Disclaimer: taking too much of any vitamin can lead to health issues.
Before taking vitamin or mineral supplements, consult your health care provider. Never take more than the recommended dose unless perscribed, and take with a full glass of water. If you fear you may be having an allergic reaction or have taken too much, contact your health care provider immediately.
I’ve been taking my vitamins since back in the Flinstone Vitamins days (side note, I choked on one once… yes, a chewable vitamin. But that’s a story for anorther day). I never really knew why I was consuming any of them, except Vitamin C to some extent.
I knew Vitamin C helped if you had a cold, but that was as far as my knowledge went.
I’m willing to bet I’m not alone there. I talk a lot about macronutrients on my blog, so let’s dive into micronutrients a bit.
Micronutrients are everything in food that doesn’t contain caloric value. Whereas macornutrients are what you look at to help control your body composition (like prioritizing protein to build muscle), micronutrients are what you want to look at for your overall health. All of your bodily functions require vitamins to perform optimally, so they are very important!
Before we dive into each vitamin, let’s address the elephant in the room:
Do you need to take a vitamin supplement?
In a lot of cases, no.
However, I don’t discourage taking a multivitamin.
As you can see from the chart above, there are A LOT of sources of each vitamin. If you eat a well-rounded diet, there’s a very good chance you are consuming enough of the vitamins you need.
Problem is, it’s not uncommon to not be eating a well-rounded diet. If you don’t consume many fruits & vegetables, or you follow a specific kind of diet, like keto, where you are eliminating major food groups, then taking vitamin supplements in a great idea.
No, you don’t need to buy expensive “greens” supplements, although you certtainly can. Regular ol’ multivitamins can work just fine.
The 2 Types of Vitamins
Vitamins fall into one of two categories: fat soluble or water soluble.
Fat Soluble Vitamins
The fat soluble vitamins are A, D, E, & K, and they are found in mostly fatty foods (with exceptions of course).
Fat soluble vitamins are stored in fat in the body (not bodyfat, but in the fat tissue surrounding your organs that we ALL have, regardless of how lean you are). The body can then access these vitamins as needed.
If you consume more fat soluble vitamins than you need, the body can store the excess vitamins for later use.
And as you can see, the fat soluble vitamins are the vitamins that help with a lot of important bodily functions:
- Vitamin A: Healthy vision, bones, teeth, amongst other things
- Vitamin D: Bone & teeth health
- Vitamin E: Acts an an antioxidant protecting cells from being damaged
- Vitamin K: For healthy blood, specifically assisting with blood clotting
As you can see, these vitamins help majorly with your overall body health, so it’s importnt to prioritize them in your diet!
Water Soluble Vitamins
The water soluble vitamins are vitamin C and all of the B vitamins, which are the vitamins you are likely most familiar with.
What makes water soluble vitamins different than fat soluble vitamins? Water soluble vitamins aren’t stored the same way, so if they aren’t needed, they’ll pass right through the body, getting exctreted through urine. You can think your kidneys from preventing too much of these vitamins from staying in your body!
Water soluble vitamins are much more easily absorbed than fat soluble vitamins however, so they get to work much more quickly.
As you likely know from the many over-the-counter cold remedies, vitamin C helps your immune system. While it has never been proven to actually cure the common cold (the reason a lot of people take it) it can certainly help to lower the chances of getting sick overall by strengthening your immune system.
There’s a limit to this of course, and more vitamin C doesn’t actually mean it’s helping you more.
For example, if you come down with a cold, and you start plowing through Emergen-C in an attempt to get better, all you’re doing is paying more for some bright yellow urine. Since your body only absorbs what it needs and pees out the rest, there is really no benefit to consuming more Vitamin C than the daily recommended amount.At the end of the day, it’s all just going right through you!
One common misconception about B vitamins is that since they help convert food into energy, that they burn calories.
While B vitamins do provide energy (they’re staples in lots of energy drinks) they do not provide CALORIC energy.
I want to help make that point clear: B vitamins do not burn calories.
When I say that they help convert food into energy, essentially what they are doing is taking the food that has already been digested (AKA the calories burned through digestion have already accured) and helping to turn that food into ATP for energy.
Note that this chart is not a complete chart- each vitamin has many functions, and also can be found in many other foods not necessarily listed here. You know we’re all about neat graphics here though, so I tried to fit as much relevant information as I could onto one graphic!
Don’t Forget About Minerals
If you want a breakdown of the other group of micronutrients, otherwise known as minerals, check out the Minerals Cheat Sheet I put together!