You’ll hear all about the use of vitamins in the diet. There is always some company promoting their supplements or vitamin products. There’s even water that’s loaded with vitamins (apparently). Then you’ll hear all about the natural ways to get your vitamins, especially through fruits and vegetables.
What a lot of companies or health professionals don’t tell you is what vitamins you need and why. They don’t tell you about the amount of the vitamins you need based on your age and why they’re so important at various points in your life.
That’s why you need this all-in-one guide. We’ll go through everything you need to know about your vitamin intake based on your age and what the numbers mean. This is just looking at the vitamin intake. Don’t forget about your minerals too!
The Different Vitamins
Let’s start with a breakdown of the vitamins. Vitamins mostly have a letter: Vitamins A, C, D, and E are the ones you’ll mostly hear about, but the B vitamins are also important. There’s also vitamin K that you don’t want to overlook.
Vitamin K is the easiest to discuss. It’s the one your body needs for blood clotting. Without it, you’re at risk of low blood pressure and internal bleeding. Babies tend to be given a vitamin K shot in the first hours of life to make sure there’s enough.
The B vitamins are comprised of vitamins B1, B2, B3 and so on up to B12. They can also be called other names, such as folic acid. The B vitamins are essential for the development and maintenance of the central nervous system, the brain, and other connected elements. Pregnant women are encouraged to add more folic acid to the diet to help with the development of the baby.
Then there’s vitamin C and E, which are routinely confused and debated about. Vitamin C is often viewed as the one to protect the immune system. While it does, it’s vitamin E that is highly important to fight infections and diseases. Vitamin C can help prevent and treat scurvy. Fun fact: the British were known as limeys because they would use limes to help prevent scurvy while on board ships. The vitamin also helps with the absorption of iron and reduces the risk of heart disease.
Vitamin D is used to help the body absorb calcium, which leads to healthy bones. It’s also linked to prevent rickets.
As for vitamin A, this is to help with the muscle, eye, and overall health. We’ll touch more on this as we discuss it, as it is an important vitamin to add to the diet.
Yes, You Can Get Too Much!
While vitamins are good for you, it’s important only to get the recommended daily amount. Okay, a day or two where you go over isn’t going to do you a lot of long-term harm, but you don’t want to add too much consistently. You can cause various health problems with the majority of vitamins.
The only vitamins that have shown no adverse side effects from using too many are the B vitamins. This is because they’re water soluble, so they are excreted from your body easily. The others are absorbed by the body and used in various ways.
We all have different tolerance levels. Most of us will have a high tolerance level for vitamins, but there is always the odd person who doesn’t. Your doctor will discuss the risks of adding too many vitamins.
The best way to get your daily intake is through natural means, although this can sometimes be hard. When you do take supplements, you need to watch the amount you take and the number of vitamins you get through your diet. It’s very easy to go over your recommended daily allowance, especially when it comes to vitamins A, K, and E. They can become toxic in the body.
Vitamins A, D, E, and K are all fat-soluble vitamins. This means we’re unlikely to become deficient in them with a healthy diet. They are stored in the fat and used when needed. However, it does mean more of a toxicity risk.
The other vitamins are water soluble, so we get rid of them. It’s not possible to create stores and some we don’t create ourselves (like vitamin C), so we need to get them through our diets or supplements.
How Much Should You Take?
What do all the pesky numbers mean when it comes to the vitamins? You’ll usually see *RDA on most supplements. This stands for Recommended Daily Amount. You can go slightly over, and there is an Upper Limit often suggested. In some cases, the upper limit is for all vitamins, but in other cases, it’s only for synthetic forms of it.
Here’s how much you should take for your health and the amount you can take up to on a daily basis without dangers of toxicity.
Vitamin A: 2,310 IU/day (women), 3,000 IU/day (men); up to 10,000 IU/day
Vitamin B complex/Choline: 425mg/day (women), amount differs for men based on age; up to 3,500 mg/day
Vitamin B3: 14 mg/day (women), 16mg/day (men); Up to 35 mg/day (only in fortified foods or supplements)
Vitamin B6: Amount differs based on age for men and women; Up to 100 mg/day
Folic Acid: 400mg/day; Up to 1,000 mg/day (only in fortified foods and supplements)
Vitamin C: 75mg/day (women), 90 mg/day (men); Up to 2,000 mg/day
Vitamin D: Amount depends on age for men and women; Up to 100 mg/day
Vitamin E: 22.4 IU/day (men and women); Up to 1,500 IU/day (only in fortified foods and supplements)
Vitamins in Childhood
The vitamins will be taken from the breast milk in breastfed babies, so it’s important that you get all the necessary vitamins in your diet. Babies who are formula fed will get all their necessary vitamins from the milk. The first six months are the easiest.
It’s when you start to add food to the diet.
You want to keep the intakes lower than the recommended amounts above. They are all for adults. The B vitamins and vitamin C aren’t as dangerous but do keep levels of the fat-soluble ones to a minimum. Your doctor will recommend whether vitamin supplements are necessary. Vitamin D is added to milk in some parts of the world, so you likely won’t need to worry about that if you drink cow’s milk.
Vitamins in Your 20s-30s
In the first two decades of your adult life, it’s the vitamins D and C, and folic acid that you want to focus on the most out of all the vitamins.
Vitamin D helps the body to absorb the calcium needed for the bones. As you get older, you’ll need to add more to your diet (along with calcium) to help prevent bone density loss and osteoporosis. You can usually get your daily amount from the sun, especially in the middle of summer.
Right now, the recommended amount of vitamin D between the ages of 1 year and 70 years is 15 mg per day. You can often get this from just 15-30 minutes (depending on your skin type) in the sun without sunscreen. After that, return inside and put the sunscreen on to protect from burning damage. By getting a good amount in your 20s and 30s, you’re setting your bones up for a good life in your later years.
You’ll also want to focus on vitamin C to ensure your heart and cell health. This is a vitamin you need to focus on throughout your life since you can’t store it.
Folic acid is another important one, especially if you’re planning on conceiving or you at least want to try. You want to get the folic acid levels up before you try to conceive. The development of the brain and central nervous system starts from the very first moment—and you won’t know you’re pregnant for at least two weeks after that. If you get the folic acid now, you’ll give your baby the best possible start in life.
Vitamins in Your 40s
During your 40s, you can feel like your body is starting to decline. This is when you can start seeing osteoporosis becoming a threat, so you want to keep that vitamin D amount up. You’ll also want to keep adding folic acid to your diet. You can still have children in your 40, contrary to everything the TV will want you to believe.
It’s also worth adding more vitamin A to your diet, especially forms of lutein. This is a nutrient essential for the eye health. From your 40s, your eye health will deteriorate the most. If you have a family history of macular degeneration disease or glaucoma, your optometrist will keep an eye (pun most definitely intended) on the health of the muscles and retinas. Lutein has been linked to preventing the formation of various eye diseases that can lead to blindness.
Vitamins in Your 50s
When you reach your 50s, you’ll want to look at adding more vitamin B12 into your diet. During your younger years, your body can absorb more vitamin B12 from food. As you get older, the digestive system doesn’t work as efficiently and doesn’t absorb as much, meaning your central nervous system can suffer. You want to get 2.4 mg/day once you hit your 50s to support your health.
A multivitamin is often recommended. This will usually add a mixture of all the vitamins, including vitamins A, D and E. Do watch the amount of the vitamins you take, along with the amount you get from your natural food. There are some multivitamins designed for the over 50s, which have less iron in them but more B12. This helps reflect your body’s changing needs.
B6 is another vitamin that you want to increase when you reach your 50s. Women should go from 1.3 mg/day to 1.5 mg/day, while men should go from the 1.3 mg/day to 1.7 mg/day. The upper limit remains at 100 mg/day.
Vitamins Later in Life
As you get older, you want to continue adding vitamins D and B12 to your diet. You’ll also need to check that any multivitamins you do take have antioxidants like lycopene and lutein. The lutein continues the protection against macular degeneration disease, while the lycopene can help to reduce the risk of heart disease.
Your vitamin D levels increase from the 15 mg/day to 20 mg/day when you reach your 70s. This is when you’re most at risk of developing osteoporosis. Your body stops adding to the bone density, so you’re in a continual decline if you don’t protect your bones.
What About Vitamin H?
You’ve likely heard of vitamin H. This is also referred to as vitamin B7 and biotin. It’s another water-soluble vitamin that is essential for cell growth and the metabolism. It’s a vitamin that you will most likely get enough in your healthy diet, especially if you eat plenty of leafy greens. It’s also found in avocados, salmon, and whole grains.
The vitamin helps the body convert the calories from the food into energy that can be used by the metabolism. This is something that happens throughout your life, and a deficiency is extremely rare. Studies show that having too many raw egg whites will lead to biotin problems but are you going to eat them? They don’t sound that appetizing.
These are the most important vitamins for your health. With the others, look at meeting the daily recommended amount daily, and you will be fine. Your body will remain in top shape, along with a healthy diet and plenty of fluids and exercise. You’ll even feel the benefits, especially if you’re moving from a relatively unhealthy lifestyle.
Getting the right vitamins in your diet will help to preserve your bone, muscle, and brain health. You’ll look after your eyes and ensure your blood flow is at an optimal level. Along with good mineral intake, you’ll find health worries are a thing of the past.