin, and metabolic disturbances can interfere with use, causing anemia, nausea, muscular pain, fatigue, depression, poor appetite.

Folate

Primary Functions

Aids in the formation of hemoglobin in red blood cells and of enzymes and other body cells. Can help prevent serious birth defects of the brain and spine.

Food Sources

Liver and other organ meats, dark green leafy vegetables, asparagus, lima beans, whole grains, nuts, legumes.

Dietary Reference Intake (DRI)*

400 micrograms+

Deficiency Symptoms

Anemia; red, swollen, smooth tongue; diarrhea; poor growth.

Women should take 400 to 800 micrograms of folic acid for at least one month before getting pregnant and during the pregnancy. Women who have had a baby with a serious problem of the brain or spine should take the amount of folic acid their doctors advise.

Pantothenic Acid

Primary Functions

Helps in the metabolism of protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Involved in formation of hormones and nerve-regulating substances.

Food Sources

In all plant and animal foods, but best sources are organ meats, whole grains, fresh vegetables, egg yolks.

Dietary Reference Intake (DRI)*

5 milligrams

Deficiency Symptoms

Fatigue, tingling in hands and feet, severe abdominal cramps, nausea, difficulty sleeping.

Vitamin A

Primary Functions

Essential for healthy skin, hair, and mucous membranes. Required for normal vision. Needed for proper tooth and bone development and for resistance to infection.

Food Sources

Liver, eggs, fortified milk and dairy products. The following contain carotene, which converts to vitamin A after they’re eaten: dark green vegetables; deep yellow fruits such as apricots, peaches, cantaloupe, carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, squash.

Dietary Reference Intake (DRI)*

3,000 International units

Deficiency Symptoms

Night Blindness; dry, rough, scaly skin; susceptibility to infection; dry eyes; stunted bone growth; poor tooth enamel leading to cavities. (Deficiency disease: hypovitaminosis A.)

Vitamin B-1 (Thiamin)

Primary Functions

Release of energy from the carbohydrates in food, appetite regulation, growth and muscle tone, proper function of heart and nervous system.

Food Sources

Lean meat (especially pork), oysters, organ meats and liver, green peas, legumes, collard greens, oranges, asparagus, whole grains.

Dietary Reference Intake (DRI)*

1.2 milligrams

Deficiency Symptoms

Loss of appetite, fatigue, mental confusion, moodiness, irritability, forgetfulness, muscle weakness, leg cramps, enlarged heart. (Deficiency disease: beriberi.)

Vitamin B-2 (Riboflavin)

Primary Functions

Helps cells use oxygen. Important in metabolism of protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Helps keep skin and mucous membranes (in mouth and lining of digestive tract) healthy.

Food Sources

Organ meats, milk and dairy products, oysters, lean meat, chicken, dark green vegetables, sardines, eggs, tuna, whole grains, legumes.

Dietary Reference Intake (DRI)*

1.3 milligrams

Deficiency Symptoms

Skin disorders, especially cracks at corners of mouth; dermatitis around nose and lips; hypersensitivity to light; reddening of cornea; digestive disturbances.

Vitamin B-3 (Niacin)

Primary Functions

Participates in metabolism of protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Helps cells use oxygen. Promotes healthy skin, nerves, and digestive tract. Aids digestion and fosters normal appetite.

Food Sources

Liver, lean meat, fish, poultry, nuts, legumes, dark green vegetables, whole grains. The following are good sources of tryptophan, which can be converted to niacin in your body: milk, eggs, meat.

Dietary Reference Intake (DRI)*

16 milligrams

Deficiency Symptoms

Skin disorders (especially on parts of body exposed to sun); red, swollen, smooth tongue; digestive tract disturbances, including indigestion and diarrhea; mental disorders, including irritability, depression, anxiety, and mental confusion. (Deficiency disease: pellegra.)

Vitamin B-6 (Pyridoxine)

Primary Functions

Aids in metabolism of protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Assists in formation of red blood cells and antibodies. Involved in sodium-potassium balance.

Food Sources

Lean meat, liver and other organ meats, fish, nuts, legumes, whole grains, poultry, corn, bananas.

Dietary Reference Intake (DRI)*

1.3 milligrams

Deficiency Symptoms

Dermatitis, cracks at corners of mouth, smooth tongue, irritability, depression, convulsions, dizziness, anemia.

Vitamin B-12 (Cyanocobalamin)

Primary Functions

Aids in formation of red blood cells. Maintains healthy nervous system. Aids metabolism of protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Essential for normal growth and development.

Food Sources

Organ meats, lean meat, egg yolks, dairy products, fish (especially shellfish).

Dietary Reference Intake (DRI)*

2.4 micrograms

Deficiency Symptoms

Anemia; numbness and tingling in fingers; degeneration of peripheral nerves, brain, and spinal cord; fatigue; poor growth.

Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)

Primary Functions

Forms collagen to hold body cells together. Helps maintain walls of blood vessels and capillaries. Helps maintain bones and teeth. Helps heal wounds. Helps absorb iron and aids resistance to infection. Prevents destruction of B vitamins through oxidation.

Food Sources

Brussels sprouts, strawberries, oranges, broccoli, green peppers, grapefruit, collard greens, cauliflower, cantaloupe, tangerines, cabbage, tomatoes, asparagus.

Dietary Reference Intake (DRI)*

90 milligrams

Deficiency Symptoms

Weakness; fatigue; loss of appetite; weight loss; irritability; slow growth; increased risk of infection; swollen, inflamed, and bleeding gums; swollen and aching joints; easy bruising; nosebleeds; delayed wound healing. (Deficiency disease: scurvy.)

Vitamin D

Primary Functions

Increases absorption of calcium and phosphorus. Assists in several phases of calcium and phosphorus metabolism, aiding in bone and tooth development. Seems to protect against colon cancer in some way.

Food Sources

Fortified milk, egg yolks, organ meats, fortified breakfast cereals. Vitamin D is formed in skin exposed to sunlight.

Dietary Reference Intake (DRI)*

600 International units

Deficiency Symptoms

During growth years: poor bone and tooth formation, bowed legs, stunted growth, muscle weakness (causing protruding abdomen). Later in life: softening of bones; loss of calcium from bones; pain in pelvis, back, and legs; easily broken bones; muscle twitching and spasms. (Deficiency diseases: rickets in children and osteomalacia in older adults.)

Vitamin E

Primary Functions

Protects essential fatty acids and vitamin A from oxidation. Protects red blood cells. Helps cells use oxygen to yield energy.

Food Sources

Plant oils (used in margarine and salad dressings), wheat germ, green leafy vegetables, nuts, whole grains, liver, egg yolks, legumes, fruits, other vegetables.

Dietary Reference Intake (DRI)*

22.5 International units

Deficiency Symptoms

Red blood cell breakage and muscle weakness. Deficiency is highly unlikely in humans, as vitamin E is widely distributed in foods and stored in the body.

Vitamin K

Primary Functions

Aids in formation of blood clotting proteins. Aids in regulation of blood calcium.

Food Sources

Green leafy vegetables, cabbage-family vegetables, liver, egg yolks, milk. (Also, bacteria synthesizes vitamin K in the digestive tract.)

Dietary Reference Intake (DRI)*

120 micrograms

Deficiency Symptoms

Tendency to hemorrhage, delayed blood clotting.

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