Complete Vitamin Guide

So as I mentioned in an earlier post, here’s a guide on vitamins, what they do, how much you need, what happens if you don’t get enough, and where you can find them.

CarrotVitamin A – Also called “retinol”, it maintains eye site, immune system function, mucus production, and cell growth. Cells need Vitamin A not only to form properly, but to hold on to each other. Also plays a role in reproductive health, bone metabolism, and blood formation. (Bet you thought it was only good for your eyes.)

Dose – Around 5,000 IU for men and women. 1 cup of bell peppers (capsicum) provides around 5,200 IU. 1 cup of carrots provides around 34,000 IU. The recommended dose for athletes is around 20,000 to 25,000 IU per day. 50,000 per day for years at a time may cause toxicity. It’s fat soluble, so you can store it in your body. This means you don’t have to worry about getting it every single day.

Deficiency – Blindness, stunted growth, brittle bones, sickness (immune system dysfunction), hair loss, and stomach dysfunction.

Toxicity – Happens at around 660,000 IU for adults, and 330,000 IU for children. That’s about 20 cups of carrots if you’re an adult. You must REALLY love the @#$% out of carrots! Damn are you a rabbit or something? It’s either that or you accidentally overdosed with a supplement containing vitamin A while eating a diet high in the vitamin. You can also overdose by getting around 15,000 IU every day for months on end. It’s a fat soluble vitamin so it stores and builds up in the body.

Symptoms include dry and itchy orange-colour skin, fingernails that break easy, headaches, vision problems, bone and muscle pain, fatigue, irritability, depression, fever, liver damage, anemia, and loss of appetite. These typically go away once intake of the vitamin is stopped.

Good: Winter squash, swiss chard, turnip greens
Better: Beet greens, collard greens, mustard greens
Best: Spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes.

Vitamin B – The essential vitamins in this category are B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9 (folic acid) and B12. Trying to summarize these is difficult, as they’re responsible for a countless number of metabolic processes. Generally speaking, they’re responsible for the metabolism of carbs, proteins, fats and their metabolites (glucose, amino acids, and fatty acids, respectively).

The other B vitamins, such as B4, B7, B8, etc are less talked about because either the body can manufacture these from other B vitamins, or they’re so plentiful in most diets (as with biotin, which is vitamin B7) that there’s little need to discuss their importance.

Dose for each:

B1 (Thiamine) – Minimum requirements is 5 mgs. Doses higher than 50 mgs showed additional benefits, such as clear mindedness and emotional stability. Athletes engaged in heavy training may benefit from up to 300 mgs.

Good: Oats, lima beans, spinach
Better: Lintels, pinto beans, green peas
Best: Barley, sunflower seeds, navy beans

B2 (Riboflavin) – Minimum requirement is 1.5 mgs. Those on various medications may require as high as 20 mgs to 25 mgs. Athletes may benefit from up to 300 mgs.

Good: Almonds, turkey, asparagus
Better: Eggs, crimini mushrooms, yogurt
Best: spinach, green beats, soybeans

B3 (Niacin) – Minimum of 15 mgs per day. An athlete may require upwards of 100 mgs per Vitamin Beeday.

Good: Shrimp, peanuts, sardines
Better: Beef, lamb, salmon
Best: Turkey, chicken, tuna

B5 (Pantothenic Acid) – Minimum of 5 mgs per day. Doses of around 2,000 mgs have implications at improving athletic performance by delaying exhaust times (the athlete can work longer and harder before giving out), and possibly speeding up healing times. Doses as high as 20,000 mgs have been used to treat acne. This much B5 (which is actually a lot) has been known to cause fatigue and nausea. The fatigue may be due to B5 metabolizing away all the B12. Make sure you balance your vitamin intake.

The standard recommended dose for athletes is 200 mgs.

Good: Yogurt, turkey, crimini mushrooms
Better: Broccoli, chicken, lentils
Best: Sweet potato, avocado, shiitake mushrooms

B6 (Pyrodoxine Acid) – Minimum of 1.5 mgs per day. Athletes may need as high as 50 mgs per day. Stay below 100 mgs!

Good: Bananas, spinach, sunflower seeds
Better: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, salmon
Best: Beef, turkey, tuna

B9 (Folic Acid / Folate) – 400 micrograms. Read again. MICROgrams. That’s kind of important because 400 miligrams, which is exactly 1,000 times as much, might just kill you.

Important: Folic Acid is highly essential for women who are pregnant. You’ll need twice the recommended dose, around 800 micrograms. This dose has also been shown to improve mental clarity in both men and women, so double bonus there. Still some literature suggest an intake of up to 1,200 micrograms per day.

Good: Broccoli, turnip greens, kidney beans
Better: Black beans, spinach, asparagus
Best: garbanzo beans, pinto beans, lintels

B12 (Cobolamin) – 1.5 microgram for men, around 2.5 for women who are pregnant. B12 can be absorbed perfectly fine – despite what anyone tells you – so long as you have a fully functional digestive tract. A problem anywhere in the gut (which is like a clock – there’s a million parts) may inhibit B12 absorption and require special supplementation, like injections. Athletes may benefit from up to 200 to 500 micrograms per day.

You can’t store any of these, as they’re all water soluble, not fat soluble. You’ll need to get them all over again each day for optimum athlete performance.

Good: Cow’s milk, yogurt, beef
Better: Shrimp, scallops, lamb
Best: Tuna, salmon, sardines

Deficiency – A deficiency in any of these can result in a never ending list of health problems, ranging from lack of energy and general feelings of tiredness / laziness, to death. That’s a fairly broad spectrum and would require several more chapters to cover. Since athletes typically require more B vitamins than do non-athletes, the possibility for a deficiency is much greater.

Toxicity – Most of these you can’t really overdose on. B1 and B2 have virtually no overdose limit. However, B3 taken at 500 mgs a day for prolonged periods can result in liver failure, and B6 taken at 200 mgs for prolonged periods can cause neuropathy (damage to the nervous system) and possible dementia, including out of body experiences. Don’t try this. Avoid B6 overdoses, cuz along with the tripping-out you can get serious nerve damage that may not recover.

Other B vitamins, like B9 and B12, we’re really not sure what happens if you continually overdose. It’s probably not gonna be awesome.

Heat and light tend to destroy some B vitamins, but not all. That’s why it’s best to eat your veggies raw, or at most steamed, instead of cooked.

Vitamin C – Humans are among the few animals that cannot make this in the body and require it from the diet. Allows the formation of connective tissues, storage of iron, production of bile acids and neurotransmitters, required for wound-healing and immune system function, and is a powerful antioxidant. It also synthesizes carnitine (a substance also responsible for dozens of many important functions, which include fat burning).

Vitamin CImportant: Unless you have an existing deficiency, vitamin C does not prevent colds. It cannot shorten the duration of a cold. It may, slightly, lessen the severity of symptoms, but that’s all.

It has been suggested that vitamin C can improve athletic performance. A staggering number of contradictory studies exist on this topic. The variable responsible for this confusion might be the fact that those with enough vitamin C in their diet already will respond differently to the administration of C than those who have some level of deficiency

See, I read 5 or 6 articles like this for each and every one of these (which has driven me partially insane) to make sure I’m staying up with the science, and then taking that science and simplifying it so you can know what the hell’s going on. Please, no autographs. Just send money.

But in all honesty its damn hard to tell what’s what. I’ve looked at countless studies in text books and online and no one agrees on anything. What we can ascertain is that vitamin C is important. Even a slight deficiency can impact your results.

Dose – Non training individuals need around 500 mgs per day to stay healthy. Athletes may benefit from 2,000 mgs per day. 1 orange has 70 mgs. 1 cup of bell peppers (capsicum) has about 175 mgs.

Deficiency – Infections due impaired immune system function, nosebleeds, injuries that do not heal properly, weakness, fatigue, weakened teeth or possible tooth loss, dry skin that breaks open and bleeds, internal bleeding, hair loss, rapid aging, and depression. Severe deficiency results in a disease called “scurvy”, which has many of the same symptoms. A deficiency is rare. Just eat an orange!

Toxicity – Main symptoms include nausea, vomiting, headache, red flushed skin, and sleep disturbances. But you’d need to get around 6,000 mgs for this to happen. That’s like 100 oranges. I don’t think your stomach can hold that much.

Surprisingly the LD50 (point at which 50% of the subjects die) has been established for this vitamin! It’s around 11,000 mgs. That’s like … and ungodly number of oranges. Surely you wouldn’t even have that much room in your fridge.

Good: Cauliflower, cantaloupe, kiwifruit
Better: Oranges, pineapple, strawberry
Best: Broccoli, bell peppers, papaya

Vitamin D – Allows calcium to strengthen bones, strengthens immune system, and reduces inflammation.

Dose – Is synthesized by UV light on the skin. Lighter skinned people need only around 20 minutes of sunlight on the hands and face, 3 times a week. Darker skinned people may need twice as much – around 40 minutes on the hands and face, 3 times a week.
Non athletes need around 400 to 800 IU (about 20 micrograms). Athletes may benefit from up to 1000 IU. (about 25 micrograms). The higher dose has been shown to cut the risk of some cancers by as much as 50% or more.

Deficiency – Bone deformation disease called “Rickets”, bone thinning, and muscular weakness.

Toxicity – 50,000 IU a day, every day for weeks on end can cause nausea, vomiting, weakness, excessive thirst, urination, and eventually kidney failure.

Good: Standing outside in the sun for a while.
Better: Shiitake mushrooms, eggs, cows milk
Best: Tuna, sardines, salmon

Vitamin E – For athletes, this has been shown to reduce cramping, reduce muscle fatigue, boost anabolic hormones, and fight inflammation (which improves recovery). In some literature, vitamin E has been called the “master antioxidant” (remember that an antioxidant slows down aging). It’s the vitamin all other antioxidants are compared to.

Important: It is highly recommended you get your vitamin E from food sources only! Some research into supplemental vitamin E has shown disastrous effects, such as increased mortality, over time.

Dose – Regular folks need around 30 IU (about 20 mgs). Athletes may not benefit from vitamin Emuch more than this.

Deficiency – This appears to be quite rare with vitamin E. Most people with an E deficiency are those with impaired digestive tracts which cant absorb the vitamin. Symptoms are vague and hard to place, but it appears that the nervous system is affected, resulting in pain, tingling, or pin-pricking sensations, with eventual nervous system damage and impaired immune system function.

Toxicity – this is also hard to place. It seems that you’re gradually get easier and easier to kill as your intake of vitamin E exceeds 150 IU.

Good: Mustard greens, beet greens, asparagus
Better: turnip greens, avocado, peanuts
Best: spinach, almonds, sunflower seeds

Vitamin K – Allows blood clotting, helps make stronger bones, and grants some protection against age related artery calcification (artery hardening).

Dose – Around 100 micrograms. However, fitness diets frequently supply upwards of 800 micrograms of vitamin K.

Deficiency – Symptoms include gum bleeding, stomach bleeding, nose bleeding, easy bruising, blood in the urine, excessive bleeding from cuts, hemorrhaging, and bleeding. Did I mention bleeding?

Toxicity – It’s impossible to overdose on K from the diet. In fact there is no observed toxicity level from supplements either. Only a synthetic form of K called “menadione” has been shown to be toxic. As a result, it was banned.

Good: Brussels sprouts, broccoli, parsley
Better: Turnip greens, swiss chard, beet greens
Best: Mustard greens, spinach, kale.


You can start to see how simple it is to get everything you need… just look how many times the same exact names appear over and over again.  Spinach, turnip greens, and broccoli pretty much have you covered.  Add a little tuna for protein and additional vitamins, and you’re set!

You can get a pack of frozen spinach from Safeway for about $1.25, and a can of tuna typically cost a dollar.  Complete nutrition for a fraction of what you’re paying now!

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2 Responses to Complete Vitamin Guide

  1. Pingback: Complete Mineral Guide | Sense and Wellness

  2. Pingback: The Ultimate Diet Guide, Part 1: Calories and Carbohydrates | Sense and Wellness

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