What Are Vitamins?
Vitamins are organic compounds for our body to function properly and smoothly. Our body needs vitamins to stay healthy and fight off disease. Our body does not produce vitamins so we take vitamins through foods. Most vitamins are in foods and some we get from supplements.
Vitamins have three characteristics:
- Vitamins are a natural component of food
- Vitamins are essential elements for supporting the physiologic function of our body (e.g. growth, reproduction etc.)
- If vitamins are absent in our diet our body will cause specific deficiencies.
Why Are Vitamins Important?
Our body performs some vital tasks such as converting food into energy, building and maintenance of bones, teeth, muscles, skin, blood and hair. Vitamins keep our brain, eyes, nervous and immune system in good working condition. Hence Vitamins are important to perform these functions in our body.
How Many Types Of Vitamins?
There are 13 types of known vitamins with most of them having multiple functions. There are some vitamins available-
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B9
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
On the basis of their solubility, it determines how vitamins act within our body. Vitamins can either be “Fat-soluble or Water-soluble.
What Are Fat-Soluble Vitamins?
Fat-Soluble Vitamins can dissolve in fat (lipid). These vitamins are dissolved in fat globules. Vitamins are absorbed in fat globules. These fat globules travel into blood circulation through the lymphatic system of the small intestine.
Fat-Soluble vitamin includes:
Vitamin A helps the immune system and reproductive system for proper functioning. It keeps human skin healthy. It also helps in our vision in low lighting.
Chemical Name: Retinol, Retinal, and the four carotenoids including “Beta Carotene”.
Vitamin A symptoms are:
- Night Blindness (Nyctalopia): People faces problem in poor lighting or in dark.
- Conjunctival xerosis: Extremely dry eyes
- Bitot Spots- Foam like marks on the white of both eyes.
Good sources of Vitamin A:
- Cheese, Egg
- Oily Fish
- Milk Yogurt
- Liver & Liver pate
- Sweet potatoes
Vitamin D is necessary for strong bones, muscles and immune systems. A low level of the vitamin can cause Osteoporosis, heart disease, diabetes, cancer and a low mood. Our body can make vitamins from itself- exposure to the skin from sunlight. We can also get Vitamin from food like red meat, egg yolks, liver, Oily Fish, Mushroom and Fortified Foods (Enrichment foods)- foods that are nutrient added to them e.g Dairy milk, Plant Milk, Cereals and Orange Juices.
Chemical Name: Ergocalciferol, Cholecalciferol
Vitamin D deficiency symptoms include:
- Sarcoidosis: When inflammatory cells grow in parts of our body such as skin heart, lungs and eyes.
- Kidney disease
- Hyperparathyroidism: When the parathyroid in our neck generates excess levels of hormones called parathyroid.
Vitamin E helps human cells from damage. It is also an antioxidant. The antioxidant helps prevent chronic diseases- like heart disease and cancer. Vitamin E is important for immune function, blood vessels, skin and eyes.
Chemical Name: Tocopherol, Tocotrienol.
Vitamin E is naturally found in:
- Sunflower seeds
- Fish- like shrimp and trout
- Plants oil- Sunflower & rapeseed
It is essential for blood clotting and bone health. Our body gets vitamin K by eating a varied and balanced diet with lots of green vegetables, vegetable oil and some fruits. In the human gut bacteria also produces vitamin K which our body absorbs.
Chemical Name: Phylloquinone, Menaquinone
Vitamin K includes:
- Green leafy vegetables like kale, cabbage and spinach.
- Soybeans and soybeans oil
- Fermented foods- Natto
What Are Water-Soluble Vitamins?
Vitamin those are able to dissolve in water. We need to eat them to replenish supplies because it is not stored in our body.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C helps in protecting our body cells and maintaining healthy skin, blood vessels and bones. It also helps in healing wounds.
Chemical Name: Ascorbic Acid
Good sources of Vitamin C:
- Brussels Sprout
Cooking destroys the amount of vitamin c in foods as heating destroys Vitamin C.
Deficiency: Scurvy- Causes bleeding gums, loss of teeth, poor tissue growth and wound healing.
Our body needs carbohydrates for energy and Vitamin B1 helps to use carbohydrates.
Chemical Name: Thiamin
Sources of Vitamin B1:
- Fish- like Salmon, tuna and muscles.
- Green peas
- Black beans
- Brown rice
Deficiencies: Beriberi and Wernicke- Korsakoff Syndrome.
Vitamin B2 keeps our skin, eyes and nervous system healthy. It helps in releasing energy from food.
Chemical Name: Riboflavin
Sources of Vitamin B2:
- Low-fat dairy milk
- Meat- Pork and Beef
- Green vegetables like Spinach
- Fish- Salmon
Deficiencies: Inflammation of lips and fissures in the mouth.
There are two forms of vitamin B3- nicotinic acid and nicotinamide. It helps to lower LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol. Nicotinamide helps in niacin level if we have a deficiency.
Chemical Name: Niacin, Nicotinamide
- Brown rice
- Sweet Potatoes
Deficiency: Pellagra- Low-level results in healthy tissue, which causes diarrhoea and skin changes and intestinal upset.
Pantothenic acid helps to turn food into energy. It also helps in making and breakdown down fats. It also helps in producing hormones.
Chemical Name: Pantothenic Acid
Vitamin B5 founds in:
- Shiitake Mushroom
- Fish like Salmon
- Whole Milk
- Sweet Potatoes
Vitamin B6 is necessary for more than 100 enzyme reactions that are involved in metabolism. It also helps in brain development during pregnancy.
Chemical Name: Pyridoxine
Good Sources of Vitamin B6:
- Meat like chicken, pork, Beef
- Fish like Tuna and Salamon
- Some fruits like Banana, Cantaloupe, and Oranges.
- Some fortified breakfast, cereals
- Some vegetables-especially dark leafy greens.
Deficiencies: It may lead to anaemia and peripheral neuropathy.
Vitamin B7 enables our body to metabolize protein, fat and carbohydrate. It also helps to produce keratin which is a structural protein of skin, hair and nails.
Folic Acid is the synthetic version of Vitamin B9, which is found in fortified foods and supplements. It helps in making red blood cells. It is essential for making DNA and RNA.
Vitamin B9 found in:
- Leafy green vegetables
- Brussels sprout
- Kidney Beans
Deficiency: It may affect the fetus’ nervous system during pregnancy.
It is essential for making red blood cells. Oxygen from lungs to the rest of the body through red blood cells. It also keeps our brain and nervous system healthy. It is naturally only found in animal products. Vitamin B12 deficiency can occur if a human is vegetarian.
Chemical Name: Cyanocobalamin, Hydroxocobalamin, Methylcobalamin.
Vitamin B12 found in:
- Low-Fat Milk
- Some fortified foods – cereals, tofu and soymilk.
Deficiency- Pernicious Anaemia
Conclusion: Vitamins are organic compound and it plays important role in human health. Most vitamins need to come from food because our body does not produce them.
Disclaimer: All the content of this is only for information purposes only.