Your body requires a wide array of different vitamins in order to function properly, but sometimes we get caught up in the same narrow diet and neglect the most important ones. Thankfully, with a little effort, you can find the most important vitamins in regular diets—you just have to start eating the right food every day.
Here’s our comprehensive guide to 15 important vitamins and where to find them.
Why it’s important: Vitamin A is a big time player in your immune system, reproductive systems and even vision. The important role it plays in your eyesight includes supporting the retina, cornea and eye membrane for ideal functioning.
Where you can find it: Sweet potatoes have a highly concentrated amount of vitamin A, in fact the most densely concentrated amount of any other food. A normal sweet potato can have over 561% of the daily recommended amount. So toss a sweet potato in the oven and load up on vitamin A. You can also find the vitamin in spinach, fish, milk, eggs and carrots if you’re not a huge sweet potato fan.
Why it’s important: Vitamin B6 is used to reference a group of six separate compounds which affect the body similarly. They help with your metabolism, form hemoglobin in your red blood cells, regulate blood sugar levels and combat disease with vital antibodies.
Where you can find it: Interestingly, chickpeas are stock full of B6 vitamins. Just a single cup of them consists of 55% of your daily recommended value. Other places to find it: chicken, fish and beef liver.
Why it’s important: Vitamin B12 is important to keep your nervous system healthy and functioning properly, and even plays a part in forming DNA and red blood cells. Additionally, it can prevent severe blood disorders such as anemia.
Where you can find it: Anything coming from an animal is likely to contain B12. Clams are full of it, containing over 1,400% of your daily recommended amount in only 3oz. Vitamin B12 can also be found in many fish products like trout, salmon and tuna. Other places to look for B12 are plant milks, soy products and breakfast cereals.
Why it’s important: Vitamin C is one of the more popular vitamins—everyone knows it’s significant, but why? Well, it’s an antioxidant and has a role in metabolizing proteins and synthesizing neurotransmitters (helps your nerve impulse and muscle functions).
Where you can find it: Obviously, you can get a good amount from oranges or other citrus plants, but red bell peppers are actually the most abundant in vitamin C. You can also find it in kiwi, broccoli, brussel sprouts and cantaloupe.
Why it’s important: There are no minerals more prevalent in the body than calcium. The majority of it is found in your bones and teeth, keeping them strong and sturdy. The rest is in blood vessels, involved in muscle functions, cell activity and the secretion of vital hormones.
Where you can find it: As many store ads would tell you, milk is full of calcium. The same goes for most dairy items, including yogurt (42% of daily amount). Kale, cabbage and cereals are a few of the others with calcium, too.
Why it’s important: Calcium and vitamin D go hand in hand, as vitamin D helps to absorb calcium and give a foundation for strong bone growth. Our body also makes it when we’re outside in the sun, and it can help grow cells, boost the immune system and act as an anti-inflammatory.
Where you can find it: You can find it in fishes with high fat content, like salmon, mackerel and swordfish. Outside of fish, it’ll be in dairy products, cereal and orange juice.
Why it’s important: Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant that guards cells from dangerous molecules called free radicals (we talked about those in our organic vs. non-organic blog post
). They also promote better immunity, ideal blood flow and blood clotting.
Where you can find it: Next time you’re at the store, pick up some sunflower seeds or almonds—they’re the easiest source to get vitamin E from (unless you want to find a way to get wheat germ oil).
Why it’s important: Iron is used to move oxygen and help cells grow, and it’s mostly in hemoglobin, which provides oxygen to our bodily tissues.
Where you can find it: You can find iron in two main places: animals and plants. The main foods containing iron are red meat, fish, poultry, lentils, spinach and beans. Iron deficiencies are very common
, so stay on top of a healthy intake.
Why it’s important: Magnesium is involved in a lot of the body’s chemical reactions, like muscle and nerve activity, regulated heart rate and bone strength.
Where you can find it: You can get 22% of your daily recommended amount of magnesium with a ¼ cup of wheat bran. To gain the benefits though, it has to be an unrefined grain source. Look to greens, almonds and cashews for other magnesium sources.
Why it’s important: Food-to-energy conversion is largely helped by niacin, and it’s safe to say that’s one of the body’s most important functions to live. It also is included in functions of digestion, skin health and nerve systems.
Where you can find it: A cup of peanuts has over 100% of your daily recommended Niacin. Peanut butter, chicken liver and beef are other places to get it.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Why it’s important: Food blogs and diets paint fat in a bad light, but you need the good fats for ideal health. Omega-3 fatty acids in particular are one of the most important things for a healthy brain, and they can even act as an anti-inflammatory.
Where you can find it: Omega-3’s can be found in vegetable oil, greens, nuts, seeds and high-fat fish. A popular supplement containing omega-3’s is fish oil capsules. Taking a few per day is a great addition to your daily routine.
Why it’s important: One of the most crucial electrolytes is potassium, which is used to regulate the electrical functions of your heart. It also aids in creating proteins and muscle, and even converts carbs into useful energy.
Where you can find it: Everyone knows bananas have potassium, but it’s also highly concentrated in sweet potatoes, tomatoes, beets, regular potatoes, red meat, poultry, fish, and coconut water. If you don’t take in enough potassium, you’re going to experience extremely painful cramping on a regular basis, so buy more bananas or drink more coconut water!
Why it’s important: Another important antioxidant, riboflavin is a defense against disease, makes energy in your body, and takes the role of producing red blood cells.
Where you can find it: Beef liver has a high amount of riboflavin and is the most rich out of other natural sources. That can be a strong addition to your meal, though, so you might want to seek out fortified cereals as an alternative.
Why it’s important: Another key player in converting carbs to energy, thiamin also maintains ideal function of the brain and nervous system.
Where you can find it: Dried yeast is where it’s most prevalent, but a more palatable source could be found in pine nuts and soybeans (make sure they’re non-GMO).
Why it’s important: Zinc is in a lot of cold medicines due to its function in helping the immune system, but it’s also attributed to being significant in your sense of smell and taste.
Where you can find it: The most zinc in any other food is found in oysters—they have 500% of your daily recommended amount. Not everyone eats oysters, so another place to look is red meat, poultry, king crab, nuts, beans, or legumes.