Where you can find them, what they do and how to take them.
Taking vitamins, much like say, ahem, shampooing or washing your face, is one of those seemingly basic steps in your routine that you should in theory have all figured out but in reality, trips you up almost every. single. effing. time. If your inner dialogue while strolling the supplement aisle is something like the following, we're right there with you: "So do I spend $100 on this bottle of Whole Foods vitamins, or just buy generic at the drugstore? Do I take a multivitamin or everything seperately? I heard once they're not even regulated... is that true? I know! I'll just go vegan. Or even better, raw! I'll wake up at six every morning to get in a little Pilates and drink a green juice on the way. That will have everything I need, right? Ugh, that Vitamix is so expensive. Maybe I can get my mom to buy me one? Ooh, Clif Bars are on sale..."
Given that we can't even so much as swallow the multi our mom recommended without a mass moral dilemma, we turned to Dana James of Food Coach NYC to break down the A to Zincs (get it?!) of all things vitamins. And yes, that includes the ones that halt the aging process (kinda), which ones no New Yorker could do without and which ones will ward off a hangover (again, kinda).
Naturally found in: Sweet potato, butternut squash, Japanese pumpkin, yellow and red bell peppers, carrots, kale, swiss chard, papaya, apricots and mango.
Beauty benefits: "It gives your skin radiance by helping to exfoliate old skin cells and it protects it from sun damage by acting as a natural barrier to sun-induced free radical damage. It also prevents those red bumps (keratosis pilaris) on the back of the arms."
How to take it: "Eat your Vitamin A paired with other carotenoids, which enhances its absorption and antioxidant properties."
Vitamin B Complex
Naturally found in: Brown rice, quinoa, chickpeas, lentils, black beans, white beans, egg yolk, nutritional yeast and bee pollen.
Beauty benefits: "No New Yorker should be without a B Complex supplement. It’s the antidote to life’s excess. It improves your ability to deal with stress, it boosts your energy levels, it helps the happy neurotransmitter, serotonin, and it helps to metabolize alcohol."
How to take it: "Take it after dinner, as an empty stomach can induce nausea. Double the dose if you’re been imbibing! Be warned, B’s make your urine bright yellow!"
Found in: Spirulina, nutritional yeast, sea vegetables, chicken, beef, lamb, egg yolks, oysters, wild salmon, sardines, lobster and scallops.
Beauty benefits: "It makes you smarter and more vibrant by allowing proper nerve transmission throughout the body and brain."
How to take it: "In your B complex, unless your blood work shows a B12 deficiency. If this happens, take a sublingual B12 for 3 months, then retest."
Found in: All of your leafy greens—kale, spinach, watercress, bok choy, dandelion greens, micro greens, asparagus, peas and beets.
Beauty benefits: "It helps get you to sleep and improves your mood as folate makes neurochemicals that regulate these processes."
How to take it: "In your B complex. Make sure it’s the activated form, 5-methyltetrahydrofolate, for better absorption."
Found in: Strawberries, raspberries, pink grapefruit, blood oranges, clementines, lemons, asparagus, watercress, pomegranate, goji berries and camu camu powder.
Beauty benefits: "If you want ageless and peachy skin, up your vitamin C intake. Collagen can’t be made without it! It’s also needed to make dopamine, the pleasure neurotransmitter. Bad things happen, like nighttime cookie eating, when dopamine is low."
How to take it: "Take 1000mg twice per day as vitamin C is water soluble and is excreted by the body within five hours."
Found in: "From the sun! Very few dietary sources—maitake mushrooms, wild salmon, egg yolks. Note that I’m not including milk because it’s fortified with D and not in a usable form!"
Beauty benefits: "Soft teeth and bones will ruin that pretty smile and that perfected posture. Vitamin D helps prevent this from happening. It also boosts your immune system so colds and coughs don’t interfere with your seduction strategy."
How to take it: "Supplement from September to May when your sun exposure is de minimus. Take 2000 iu in a lipid form as it is a fat-soluble vitamin and needs fat for absorption."
Found in: Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, avocado, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts and Brazil nuts
Beauty benefits: "Helps keep your hair fluid and soft, Victoria’s Secret style. It also keeps your skin glowing and illuminated. Vitamin E protects the skin and hair cells from free radical damage and it regenerates that all-important vitamin C."
How to take it: "Eat it. It’s far more enjoyable than popping a pill."
Found in: Parsley, cilantro, kale, spinach, broccoli, broccoli rabe, Brussel sprouts and cheese. Your gut bacteria also make it.
Beauty benefits: "If you fall over and cut your knee because your high heels are too high, you’ll be thankful for vitamin K. It helps make your blood clot."
How to take it: "Eat it or have your gut bacteria produce it."
Found in: Kale, Swiss chard, almonds, almond milk, tahini, sesame seeds, milk and cheese.
Beauty benefits: "It acts as an anti-ager by enabling the cells to communicate with each other. It also keeps nails and bones super strong."
How to take it: "Eat it. Supplement if you are in a high-risk category for osteopenia."
Found in: Brown rice, millet, amaranth, chia seeds and Brazil nuts.
Beauty benefits: "Copper gets iron into the cells so you can wake up spritely and full of exuberance."
How to take it: "In food. If you take too much you’ll throw off your zinc levels."
Found in: Kale, spinach, figs, molasses, beef, poultry, fish and crustaceans, lentils and sesame seeds.
Beauty benefits: "Help! Those dark circles have come back, your skin looks less than luminous, and your hair is falling out… iron is your rescue remedy!"
How to take it: "Take it after food and with vitamin C to enhance absorption. One caveat—iron supplementation can make you constipated."
Found in: Green juices, kale, spinach, cucumber, pumpkin seeds, sunflowers seeds, Brazil nuts, quinoa and lentils.
Beauty benefits: "Only sleeping 6 hours? Magnesium will make you feel like you’ve slept for 8 hours! It calms you down, makes PMS go away and acts as an energy nutrient."
How to take it: "Before bed as it induces a deeper level of sleep. Take magnesium citrate if you’re constipated and magnesium glycinate if you’re not!"
Found in: Green juices, cucumber, coconut water, bananas, fennel, watercress, celery and kiwi fruit.
Beauty benefits: "Oh no, you just ate gluten and now you’ve gained five puffy pounds! Potassium helps clear the excess water."
How to take it: "Drink it or eat it!"
Found in: Red meat, fish, crustaceans, oysters, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds.
Beauty benefits: "Sex and taste offer some of the greatest pleasures in life. Zinc boosts the libido and makes your palate more refined. It also helps clear acne scars and it boosts immunity!"
How to take it: "After food, as it can cause nausea on an empty stomach."