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Vitamins and multivitamins: What parents need to know

Paying attention to vitamins can often feel like you’re wading through some serious alphabet soup. A, B, C, D, then there’s even some with numbers after them, like B12. Not to mention that a whole industry has grown around multivitamins, meant to give you a little extra help getting your daily fill.

With so many choices, and so many different messages out there about which ones are important and which ones are not, it can be hard to know how to go about making sure you’re taking the right approach to vitamins for your child. Let’s see what we can do to sift through it all.

Vitamins: What and where

Here is a list of some of the most common and important vitamins, how they benefit our bodies, and where you can find them:

  • Vitamin A: Helps eyes, immune system, cell growth and skin. Sources include milk, eggs, orange and green fruits and vegetables.
  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamin): Helps the heart, muscles and nervous system. Sources include bread, pasta, lean meats, dried beans, and peas.
  • Vitamin B12: Helps make red blood cells. Sources include fish, red meat, poultry, milk, cheese and eggs.
  • Vitamin C: Helps bones, teeth, gums, blood vessels, healing wounds, brain function. Sources include citrus fruits, strawberries, tomatoes, broccoli, spinach and peppers.
  • Vitamin D: Strengthens bones. Sources include sunlight, egg yolks, fish, milk, orange juice
  • Vitamin E: This is an antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage. Sources include nuts, vegetable oils, green leafy vegetables and whole grains.

Many foods have vitamins added to them that might not otherwise be there — a process often referred to as “fortified” — which can make foods like breakfast cereals better health options.


Walk into any big-box store or pharmacy and you’ll see a huge selection of multivitamins, pills that contain several vitamins. While adults generally get plain-looking pills, kids have all sorts of fun choices, whether they be chewables, gummies, or in cartoon form. But while multivitamins sound like a smart idea, the question is often asked: Do you need them?

Most medical professionals will say that it’s much better for your child (and you) to get vitamins from food as opposed to a pill. In fact, ingesting too much of a multivitamin can be toxic, and there is a chance that the pills could interact poorly with other medications your child might be taking.

There can be instances when your child’s doctor would recommend a multivitamin, such as if he or she has a delay in growth or development, a chronic illness or food allergy, or a restrictive diet. But if you’re worried your child isn’t getting enough vitamins and nutrients, check with your doctor before resorting to multivitamins. And make sure you get multivitamins for the proper age group, and don’t exceed 100 percent of what should be taken in a day.

And just to leave you with some good news (Doesn’t it always seem like health-related articles are telling us we’re doomed?), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently found that, by and large, Americans are getting most of the vitamins and nutrients they need. So keep up the good work!