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Vitamins are chemical compounds that the human body needs to grow and function normally. Of the eleven vitamins we know humans need, nine are abundant in plants. Your body makes vitamin D from sunshine (or you can eat it in milk, eggs and fish). Vitamin B12 is found only in animals, and is often added to plant based foods such as cereals or soy milk.



Most of the vitamins humans need are synthesized by plants, so you get plenty when you eat a variety of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans and other seeds.

The B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxine, folate, cyanocobalamin and biotin) are needed to convert carbohydrates into energy and for hundreds of other functions. They are found in whole grains, beans and many other plants, and in the animals that eat these plants.

Vitamins A, C and E are called the antioxidant vitamins because one of their important jobs is to prevent certain oxidizing chemical reactions that can be harmful to your body. The antioxidant vitamins help to prevent heart disease because LDL cholesterol must be oxidized before it can form plaques in your arteries. Brightly colored fruits and vegetables are particularly good sources of the antioxidant vitamins.

Our primary source of vitamin D is sunshine, not food. A person with light skin can get enough vitamin D from a few minutes spent in sunlight each day, but the darker your skin, the more sun exposure you need to meet your daily requirements. You can also get vitamin D from supplements, fish oils, fish, and fortified foods.

You can get all the vitamins you need from the food you eat plus some sunshine. A daily multi-vitamin for extra "insurance" won't hurt you, but an unhealthful diet with vitamin pills is still an unhealthful diet. Don't be misled by high-priced supplements that make extravagant promises. You'll probably be wasting your money, and mega-doses of some vitamins can cause problems.

July 29th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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