Know your Vitamin ABC: which vitamins you need to take and when

Do you know your vitamin ABC? We all know a little bit about vitamins: vitamin C is good for colds, right? Many of us take them in the hope we can ward off that cold that’s going around, or to support our overall health. But how many of us actually understand what we should be taking and why? Health at Hand’s Dr Rami gives us all the facts about which vitamins we should take, for what reason, in what dose.

What are vitamins?

Vitamins are organic compounds that are needed in small quantities to sustain life.

  • There are 13 known vitamins.
  • Vitamins are either water-soluble or fat-soluble.
  • Fat-soluble vitamins are easier for the body to store than water-soluble.
  • Vitamins always contain carbon, so they are described as “organic.”
  • Food is the best source of vitamins, but some people may be advised by a physician to use supplements.
  • The human body can synthesize vitamin D when exposed to sunlight.

Vitamin A

Why you need it: Vitamin A is important for vision, bone growth, reproduction and cell differentiation. Vitamin A also keeps your skin glowing, gives your hair that silky shine, strengthens your teeth and your immunity, and even promotes good vision

Where to get it: Using fresh fruit and veggies like carrots, cantaloupe, broccoli, spinach, cranberries, and pumpkin, fortified cereals, dark leafy greens, and yellow fruits and vegetables.

How much to get daily: 700 – 900 mcg (2,333 IU).

Remember: Excess amounts of vitamin A accumulate and can be toxic. Too much can blur vision, cause headaches and vomiting, and also lead to liver, bone and central nervous system problems.

Vitamin B12:

Why you need it: B12 helps maintain healthy nerve cells and red blood cells. It’s also needed to help make DNA. Vitamin B12 converts food into energy, is essential for red blood cell formation, helps maintain a healthy nervous system, and is important for cardiovascular health due to its role in maintaining a healthy homocysteine level. It is, however, difficult for most vegans to get an adequate source of vitamin B12, since it is mainly found in meat, fish, and dairy products. Therefore, a supplement is often recommended.

Where to get it: Whether you’re a vegetarian or meat eater, fortified cereal can give you all you need. Other sources: fish, meats and dairy.

How much to get daily: 2.4 mcg

Remember:  If you’re vegetarian and don’t eat fortified cereals, talk to your doctor about a vitamin supplement.

Vitamin C

Why you need it: . Vitamin C does wonders for your skin, teeth, and bones. Vitamin C also helps to protect against immune system deficiencies, cardiovascular disease, prenatal health problems, and eye disease.

Where to get it: A glass of orange juice will give you almost all the vitamin C you need. Vitamin C can also be found in fruits and vegetables, including apples, cantaloupe, citrus fruits, kiwi, watermelon, strawberries, broccoli, cherries, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, spinach and sweet potatoes

How much to get daily: 75 mg

Remember: It might surprise you to know that there is no conclusive evidence to show that vitamin C prevents colds. Very high doses may lead to gastrointestinal problems.

Vitamin D

Why you need it: It keeps your bones and teeth healthy by maintaining blood levels of calcium and phosphorus. Vitamin D may help protect against breast, prostate and colon cancers, and decrease the risk of osteoporosis, when combined with a healthy diet and regular exercise.

Where to get it: Sunshine is a major source: Your skin manufactures vitamin D in response to UV light. Great sources of vitamin D include fortified milk, eggs, fish and fish oils, yogurt, almond milk, cheese, mushrooms and tofu.

How much to get daily: 5 mcg (200 IU)We recommend taking 25 mcg for fair-skinned people during the fall and winter and for dark-skinned people all year-round

RememberWhile up to to 90 per cent of the UAE population suffers from this deficiency, according to the international osteoporosis federation, exceeding daily 50 mcg may cause vitamin D toxicity, leading to nausea, vomiting, constipation, weight loss and other symptoms.

Vitamin E

Why you need it: It’s a powerful antioxidant that protects cells from damage. Vitamin E has also been shown to help protect against chronic disease and age-related eye damage.  Vitamin E also supports immune function, DNA repair and other metabolic processes.

Where to get it: An ounce of almonds (about 23) will provide almost half of your daily needs. Other sources include tofu, almonds, pecans, avocado, pumpkin seeds, spinach, swiss chard other leafy greens.

How much to get daily: 15 mg (33 IU)

Remember: Large doses of vitamin E can thin the blood and may increase stroke risk in people with uncontrolled high blood pressure.

Vitamin K

Why you need it: Vitamins K1 and K2, which are essential for helping our blood’s ability to clot. They also help build strong bones and help prevent heart disease. 

Where to get it: The best sources of vitamin K in fruits and vegetables can be found in kale, spinach, beet greens, cauliflower, kiwi and tomatoes.

How much to get daily: 90 micrograms for women and 120 micrograms for men.

Remember: Too much vitamin K can be harmful if you are receiving dialysis treatments due to kidney disease.

If you want to know more about which vitamins you should or should not be taking, please call a Health at Hand doctor who will be able to guide you with your supplement intake. Make a call by downloading the app and signing up today

If you have any questions or concerns about your health, especially about supplement intake, contact your Health at Hand doctor for advice through our app that can be easily downloaded from the App Store. Click here for more information.



Dr Ruhil Badiani

Family Medicine Consultant
Medical Director