Medically Reviewed by: Dr. Caley Scott, ND
Vitamins are a pillar of health and wellness that everyone talks about, but few really understand the nuances. We see vitamins in ads for cereals, supplements, and on nutrition labels everywhere — but when it comes to a practical, integrative approach, it can be tough to know where to start.
Sunmed is here to set the record straight on vitamins, specifically the ones that matter most for daily consumption and overall health. By the end of this article, you’ll know what vitamins matter most for your well-being and how to easily make them part of your daily routine.
What are vitamins?
Vitamins are organic, essential micronutrients the body needs to maintain optimal health and function properly. Dozens of unique vitamins have been discovered through the years, ranging widely in chemical composition and their effects on the body.
One important distinction to note is between fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins. Fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A and vitamin D can be absorbed through the intestinal tract with the help of fats. Water-soluble vitamins can be dissolved in water and are absorbed directly into the bloodstream more rapidly. Both are important, and the nature of fat-soluble vitamins means that healthy fats are part of any well-rounded approach to nutrition.
Meanwhile, minerals are non-organic elements that come from soil or water. They are neither water-soluble nor fat-soluble and are more stable than most vitamins. This means you can rely on a wider range of mineral sources and worry less about bioavailability and absorption.
Why do we need vitamins?
We know that vitamins and minerals can help the body in countless ways, but what are some practical points that make a tangible difference in your health and well-being?
Start by thinking of all the aspects of physiological health, from your sight and vision to circulation, neurological function, energy production, muscular strength, and beyond. You guessed it — all these building blocks of health are supported by vitamins, and none can be overlooked in your quest for ultimate health.
Take energy production, for instance. The foods we eat are metabolized and converted into energy, but this is only made possible with B vitamins like B1, B2, B3, B5, and so on. On the other hand, immune function is supported by vitamins C and D, while vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that protects your cells from oxidation damage.
Let’s not forget neurology and mental health, too — our nervous systems and brains are extremely complex and need vitamins like vitamin B12 to keep neurotransmitters firing at full capacity. Immune function is another core function that vitamins can help with, protecting your body as a first line of defense. If you’re ever feeling foggy, lethargic, or susceptible to sickness, it might just be a vitamin deficiency at the root cause.
But even with all the information available on vitamins and their health benefits, most Americans — especially older adults — simply aren’t getting enough. As we explore the essential vitamins and minerals you need, remember that these compounds are a powerful key to longevity, wellness, and overall quality of life.
What vitamins should you take every day?
It’s time to dig in and find out what vitamins are most important for your health — and why. Every time you eat or take a supplement, you’re giving the body what it needs. Now, you’ll know exactly why these vitamins are so important and how they fit into the grand scheme of total health.
1. Vitamin C
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, plays several key roles in the body and deserves the first mention on our list.
You might know vitamin C as the “immune support” vitamin, and it’s true — this vitamin supports white blood cell production and helps your body fight infections from within. However, that’s just the start of the story with vitamin C. It’s also a powerful antioxidant and a key to collagen synthesis, helping us maintain healthy skin, hair, nails, ligaments, and joints.
Additionally, vitamin C helps us absorb minerals like iron, making it an ally for all-around vitamin and mineral stores. You can find vitamin C in sources like citrus, leafy greens, peppers, berries, and more.
2. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is often called the “sunny vitamin” for its association with natural sunlight, and that’s not a coincidence. Vitamin D deficiency tends to be common among people in regions with less sunlight, but why is that important? It turns out that vitamin D supports a huge variety of functions in the body, from muscle function and immunity to bone health and much more.
For starters, Vitamin D helps us absorb minerals like calcium and phosphorous from our diets. We often emphasize calcium as the go-to source of healthy bones, but vitamin D makes it all work. Vitamin D also plays a role in mood regulation, ensuring you stay happy and productive with a positive outlook.
3. Vitamin E
Of all the vitamins on this list, vitamin E is arguably the most powerful antioxidant of them all. Free radical damage is a reality of aging we can’t avoid, but vitamin E support can help reduce the consequences and even keep some serious conditions at bay.
Furthermore, vitamin E is key to skin health, which is why you’ll often find it in creams, gels, cleansers, and other cosmetics products. It can be used on the sensitive skin of the face or applied anywhere to help protect from damage and UV light.
Nuts and seeds are good sources of vitamin E in your diet, though these are often high in fat. It may be smarter to supplement with vitamin E as part of your long-term health plan.
4. Vitamin K
There are two main types of vitamin K, often found in fermented foods, veggies, and some animal products. Both are important for protein synthesis and cardiovascular health, making K vitamins a must-have for any athlete or fitness enthusiast.
With enough vitamin K, you can support your blood flow and keep your arteries healthy. Vitamin K can also help protect your bones, ensuring you can stay active as you age and experience mobility with fewer issues and discomfort.
5. B1 (Thiamine)
With many B vitamins to choose from, B1 is an obvious place to start. This is one of the most important vitamins for metabolism you can find, helping turn carbs into glucose that fuels the body in every aspect of life. Digestion and absorption are important, but B1 makes the energy from food work for you.
Metabolism is only one aspect worth noting. B1 also helps with proper nervous system and brain function, protecting neurotransmitters for cognition and reaction times. B1 has been shown to be important in the growth and development of cells, making it key for kids.
While the body can’t make thiamine on its own, it can easily be found in plant-based foods like whole grains and animal foods like beef and pork.
6. B2 (Riboflavin)
Vitamin B2 is another energy-supporting compound that helps metabolize nutrients and gives cells the fuel they need. Only with B2 can we utilize ATP and tap into the full capabilities when performing physical and mental activities.
B2 also helps with the conversion of other vitamins into usable forms, making it a foundational element of health. Finally, B2 is key for skin and eye health, helping you maintain strong vision and skin through the years.
You can find B2 in animal food sources, especially milk, eggs, and lean meats. For the plant-based crowd, leafy greens and whole grains also carry plenty of B2.
7. B3 (Niacin)
When we look at niacin, we find another key component of energy production and regulation. That’s not all, however. Niacin also plays a big role in cholesterol regulation, helping the heart and cardiovascular system age with minimal damage. More generally, niacin is a great stress-resistant vitamin, helping the body combat stressors and remain in balance.
You may also know niacin’s other form — niacinamide. This popular skincare ingredient can help skin glow and maintain a youthful look, so many topical forms can be applied. With niacin, be aware of your serving size, as high intake can result in gastrointestinal issues. Start with food sources and supplement cautiously, monitoring results.
8. B12 (Cobalamin)
Few vitamins are as important to red blood cell formation as B12. Red blood cells are the transport powerhouses of the body, whether delivering nutrients, oxygen, or other key components to cells and organs. B12 helps blood cells form strong and in great numbers, reducing the risk of anemia and other blood-related issues.
With stronger and more numerous red blood cells, you’ll see better performance on a mental and physical level, not to mention improved metabolism and improved mood. The best way to get B12 is through beef liver and seafood, while vegetarians often need a supplementary form — consult your doctor for the best advice.
9. Essential minerals
These aren’t vitamins in a technical sense, as minerals are inorganic compounds that play different roles in the body. Still, they should be taken just as seriously as the vitamins listed so far, especially for older adults who need to prioritize bone health and neuromuscular strength.
The minerals that should make your list are magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron, and zinc. These all play roles in metabolic health and support everything from energy production to nerve function and more. Magnesium alone is responsible for more than 300 different enzymatic reactions in the body, and many users report excellent results from daily supplementation.
Balancing minerals with vitamins is just another aspect of health to consider, but it can easily be managed with the right approach.
What are some ways to meet your vitamin needs daily?
You’ve got the basics of vitamins outlined already, now it’s time to talk about practical tips. Getting your vitamins shouldn’t be hard, so here are some ways to ensure a consistent, balanced intake of the most important compounds.
Diet and lifestyle considerations
Choosing vitamin-rich foods is a good start, but limiting processed foods is the second puzzle piece. Not only are unhealthy foods low in nutrients and vitamins, but they also deplete vitamin stores by stressing the metabolism.
Reworking your diet is an ongoing process, so don’t expect to be perfect from the start. Start making simple, manageable changes now, and watch your energy levels increase over time as you incorporate healthy foods and limit bad ones.
Also, remember to keep fatty acids in the mix to properly utilize fat-soluble vitamins. Fatty fish like sardines or a fish oil supplement can help in keeping your omega-3 levels on point.
Diet isn’t everything, of course. Vitamin levels are also affected by stress, sleep quality, and other daily habits that comprise your lifestyle. Replacing bad habits with good ones will help you combat vitamin deficiencies, adding to the positive upward cycle of health.
The bottom line
From strong bones and energy production to the prevention of chronic diseases, vitamins are invaluable in the human health equation. If you want a simple multivitamin solution to address deficiencies and stay protected, Sunmed’s Supergreens Daily Gummies can help. After all, you might not always have access to a perfectly balanced diet, especially on the go.
Now that you know the scoop on the major vitamins and minerals the body needs, you can take your health to a new level — even if it’s just one step at a time.