WHY DO WE NEED VITAMINS?
You've likely heard the expression, "You are what you eat." When it comes to making sure you are getting enough essential vitamins, this couldn't be truer. Eating a balanced diet with a variety of foods ensures that your body gets the vitamins it needs to function properly.
Certain groups of men may require more of specific vitamins. However, most can get their Daily Recommended Intakes (DRI) of each from food alone, and do not need dietary supplements like multivitamins.
Besides helping you stay healthy, do you know exactly what vitamins do for your body? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), they promote normal cell function, help you absorb other nutrients, and are vital for normal growth and development.
WHAT ARE THE MOST ESSENTIAL VITAMINS?
The Institute of Medicine lists 13 vitamins that are crucial to proper body functioning. According to Harvard Medical School, they are responsible for these functions:
VITAMIN A promotes healthy teeth, bones, eyes, and skin. Supplementation works well as the body has a high tolerance for vitamin A and overdoses are rare. Men with vision problems may find it especially useful to help maintain their eyesight in the years to come. Eggs, milk, and dark green leafy vegetables are great sources.
VITAMIN B1 (thiamine) helps cells turn carbohydrates into energy.
Eggs, lean meats, nuts, seeds, and whole grains are good sources of this vitamin.
VITAMIN B2 (riboflavin) helps red blood cell production and release of energy from carbohydrates. It's found in almonds and proteins, as well as milk, leafy vegetables, liver, and yeast. Because it helps with blood movement, riboflavin is especially important for men experiencing a period of growth or if they're eating large amounts of protein to build muscle. There is also evidence that it may be beneficial to men who suffer from migraines or tinnitus. Overdoses are rare because riboflavin is easily absorbed and excreted.
VITAMIN B3 (niacin) aids digestion and nervous system functioning. It is essential for fueling your body throughout the day. Also is linked to lowering cholesterol. If you eat whole wheat, nuts, and seeds, you should be getting the necessary amount of B3. If you avoid these foods, you may want to consider supplementing your diet.
VITAMIN B6 helps the body produce antibodies and hemoglobin, promotes proper nerve function, breaks down proteins, and regulates blood glucose levels. If you are deficient in this vitamin, you can have anemia, poor brain function and even depression. Good sources of B6 are bananas, cereals, oatmeal, avocados, beans, meat or poultry, and seeds.
VITAMIN B12 aids in formation of red blood cells, helps maintain the nervous system, and aids in metabolism. Sources for this vitamin include milk, yogurt, cheese, eggs, meat and fish. Vegetarians are at higher risk for deficiency and may need to take a B12 supplement.
VITAMIN C promotes healthy gums and teeth, and helps the body heal wounds and absorb iron. Fruits and vegetables are full of vitamin C.
VITAMIN E aids in red blood cell formation and helps the body use vitamin K. Vitamin E is fat-soluble and will stay in your system so it is important to keep track of your intake. The best sources are whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Vitamin E is an important part of our diet and should be consumed through food sources whenever possible.
VITAMIN K is crucial for blood coagulation. This vitamin signals a protein that aids in rebuilding bones and has been known to protect against fractures and some cancers. Food sources are broccoli and green leafy vegetables or fermented cheese and soy. If these don't appeal to you, try supplementation.
BIOTIN helps break down protein and carbohydrates, and is crucial for hormone and cholesterol production. Best sources come from pork, nuts, and chocolate.
PANTOTHENIC ACID aids in the same ways as Biotin. Sources are milk, eggs, and avocado.
FOLATE (folic acid) aids the formation of red blood cells and is essential for DNA production. Studies have proven it contributes to an increased sperm count but has a downside. This supplement may lead to an increased risk of prostate cancer, so it's best to take in folic acid through natural foods and not supplements. You can get Folate from dark green vegetables like broccoli, asparagus and Brussels sprouts as well as citrus fruits.
CHOLINE helps with nerve and brain activity. Eggs, meat and fish are great sources of this vitamin.
13 may seem like a large number, but luckily, many vitamins can be found in the same food sources.
If you are a vegetarian, you need to make sure you are getting enough vitamin B12. Fortified cereals and grain products contain B12, but a supplement may still be necessary If you follow a vegan diet, be sure to eat plenty of dark colored vegetables and fruits. This will ensure that you do not become vitamin A deficient.