Popular vitamins and how they fit a well-balanced diet

Eating a varied, balanced diet is the first step toward optimal nutrition, but maintaining healthy levels of vitamins and minerals is much easier said than done. Sometimes the scales can be tipped by adding a few key foods into your diet, but, for many people, supplements are a convenient and calculable way to fill the gaps. There is no one-size-fits-all formula for vitamins, and factors like age, gender, health status and diet can change your body’s specific needs, so check with your doctor before beginning a supplement. A proper balance of vitamins and minerals can do wonders for your body, but an overabundance of certain vitamins can cause other health problems or can interfere with medications. If you feel your nutrient intake could be lacking, here are some hot-topic vitamins and minerals that have people talking:

Vitamin A

With two common types (retinol and beta carotene), it helps maintain healthy eyes and vision, is important for immune and reproductive systems and helps organs like the heart, lungs and kidneys function properly.

Found in salmon, milk, eggs, leafy green vegetables and beef liver.

Vitamin B12

There are eight B vitamins, and B12 helps nerves and blood cells stay healthy and helps prevent anemia.

Found in beef liver, clams, fish, meat poultry, eggs and dairy products.

Vitamin D

Also known as the sunshine vitamin, it helps the body absorb calcium for strong bones and also helps muscles move, nerve connections between the brain and other body parts and the immune system. The human body only produces vitamin D when it is directly exposed to sunlight. However doctors warn to limit sun exposure to increments of five to 30 minutes, two times per week, due to the risk of skin cancer.

Found in beef liver, fatty fish, cheese, mushrooms and often added to milk, breakfast cereals and orange juice.

Iron

A mineral that makes some hormones and connective tissues, as well as hemoglobin and myoglobin, which carry oxygen throughout the muscles and body.

Found in lean meat, seafood, poultry, lentils, spinach, nuts and kidney beans.

Calcium

A mineral that helps maintain bone strength and tooth hardness. It is also necessary for muscle movement and nerve connections between the brain and other body parts, and it helps blood move throughout the body.

Found in milk, yogurt, cheese, kale, broccoli, soft-boned fish and most grain products.

By Anne Toole

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