Decoding Vitamins: Understanding the Alphabet of Options

May 15, 2024


Here’s what to take to help your body function better

Vitamins and minerals can fill nutritional gaps and aid in bodily functions, including brain growth, bone health, immunity and vision. But a quick glance at the pharmacy’s supplement section — or even your own medicine chest — can reveal a confusing alphabet of options.

Read More: Give Your Immune System a Boost!

Here, we share how vitamins help and what you should talk about with your primary care provider.

Vitamin C

  • What it does: Helps the body fight infection and absorb iron
  • Who needs supplements: Smokers, people with certain gastrointestinal conditions or cancers, and people who don’t get enough vitamin C through fruits and vegetables
  • Get it in your diet: Citrus, tomatoes, strawberries, bell peppers and cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli and cauliflower)


  • What it does: Builds and maintains strong bones
  • Who needs supplements: People who are lactose intolerant, those with certain GI conditions, and people who eat a high-protein, high-sodium or vegan diet
  • Get it in your diet: Dairy, leafy greens, canned fish, and calcium-fortified soy and cereal products

Vitamin D

  • What it does: Promotes the growth of strong bones
  • Who needs supplements: Everyone, including infants; talk to your provider about how much you should take
  • Get it in your diet: Some fish, eggs, and vitamin D-fortified dairy products and cereals

Folate (Folic Acid)

  • What it does: Supports a healthy pregnancy and reduces the risk of birth defects
  • Who needs supplements: Women who are pregnant, nursing or trying to get pregnant
  • Get it in your diet: Spinach, liver, asparagus and Brussels sprouts


  • What it does: Helps red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body
  • Who needs supplements: Children, teenage girls and pregnant women
  • Get it in your diet: Most meats, eggs, leafy greens, beans and tofu

Vitamins and minerals are essential to healthy body function. From supporting immune health, to brain function and everything in between, these tiny nutrients make a big impact and help keep your body functioning at optimal levels.

Are you worried you’re not getting all the nutrients your body needs? If you think you may have a deficiency in one of these vital nutrients, check in with your doctor and see if a change in diet or a supplement are right for you.