Vitamins and Supplements - Guide to Food Choices and Vitamin Deficiencies

Vitamins and Supplements - Guide to Food Choices and Vitamin Deficiencies

Editor's note: If you are experiencing any symptoms of a vitamin deficiency, or struggle to eat healthily, please consider one of the following vitamin supplement backup plans: Machine Green + Multi, MTS Machine Multi, or an individual vitamin product.

The average American diet is a mess. Each year we eat 1,996 pounds of food. [1] That's one ton.

Included in the mountain of food, the average American consumes:
  • 141 pounds of sweeteners
  • 42 pounds of corn syrup
  • 25 donuts
  • 23 pounds of mac and cheese
  • 70 hot dogs
  • 29 pounds of French fries
  • 23 pounds of pizza
  • 24 pounds of ice cream
  • 53 gallons of soda
  • 10% of calories from sugar
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One in 4 Americans eats fast food each day. We also consume 31% more packaged food than fresh food. [2] Very likely to eat on the go, we reach for whatever quick fixes are available to us. 20% of all meals are eaten in the car.

Americans eat healthiest in the morning. Each hour after waking the healthiness of our food choices decreases by 1.7%. [2] One could argue that as we dive into the busyness and challenges of the day, our lack of planning and preparation forces us to reach for whatever food choices are available to us when we feel hungry.

What is the cost of these misguided food choices? Weight gain, poor health, and underconsumption of the micronutrients - vitamins and minerals - that are required to keep the body running properly.

It's not just the food quantity that is ruining our health and killing us. It's also our food choices. Fresh, whole, natural foods are filled with vitamins and minerals. Junk food and fast food, on the other hand, is lacking a substantial amount of the vital micronutrients we need to fuel our bodies.

Vitamin and nutrient deficiency is not a thing of the past. While a proper diet goes a long way towards keeping us healthy and happy, it is certainly not a guarantee that our body is receiving the vital vitamin building blocks it requires to function properly.

Vitamin deficiencies can impact basic cellular function and health, proper water balance, nerve signaling, your metabolism, digestion, recovery, brain health and much more.

The following section contains information on individual vitamins and their role in the human body, vitamin deficiency, and daily recommend vitamin dosages. Before we dive in, let's look at the three most common vitamin deficiencies. [3]
  1. Vitamin D - To address a vitamin D deficiency, it is recommended that you get more sun, drink vitamin D rich milk, or consume more salmon or tuna.
  2. Vitamin B12 - Vitamin B12 is essential for proper neurotransmission in the brain. To increase your vitamin B12 intake consume more chicken, milk, and fish.
  3. Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid) - Essential for proper childbearing, folate, or vitamin B9, is present in prenatal vitamins. Beans, oranges, and leafy green veggies are vitamin B9 rich.
Healthy Foods

13 Vitamins Your Body Needs - Recommended Intake and How to Supplement

Note: Intakes are based on the RDA recommendation for adults.

#1 - Vitamin A

Vitamin A is a group of organic, unsaturated nutritional compounds that include retinal, provitamin A carotenoids such as beta-carotene, and retinoic acid. It can be found in milk, cream, and cheese. Foods that contain beta-carotene, which generates vitamin A in the body, include mango, cantaloupe, carrots, pink grapefruit, sweet potato, broccoli, and spinach.

Vitamin A is essential for healthy skin, proper immune system function, vision, and for proper care, repair, and growth of fingernails, bones, hair, and teeth. Beta-carotene works as an antioxidant.

Vitamin A works in a synergistic manner with vitamin E and vitamin C. It is also found in fish oils with vitamin D.
  • Recommended Intake - 3,000 IU for men,  2,300 IU for women. Upper intake 10,000 IU per day.
There are fewer than 20,000 vitamins A deficiency cases per year in the United States. The vast majority of them are found in adults over the age of 18. Vitamin A deficiency can lead to blindness, and increase the risk of serious and fatal infections. Low vitamin A intake can lead to more frequent infections, dry skin, and weakened night vision.

#2 - Vitamin C

OrangeVitamin C, also known as ascorbate or L-ascorbic acid, is an essential nutrient for the human body. It can be found in leafy green veggies, broccoli, strawberries, citrus fruits, papaya, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and red bell peppers. Because orange juice is pasteurized, much of its vitamin C bioavailability is compromised.

Vitamin C is essential for skin, production of collagen, the health of your teeth and gums, and immune system function. It also functions as an antioxidant.

Vitamin C assists with the absorption of iron work hand in hand with vitamin E and amplifies the effectiveness of vitamin B12, vitamin B6, and vitamin B9.
  • Recommended Intake - 90 mg for men,  75 mg for women. Upper intake 2,000 mg per day.
Severe vitamin C deficiency, or scurvy, is extremely rare. A mild vitamin C deficiency can lead to fatigue, weakness, joint and muscle pain, and bruising. Smokers, individuals on fad diets, and heavy drinkers or drug users may be at risk for vitamin C related issues.

#3 - Vitamin D

Vitamin D refers to a group of fat-soluble secosteroids that work to improve intestinal absorption of zinc, calcium, phosphate, iron, and magnesium. It can be best produced by getting out into the sun.

Vitamin D is essential for bone and teeth strength and formation and is required for the proper absorption of calcium.

Vitamin D naturally occurs in fish oils with vitamin A and helps to regulate the proper metabolism of phosphorus and calcium.
  • Recommended Intake - 600 IU for individuals up to 70 years old, 800 IU for those over 70. Upper intake 4,000 IU per day.
Vitamin D deficiency is very common. Each year there are more than 3 million cases in the US alone. Most individuals experience no noticeable symptoms. In extreme cases, vitamin D deficiency can lead to brittle or malformed bones.

#4 - Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a group of compounds that includes both tocotrienols and tocopherols.  It can be found in olive oil, almonds, almond milk, sunflower seeds, leafy green veggies, asparagus, olives, and spinach.

Vitamin E is essential for proper immune system function, prolonged red blood cell life, and proper metabolism of polyunsaturated fatty acids. It also functions as an antioxidant.

Vitamin E works in a synergistic manner with vitamin A and selenium.
  • Recommended Intake - 15 mg. Upper intake 1,100 IU per day.
Vitamin E deficiency typically stems from malabsorption of fat. Symptoms of vitamin E deficiency include neuromuscular issues, anemia, retinopathy, or impairment of the immune system.

#5 - Vitamin K

Vitamin K is a group of fat-soluble vitamins that are required by the human body for the synthesis of specific proteins required for proper blood coagulation. It can be found in basil, green leafy veggies, scallions, Brussels sprouts, chili powder, asparagus, okra, cucumbers, soybeans, olive oil, and prunes.

Vitamin K is essential for proper blood clotting and works to prevent excessive bleeding.
  • Recommended Intake - 120 mcg for men,  90 mcg for women. No upper limit established.
Though rare, vitamin K deficiency is still possible. Symptoms can include reduced problematic bleeding or blood clotting, bruising, and calcification of cartilage.

#6 - Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)

Vitamin B1 is an essential sulfur-containing vitamin that must be derived from the diet. It can be found in trout, pork, sunflower seeds, macadamia nuts, wheat bread, green peas, acorn squash, asparagus, edamame, and navy beans.

Vitamin B1 is essential for proper carbohydrate metabolism, muscle coordination, appetite control, proper digestion, nerve activity, and energy production.

Vitamin B1 works hand in hand with other B vitamins.
  • Recommended Intake - 1.2 mg for men,  1.1 mg for women. No upper limit established.
Vitamin B1 is one of the most important members of the B vitamin family. Deficiencies can lead to the development of some severe diseases including Beriberi, a cardiovascular and neurological disease. Vitamin B deficiency can also lead to brain abnormalities, weakness, weight loss, unusual heart rate, and abnormal emotional conditions such as panic attacks and night terrors.

#7 - Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)

Vitamin B2 is required for a number of flavoprotein enzyme reactions, which also includes activation of other essential vitamins. Vitamin B2 can be found in goat cheese, almonds, beef, lamb, mackerel, eggs, pork, mushrooms, sesame seeds, squid, and spinach.

Vitamin B2 is essential for healthy eyes and skin and works to assist in the conversion of protein, fats, and carbohydrates into energy.

Vitamin B2 works hand in hand with other B vitamins.
  • Recommended Intake - 1.3 mg for men,  1.1 mg for women. No upper limit established.
Symptoms related to vitamin B deficiency can be experienced at intakes less than 0.6 mg per day. Those with a vitamin B2 deficiency may experience bloodshot eyes, sore lips and tongue, mouth and throat infections, light sensitivity, and chapped lips.

#8 - Vitamin B3 (Niacin)

Sunflower SeedsVitamin B3 is an organic compound and an essential nutrient. It can be found in tuna, salmon, chicken, turkey, pork, liver, peanuts, portobello mushrooms, green peas, sunflower seeds, and avocado.

Vitamin B3 is essential for the metabolism of protein, fats, and carbohydrates, and assists with bile and stomach fluid secretion.

Vitamin B3 works hand in hand with other B vitamins.
  • Recommended Intake - 16 mg for men,  14 mg for women. Upper intake 35 mg per day.
An early indicator of a vitamin B3 deficiency is a decrease in appetite. Those with a mild deficiency may experience mouth sores, a coated tongue, dizziness, low blood sugar, or chronic headaches. A severe vitamin B3 deficiency may lead to anemia, skin lesions, insomnia, and irritability.

#9 - Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)

Vitamin B5 is a water-soluble vitamin and an essential nutrient. It can be found in mushrooms, feta cheese, salmon, trout, tuna, avocados, eggs, pork, beef, chicken, turkey, sunflower seeds, and sweet potatoes.

Vitamin B5 is essential for proper hormone formation. It helps to properly regulate the nervous system and is required to assist with the release of energy from carbohydrates.

Vitamin B5 works hand in hand with other B vitamins.
  • Recommended Intake - 5 mg. No upper limit established.
Although rare, a vitamin B5 deficiency can lead to insomnia, fatigue, depression, vomiting, irritability, stomach pains, and upper respiratory infections.

#10 - Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)

Vitamin B6 is a group of chemically similar substances that functions as a coenzyme in numerous enzyme reactions in glucose, amino acid, and lipid metabolism. It can be found in sunflower seeds, pistachios, tuna, turkey, chicken, pork, prunes, beef, bananas, avocados, and spinach.

Vitamin B6 is essential for red blood cell and antibody production, and assists with the metabolism of fats, protein, and carbohydrates.

Vitamin B6 assists with the metabolism of polyunsaturated fatty acids and works hand in hand with other B vitamins.
  • Recommended Intake - 1.3 mg for men 19 to 50, 1.7 mg for men over 50. 1.3 mg for women 19 to 50, 1.5 mg for women over 50. Upper intake 100 mg per day.
Also a rare deficiency, many nutrition experts believe we consume too much vitamin B6. Those with a deficient vitamin B6 intake may experience anxiety, depression, muscle pain, confusion, fatigue, anemia, and heightened PMS symptoms.

#11 - Vitamin B7 (Biotin)

Vitamin B7 is a water-soluble B vitamin. It can be found in almonds, sweet potato, eggs, onion, oats, tomatoes, peanuts, carrots, walnuts, and salmon.

Vitamin B7 is essential for maintenance of sex glands, skin, hair, bone marrow, and is required for proper macronutrient metabolism.

Vitamin B7 works in a synergistic manner with vitamin B6, vitamin B2, vitamin A, and vitamin D to promote healthy skin.
  • Recommended Intake - 30 mcg. No upper limit established.
Those with a deficient vitamin B7 may experience redness around the eyes, hair loss, mouth, nose, and genital redness, depression, fatigue, and numbness or tingling of the extremities.

#12 - Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid)

Vitamin B9 is a B vitamin also referred to as vitamin M or folic acid. It can be found in black-eyed peas, lentils, spinach, asparagus, romaine lettuce, avocado, broccoli, mango, oranges, and wheat bread.

Vitamin B9 is essential for the metabolism of amino acids, synthesis of genetic material, is required for the formation of red blood cells, and works to maintain healthy blood.

Vitamin B5 works hand in hand with other B vitamins and vitamin C.
  • Recommended Intake - 400 mcg for men. Upper intake 1,000 mcg per day.
Symptoms of a vitamin B9 deficiency include a headache, irritability, fatigue, acne, memory loss, paranoia, mood disorders, loss of appetite, and gastrointestinal problems.

#13 - Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that plays a substantial role in the central nervous system, brain, and red blood cell functioning. It can be found in beef liver, mackerel, sardines, red meat, salmon, milk, Swiss cheese, and yogurt.

Vitamin B12 is essential for the development of red blood cells, and proper functioning of the intestines and nervous system.

Vitamin B12 works to improve utilization of beta-carotene and vitamin A and works hand in hand with other B vitamins.
  • Recommended Intake - 2.4 mcg. No upper limit established.
There are more than 3 million cases of vitamin B12 deficiency each year in the US. [4] Symptoms include a reduction in healthy red blood cells, impairment of the central nervous system, fatigue, shortness of breath, numbness, and memory issues.

Vitamin Supplements

Retail sales of vitamin and nutritional supplements in the United States has grown from $17.2 billion in 2000 to over 35 billion in 2016.

Vitamin supplements first appeared in the 1940s. Currently, one-third of all Americans take a multivitamin. Complete multivitamin/mineral formulas account for one-sixth of all dietary sales, and 40% of all vitamin sales.

Women are slightly more likely to use a multivitamin and mineral supplement. Here is a breakdown by age:
  • Ages 19 to 30 - 25% of men and 30% of women use a multivitamin.
  • Ages 31 to 50 - 32% of men and 38% of women use a multivitamin.
  • Ages 51 to 70 - 40% of men and 48% of women use a multivitamin.
  • Ages 71 and older - 43% of men and 48% of women use a multivitamin.

1) "The Average American Ate (Literally) A Ton This Year: The Salt: NPR." N.p., n.d. Web. 24 June 2016.
2) "11 Facts About American Eating Habits." | Volunteer for Social Change. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 June 2016.
3) "7 Common Nutrient Deficiencies | Everyday Health." N.p., n.d. Web. 27 June 2016.
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