10 Important Vitamins And What They Do

Making sure to get all your vitamins and nutrients is the basis of any healthy diet. But what are the 10 most important vitamins and minerals out there? What exactly do they do? And which foods contain the most of them? We're here to lay it all out for you.

10 Important Vitamins and What They Do (Slideshow)

Vitamins, put simply, are the essential nutrients that our body needs in order to function properly. And since our bodies can't synthesize them naturally, we need to obtain them from our food. By eating a healthy, balanced diet we should be able to get all the vitamins we need, but for many of us that unfortunately isn't what happens.

According to a study published in the Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, about 30 percent of the calories that Americans consume daily come from sources that don't contain much in the way of vitamins, like snacks, soda, and alcohol. Without the necessary vitamins, our body has a hard time getting some of its most important jobs done. For example, different vitamins can regulate cell growth, promote bone health, act as antioxidants, and keep cells functioning at their peak. Vitamins help us keep our cells, tissues, bones, skin, and just about every part of our body healthy.

Vitamin supplements are a great way to make sure that you get all the necessary vitamins (it's always a smart idea to take a multivitamin daily), but those have only been around since the 1930s. The jury is still out on whether vitamins taken in pill form are absorbed by the body as effectively as those ingested through food, so taking a couple vitamins is no replacement for a healthy, nutrient-rich diet.

Read on to learn what the most important vitamins and minerals are, what they do, and which foods contain the highest concentrations.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D regulates metabolism, boosts the immune system, and promotes bone health. We can actually absorb this vitamin from the sun's rays (which is why we tend to get sick during the winter, when we get less sun), but foods that are highest in it are herring, salmon, halibut, oysters, eggs, and shiitake mushrooms.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is loaded with antioxidants, boosts the immune system, helps wounds heal, and protects against cancer. Just about every fruit and vegetable contains some vitamin C, but citrus fruits, broccoli, tomatoes, and red bell peppers are the best sources. 

Click here for 8 more nutrients that do a body good.