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How do your favorite foods stack up for vitamins and minerals? Other nutrients? Calories? All these facts are within your easy reach; just check the Nutrition Facts on a food package. For the nutrient database from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, click onto www.ars.usda.gov/foodsearch for the "What's in the Foods You Eat—Search Tool." Or use USDA's www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/ foodcomp/search/.

water-soluble vitamins aren't stored in your body— at least not in significant amounts. Instead, your body uses what it needs, then excretes the extra through urine. Since they aren't stored, you need a regular supply of water-soluble vitamins from your food choices.

How much do you need? Enough, but not too much. Even though you excrete excess amounts of water-soluble vitamins, moderation is the best approach. For example, taking large doses of vitamin C from a dietary supplement may create extra work for your kidneys, causing kidney stones, as well as diarrhea. Likewise, too much niacin, vitamin B6, folate, or pantothenic acid also may be harmful.

Fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, and K) dissolve in fat. That's how they're carried into your bloodstream and throughout your body—attached to substances within your body made with lipids, or fat. That's one reason why you need moderate amounts of fat in your overall food choices.

Your body can store fat-soluble vitamins in body fat, so consuming excessive amounts of any fat-soluble vitamins for too long can be harmful. Vitamins A and D, for example, can build up to harmful levels. High intakes of vitamins E and K usually aren't linked to unhealthy symptoms.

Read on to find out how vitamins keep you healthy: their functions, effects of getting too little or too much, Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs), and their food sources. Note: On the following pages, the amounts of vitamins in food have been rounded.

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