Learning about the nutrients your body needs is as easy as the A-B-Cs—and just as important.
Vitamins are a group of substances that your body needs to function properly. Here are the 13 essential vitamins that your body craves:
Vitamin A is key for healthy eyes, skin, and cell and immune function. Here are the top 10 food sources of vitamin A.
Vitamin C helps combat cell damage and is essential for immune function and wound healing. Here are 10 vitamin C-rich foods to eat more of.
Vitamin D is important for strong bones, muscle function, and nerve communication. Many people don’t get enough vitamin D. Learn more about vitamin D deficiency and what you can do to get more of this essential nutrient.
Vitamin E helps fight free radicals and wards off bacteria and viruses. Vegetable oils (such as wheat germ, sunflower, and safflower oils), nuts, and leafy green vegetables are all great sources of vitamin E.
Vitamin K keeps bones healthy and is important for blood clotting. Eating leafy greens, such as spinach, is a great way to get vitamin K. (Try this spinach salad with shitake mushrooms.)
Vitamin B1 (thiamin)
+ Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
+ Vitamin B3 (niacin)
These three B vitamins help convert the food you eat into energy, and are key for cell function and growth.
Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) also converts food into energy in the body and is key for making and breaking down fats.
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) is involved in more than 100 enzyme reactions that help your metabolism function. It’s also important for brain development and immune function.
Vitamin B7 (biotin) helps turn carbs, fats, and proteins in your food into energy.
Vitamin B9 (folate) is key for making DNA. Your body also needs folate for your cells to divide.
Vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin) helps keep nerve and blood cells healthy and also helps make DNA.
You can get B vitamins from a variety of food sources, but one food group that tends to pack a variety of B vitamins are whole grain breads and cereals. Learn more about why whole grain bread is more nutritious than multigrain bread.
Fat-Soluble vs. Water-Soluble Vitamins
Vitamins are grouped into two categories: fat-soluble vitamins and water-soluble vitamins.
Fat-soluble vitamins are most readily absorbed when ingested with dietary fat. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble vitamins. Learn more about power vitamin pairs that work better in your body when eaten together.
The other nine vitamins—that’s vitamin C and all the Bs—are water-soluble. Water-soluble vitamins must be absorbed right away. Whatever isn’t absorbed will just pass through your urine.
Making sure you’re getting all the 13 vitamins every day can be tough. Your best bet? Eat at a well-rounded diet full of fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, and whole grains. That way, your body will get the nutrients it needs to function—and you can be your best self from the inside out.