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Which Vitamins Do We Need?

by Aly Findlay

10min read

Browse our list of essential vitamins to learn more about each one including what we need it for, which foods it’s found in and NHS daily recommended intakes. If you're curious about one vitamin in particular, it's arranged alphabetically so you can find it quickly.

Vitamins are essential micronutrients that we can only get from food and supplements. The only exception is vitamin D which our bodies can make using sunlight (pretty cool). There are 13 essential vitamins we need to keep healthy: A, C, D, E K, and 8 B vitamins. 

Vitamin A

Why do we need it?

Vitamin A plays a significant role in the maintenance of normal vision, immune function and cell specialisation (the process whereby generic cells change into specific cells meant for specific tasks within the body).

Where can we get it?

Good sources of vitamin A include: 

  • Sweet potato
  • Butternut squash
  • Carrots 
  • Mango
  • Cantaloupe
  • Leafy greens (kale, spinach or collards)  

How much do we need?

Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)

Why do we need it?

Vitamin B1 plays a significant role in breaking down and releasing energy from food as well as keeping the immune system healthy. 

Where can we get it?

Good sources of vitamin B1 include: 

  • Oats
  • Nuts and seeds (sunflower, macadamia, seame, pistachio)
  • Breakfast cereal fortified with vitamin B1
  • Peas
  • Wholegrain breads
  • Eggs

How much do we need?

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)

Why do we need it?

Vitamin B2 helps to keep our skin eyes and nervous system healthy as well as playing a role in the release of energy from food. 

Where can we get it?

Good sources of riboflavin include: 

  • Almonds 
  • Mushrooms
  • Breakfast cereal fortified with vitamin B2
  • Soy products (milk or tofu) fortified with vitamin B2
  • Bread fortified with vitamin B2
  • Eggs

TIP: UV light can destroy riboflavin, so it’s good to keep these foods out of direct sunlight.

How much do we need?

Vitamin B3 (Niacin and nicotinamide)

Why do we need it?

Vitamin B3 also helps to keep our skin eyes and nervous system healthy as well as playing a role in the release of energy from food. 

Where can we get it?

Good sources of vitamin B3 include: 

  • Peanuts
  • Avocados
  • Brown rice
  • Whole wheat flour
  • Yeast (nutritional or extract) 
  • Eggs

How much do we need?

Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid) 

Why do we need it?

Vitamin B5 has several functions the most important of which is helping to release energy for food. 

Where can we get it?

Good sources of pantothenic acid include: 

  • Yeast (extract or nutritional)
  • Breakfast cereal fortified with pantothenic acid
  • Avocados
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Wholegrains (such as brown rice and wholemeal bread)
  • Eggs

How much do we need?

You should be able to get all the pantothenic acid you need by eating a varied and balanced diet.

Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)

Why do we need it?

Our bodies use vitamin B6 to use and store energy from protein and carbohydrates in our food. It’s also important for the formation of haemoglobin (the substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen). 

Where can we get it?

Good sources of pyridoxine include: 

  • Breakfast cereals fortified with vitamin B6
  • Bananas
  • Soy products (tofu or milk) fortified with vitamin B6
  • Peanuts 
  • Wholegrains (such as oatmeal, wheatgerm and brown rice)
  • Soya beans

How much do we need?

Vitamin B7 (Biotin) 

Why do we need it?

Vitamin B7 is needed to help our body break down fat but it’s only needed in very small amounts. 

Where can we get it?

The bacteria that live naturally in our guts are able to make biotin, so it's not clear if we need any additional biotin from the diet. It is found in a wide range of foods but only at very low levels. 

Good sources of biotin include: 

  • Almonds
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Cauliflower
  • Walnuts
  • Peanuts
  • Mushrooms

How much do we need?

You should be able to get all the biotin you need by eating a varied and balanced diet.

Vitamin B9 (Folacin)

Why do we need it?

Vitamin B9 is needed in the body to form healthy red blood cells. It has also been connected with reducing the risk of central neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, in unborn babies. A lack of folate could lead to folate deficiency anaemia.

Where can we get it?

Good sources of folacin include: 

  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Broccoli 
  • Asparagus
  • Beetroot 

How much do we need?

Adults need 0.2mg of folate a day.

Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)

Why do we need it?

Less commonly known as Cobalamin, B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that functions as a coenzyme. It has two really important functions: maintaining the structure of nerve cells and helping red blood cells to multiply. It also works closely with folic acid to release energy from the food we eat and to utilise iron properly. Too little over an extended period of time can result in chronic tiredness, anaemia and ultimately nerve damage. There are also links between B12 deficiency and cardiovascular disease.

Where can we get it?

Good sources of cobalamin include: 

  • Yeast (extract or nutritional) 
  • Marmite
  • Cereal fortified with vitamin B12
  • Plant-based milks fortified with vitamin B12
  • Nonfat plain greek yogurt
  • Cheese

How much do we need?

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)

Why do we need it?

Vitamin C is important for maintaining healthy skin, blood vessels, bones and cartilage. It also plays a role in protecting cells and keeping them healthy as well as healing wounds. It is important for maintaining a healthy immune system but this has been linked with zinc too. In fact, a lot of vitamin C supplements also contain zinc (mineral), hence the credit for connection with a healthy immune has previously been placed solely on vitamin C when in fact zinc is important too! Severe vitamin C deficiency can lead to scurvy

Where can we get it?

Good sources of vitamin C include: 

  • Guava
  • Blackcurrants
  • Kiwi fruit 
  • Chillies
  • Kale
  • Broccoli 

How much do we need?

Vitamin D

Why do we need it?

Vitamin D regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body, which are needed to keep bones, teeth and our muscles healthy. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to conditions like rickets

Where can we get it?

  • Ultraviolet light from the sun
  • Food and drinks fortified with vitamin D including soy milk, orange juice and cereal
  • Mushrooms
  • Egg yolks

How much do we need?

Vitamin E

Why do we need it?

Like vitamin A, vitamin E helps to bolster our defence against illness and infection (our immune systems) and contributes towards the maintenance of healthy skin and eyes. 

Where can we get it?

Good sources of vitamin E include: 

  • Plant oils (such as soya, corn and olive) 
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Nuts (almonds, hazelnuts and peanuts)
  • Avocado
  • Wheatgerm (found in cereal) 
  • Red peppers 

How much do we need?

Vitamin K

Why do we need it?

Vitamin K is needed for healing wounds (it plays a significant role in blood clotting) and it’s also been connected with keeping bones healthy. 

Where can we get it?

Good sources of vitamin K include: 

  • Kale
  • Chard
  • Spinach 
  • Broccoli 
  • Sprouts
  • Prunes

How much do we need?

Adults need approximately 0.11mg a day of vitamin K for each kilogram of their body weight.

Recommended daily intake, highest to lowest

Adult men:

  • Vitamin C - 40mg
  • Vitamin B3 - 16.5mg
  • Vitamin E - 4mg
  • Vitamin B6 - 1.4mg
  • Vitamin B2 - 1.3mg
  • Vitamin B1 - 1mg 
  • Vitamin A - 0.7mg
  • Vitamin B9 - 0.2mg
  • Vitamin K - 0.11mg
  • Vitamin D - 0.01mg 
  • Vitamin B12 - 0.0015mg

Adult women:

  • Vitamin C - 40mg
  • Vitamin B3 - 13.2mg
  • Vitamin E - 3mg
  • Vitamin B6 - 1.2mg
  • Vitamin B2 - 1.1mg
  • Vitamin B1 - 0.8mg 
  • Vitamin A - 0.6mg
  • Vitamin B9 - 0.2mg
  • Vitamin K - 0.11mg
  • Vitamin D - 0.01mg 
  • Vitamin B12 - 0.0015mg

Need some recipe inspiration to use some of the recommended veggies in your cooking? 

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