Vitamins and Minerals!

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Vitamins and minerals are two of the main types of nutrients that our body needs to survive and stay healthy.

Vitamins help our body grow and work the way it should. There are 13 vitamins—vitamins A, C, D, E, K, and the B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, B6, B12, and folate).

Vitamins A, D, E, K are fat soluble and remaining vitamins are water soluble. Water-soluble vitamin is one that dissolves in water and as a result, is easily absorbed into the tissues of the body and metabolized more quickly than fat-soluble vitamins. There is less risk for toxicity, but at the same time, we have to regularly replenish them through our diet.

Fat-soluble vitamins, on the other hand, do not immediately leave the body, instead, are stored in the liver and fatty tissue. Because these vitamins are stored in the body, excess is more likely, which is not necessarily a good thing. That’s why it is important to stick within the recommended guidelines.

Vitamins have different jobs:

  • Helps in resisting infections
  • keeps the nerves healthy
  • Helps our body to get energy from food
  • Helps blood to clot properly

Vitamin A:

Vitamin A is important for normal vision, the immune system, and reproduction. Vitamin A also helps the heart, lungs, kidneys, and other organs work properly.

Food sources: In plant-based products, Vitamin A is present as beta-carotene. In animal-based products, it is preformed vitamin A.

  • Green leafy vegetables and other green, orange, and yellow vegetables, such as broccoli, carrots, and squash
  • Fruits, including cantaloupe, apricots, and mangoes
  • Salmon fish, beef liver, dairy products
  • Fortified breakfast cereals

Consuming high amounts of beta-carotene can turn the skin yellow-orange, but this condition is harmless.

Daily requirement can vary from 600 mcg to 3000 mcg depending on your age and other conditions like pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Deficiency: Vitamin A deficiency is more common in developing countries and rare in US. Vitamin A deficiency can cause night blindness and vision loss.

Toxicity: High intake of Vitamin A can be harmful. It can cause dizziness, nausea, headache, coma and even death. If pregnant women consume high amount of vitamin A from animal based products, it can cause birth defects in their babies. But, high intakes of beta-carotene do not cause birth defects.

Vitamin B complex: Vitamin B complex is composed of eight B vitamins:

  • B-1 (Thiamine)
  • B-2 (Riboflavin)
  • B-3 (Niacin)
  • B-5 (Pantothenic acid)
  • B-6 (Pyridoxine)
  • B-7 (Biotin)
  • B-9 (Folic acid)
  • B-12 (Cobalamin)

Each of these essential vitamins contributes to your overall bodily function. Vitamin B complex helps prevent infections and helps support or promote:

  • Cell health
  • Growth of red blood cells
  • Energy levels
  • Good eyesight
  • Healthy brain function
  • Good digestion
  • Healthy appetite
  • Proper nerve function
  • Hormones and cholesterol production
  • Cardiovascular health
  • Muscle tone

Daily requirement varies based on age, gender (male, female). Older adults and pregnant women need higher amounts of vitamin B. Your doctor can provide dosage information tailored to your individual needs. Certain health conditions can reduce the absorption of vitamin B and you might need supplementation, like HIV, Chron’s disease, alcohol dependence, kidney problems, rheumatoid arthritis, Celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease.

Deficiency: The following symptoms may be a sign that you are not getting enough B vitamins1:

  • Skin rashes
  • Cracks around the mouth
  • Scaly skin on the lips
  • Swollen tongue
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Anemia
  • Confusion
  • Irritability or depression
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Numbness or tingling in the feet and hands

Food sources:

  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Eggs
  • Liver and kidney
  • Meat, such as chicken and red meat
  • Fish, such as tuna, mackerel, and salmon
  • Oysters and clams
  • Dark green vegetables, such as spinach and kale
  • Vegetables, such as beets, avocados, and potatoes
  • Whole grains and cereals
  • Beans, such as kidney beans, black beans, and chickpeas
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Fruits, such as citrus, banana, and watermelon
  • Soy products, wheat germ and yeast.

Vitamin B12 is generally not present in plant foods. Diabetic drug like Metformin can reduce the absorption of vitamin B12.

You should not take a supplement unless your doctor has confirmed that you are deficient in a specific B vitamin. You may be more likely to need supplementation if you:

  • are age 50 or older
  • are pregnant
  • have certain chronic health conditions
  • eat a vegetarian diet (no meat, but use dairy products)
  • eat a vegan diet (no dairy, fish or animal-food)


  • Excessive thirst
  • Skin conditions
  • Blurry vision
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Increased urination
  • Diarrhea
  • Skin flushing

I want to highlight this CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommendation: CDC urges all women of reproductive age to take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid each day, in addition to consuming food with folate from a varied diet, to help prevent some major birth defects of the baby’s brain (anencephaly) and spine/spinal cord (spina bifida). The following image shows how horrible the consequences of folic acid deficiency. Sorry for the scary image.

This is important as half of pregnancies are unplanned and major birth defects of baby’s brain or spine occur by 3-4 weeks of pregnancy, which means before the woman knows she is pregnant.

It is difficult to get 400 mcg daily through diet, so supplementation is required. You can get folic acid from leafy green vegetables, such as spinach, beans, Citrus fruits, such as orange juice as well as from fortified foods like bread, Cereals, rice and pasta.

Once a woman starts consuming 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day, it can take several months for her to have a blood folate concentration that is high enough to help prevent neural tube defects. You should start taking it at least one month before getting pregnant.

Vitamin C or Ascorbic acid: it acts as an anti-oxidant, means protects from the damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are compounds formed when our bodies convert the food we eat into energy. People are also exposed to free radicals in the environment from cigarette smoke, air pollution, and ultraviolet light from the sun. Vitamin C improves absorption of iron, in making collagen (a protein required to help wound healing) and helps the immune system work properly to protect from diseases.

The daily requirement depends on your age and it can vary from 40 mg to 120 mg.

Food sources: Citrus fruits (such as oranges and grapefruit), strawberries, cantaloupe, red and green peppers, kiwifruit, vegetables like broccoli, baked potatoes, and tomatoes. You can also get it from foods and beverages that are fortified with vitamin C. vitamin C can be reduced by prolonged storage, steaming, microwaving etc.

Deficiency: it can cause Scurvy, which means inflammation of gums, poor would healing, red-purple spots on the skin and corkscrew hair. Vitamin C supplements do not reduce the risk of getting the common cold. However, people who take vitamin C supplements regularly might have slightly shorter colds or somewhat milder symptoms when they do have a cold. Using vitamin C supplements after cold symptoms start does not appear to be helpful.

Toxicity: Excessive vitamin C can cause nausea, diarrhea and stomach cramps.

Vitamin D is sometimes called the “sunshine vitamin” because it is produced in your skin in response to sunlight. Despite its name, vitamin D is not a vitamin, but a prohormone, or precursor of a hormone. It is a fat-soluble vitamin in a family of compounds that includes

  • Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol)-is a synthetic form (fortified foods), found in plant foods (mushrooms, yeast)
  • Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol)-our liver makes it when exposed to sunlinght and found in animal sources

Cholecalciferol is converted in the liver to calcifediol (25-hydroxycholecalciferol); ergocalciferol is converted to 25-hydroxyergocalciferol. These two vitamin D metabolites (called 25-hydroxyvitamin D or 25(OH)D) are measured in serum to determine a person’s vitamin D status.

Vitamin D has multiple roles in the body. It is found in cells throughout the body. The benefits of Vitamin D are:

      • It is necessary for healthy bones and teeth. People who get too little vitamin D may develop soft, thin, and brittle bones, a condition known as rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.
      • It supports the immune system. Hence, reduces the risk of getting flu.
      • It reduces the risk of MS (multiple sclerosis) which is an autoimmune condition
      • Reduces the risk of heart disease
      • Plays an important role in regulating mood and helps with depression
      • Calcium and vitamin D combination has an appetite-suppressing effect and helps to lose weight
      • Some studies suggest that vitamin D may protect against colon cancer and perhaps even cancers of the prostate and breast
      • It is important for brain and nervous system health
      • Regulates insulin levels and supports diabetes management
      • Supports lung function and cardiovascular health

The daily requirement depends on your age. It can range from 400-800 IU (10-20 mcg). However, some studies have shown that the daily intake needs to be higher than that if you aren’t being exposed to sun. A daily vitamin D intake of 1000–4000 IU, or 25–100 micro-grams, should be enough to get the normal blood levels.

Food sources: Very few foods naturally have vitamin D. Fortified foods provide most of the vitamin D in American diets.

  • Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel are among the best sources.
  • Beef liver and egg yolks provide small amounts.
  • Mushrooms provide some vitamin D. In some mushrooms that are newly available in stores, the vitamin D content is being boosted by exposing these mushrooms to ultraviolet light.
  • Almost all of the U.S. milk supply is fortified with 400 IU of vitamin D per quart, and so are many of the plant-based alternatives such as soy milk, almond milk, and oat milk. But foods made from milk, like cheese and ice cream, are usually not fortified.
  • Vitamin D is added to many breakfast cereals and to some brands of orange juice, yogurt, margarine, and soy beverages; check the labels.

The body makes vitamin D when skin is directly exposed to the sun, and most people meet at least some of their vitamin D needs this way. Skin exposed to sunshine indoors through a window will not produce vitamin D. Cloudy days, shade, and having dark-colored skin also cut down on the amount of vitamin D the skin makes. 10–15 minutes of sun exposure, between 10 am to 2 pm, few times a week is harmless, but that exposure can have consequences over your lifetime. It is very important to keep in mind that exposure to UVA in sunlight can increase the risk of skin cancer. You are likely to get enough vitamin D through food, and increasing your intake of vitamin D through sun exposure is not worth the added risk. Excessive sun exposure doesn’t cause vitamin D toxicity because the body limits the amount of this vitamin it produces.

The upper limit that healthcare professionals recommend for vitamin D is 4,000 IU per day for an adult. The excessive of vitamin D causes headache, nausea, loss of appetite, dry mouth, a metallic taste, vomiting, constipation and diarrhea.

The majority of Americans have blood levels lower than 75 nmol/L (30 ng/mL). Do not take supplement without checking the blood level.

Breastfed infants, people with dark skin (dark skin has less ability to produce vitamin D from the sun), people with strict vegan diet (as most of the natural sources are animal-based food), people with Chron’s disease and Celiac disease and obese people may need vitamin D supplementation.

Vitamin E:It is a fat-soluble vitamin.

Benefits are:

  • It acts as an antioxidant, helping to protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals. 
  • It boosts the immune system and helps in fighting viruses and bacteria
  • It keeps blood from clotting
  • Good for cardiovascular health

Daily requirement ranges from 4-19 mg.

Food sources:

  • Vegetable oils like wheat germ, sunflower, and safflower oils are among the best sources of vitamin E. Corn and soybean oils also provide some vitamin E.
  • Nuts (such as peanuts, hazelnuts, and, especially, almonds) and seeds (like sunflower seeds) are also among the best sources of vitamin E.
  • Green vegetables, such as spinach and broccoli, provide some vitamin E.
  • Food companies add vitamin E to some breakfast cereals, fruit juices, margarines and spreads, and other foods.

Deficiency: Vitamin E deficiency is very rare in healthy people. It is almost always linked to certain diseases in which fat is not properly digested or absorbed. Examples include Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, and certain rare genetic diseases such as abetalipoproteinemia and ataxia with vitamin E deficiency (AVED).

Vitamin E deficiency can cause nerve and muscle damage that results in loss of feeling in the arms and legs, loss of body movement control, muscle weakness, and vision problems. Another sign of deficiency is a weakened immune system.

Toxicity: Excessive vitamin E intake can cause blood thinning and lead to fatal bleeding. It can cause one type of stroke (bleeding in the brain). Due to that, large doses of vitamin E supplements should not be taken. Usually, eating vitamin E rich foods does not cause toxicity. Daily intake of 1,000 mg does not cause overdosing.

Vitamin K:It is a fat soluble vitamin.


  • It is important for blood clotting and healthy bones.
  • It helps to keep our heart healthy.  

If you are taking a blood thinner such as warfarin (Coumadin), it is very important to get about the same amount of vitamin K each day.

Daily requirement ranges from 2-90 mcg.

Food sources:

  • Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, broccoli, and lettuce
  • Vegetable oils
  • Some fruits, such as blueberries and figs
  • Meat, cheese, eggs, and soybeans
  • Friendly bacteria in our gut make Vitamin K.


  • Severe vitamin K deficiency can cause bruising and bleeding.
  • It might reduce bone strength and increase the risk of getting osteoporosis
  • It can cause coronary heart disease

Minerals also help your body function.

Some minerals, like iodine and fluoride, are only needed in very small quantities. Others, such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium, are needed in larger amounts. As with vitamins, if you eat a varied diet, you will probably get enough of most minerals.

By following the Dietary Guidelines, you will get enough of most of these vitamins from food. People should get most of their nutrients from food, advises the federal government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans2. Foods contain vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber and other substances that benefit health.

If you do need to supplement your diet,

  • look for a supplement that contains the vitamin or mineral you need without a lot of other unnecessary ingredients
  • Read the label to make sure the dose is not too large
  • Avoid supplements with mega-doses
  • Too much of some vitamins and minerals can be harmful, and you might be paying for supplements you do not need
  • Many dietary supplements3 come from natural sources, but “natural” does not necessarily mean “safe”.
  • Dietary and herbal supplements are poorly regulated.
  • They might contain metals and chemicals.
  • Studies have found the differences in what is written on the label and what actually is inside. 
  • Dietary supplements can interact with medicines you are taking and can have their own side effects.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend multivitamins for healthy children and teens who eat a varied diet. Food is the best source to get their vitamins.



4 Replies to “Vitamins and Minerals!”

  1. Dr. Bandari, your articles are always so informative. Your art of condensing the necessary facts, makes it convenient to read and comprehend. Thank you!

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