What are vitamins?
A vitamin is a small molecule that your body needs to carry out a certain reaction. Vitamins are essential in small quantities for all body functions including growth, repair of tissues, and the maintenance health. Most of us get enough of vitamins from our food, but it may be necessary for some people to take a vitamin supplement, because an ongoing shortage of vitamins will lead to failed health, weakness, susceptibility to disease.
The body needs at least 13 different vitamins to function properly: Vitamin A – Retinol; Vitamin B complex (B1 – Thiamine; B2 – Riboflavin; B3 – Niacin; B6 – Pyridoxine; B12 – Cyanocobalamin; B9 – Folic acid; B5 – Pantothenic acid; H – Biotin); Vitamin C – Ascorbic acid; Vitamin D – Calciferol (can be obtained through sunlight); Vitamin E – Tocopherol; Vitamin K – Menaquinone.
There are two types of vitamins: fat soluble (dissolve in fat) and water soluble.
Water soluble vitamins
Water-soluble vitamins are easily absorbed by your body. These vitamins – vitamin C and all the B vitamins – need to dissolve in water before your body can absorb them. The water-soluble vitamins your body doesn’t use are removed by your kidneys and come out in your urine. Because of this, your body can’t store these vitamins in any significant amounts, so you need a fresh supply of these vitamins every day to avoid depletion. You can’t really overdose on water-soluble vitamins, unless you take truly massive doses.
Water-soluble vitamins are easily destroyed or washed out during food storage or preparation. Proper storage and preparation of food can minimize vitamin loss. To reduce vitamin loss, refrigerate fresh produce, keep milk and grains away from strong light, and use the cooking water from vegetables to prepare soups.
Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)
Vitamin B1 stimulates the appetite, aids digestion and the absorption of food, promotes growth in children, increases resistance to infection, essential for the proper functioning of the heart, nerve tissue and muscles. Age, fever, exercise, and weight gain all increase the need for this vitamin.
Lack of vitamin B1 may cause slower heartbeat, poor appetite, intestinal and gastric disorders, nervousness, poor lactation in nursing women, enlargement of the adrenals and pancreas, nerve degeneration, mental confusion, muscle weakness, wasting, edema and beriberi (disease of the peripheral nerves).
Food sources of Vitamin B1: fortified breads, meat and fish, liver, whole grains like wheat germ, cabbage, carrot, pineapple, celery, grapefruit, coconut, lemon, parsley, pomegranate.
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
Vitamin B2 helps release energy from foods, is good for the skin, for the healthy functioning of gastrointestinal tract, promotes good vision and. Aids in the assimilation of iron and aids in proteins metabolism.
Lack of vitamin B2 may cause May Retard growth in children, lack of stamina and vitality, digestive disturbances, cataract, loss of hair, reduced tissue respiration or exchange of gases between the tissues and the blood, tongue ulceration, cracks at corners of mouth, dermatitis around nose and lips, eyes sensitive to light.
Food sources of Vitamin B2: meat, eggs, dairy products, grapefruit, apple, apricot, cabbage, carrot, nuts, spinach.
Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
Vitamin B3 helps the body turn food into energy. It aids in digestion, promotes normal appetite and healthy skin and is important for nerve function.
Lack of vitamin B3 may cause skin disorders, diarrhea, weakness, mental confusion, irritability.
Food sources of Vitamin B3: red meat, liver, poultry, fish, fortified hot and cold cereals, peanuts.
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid)
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid) is involved in energy production; aids in formation of hormones.
Lack of vitamin B5 may cause fatigue; nausea, abdominal cramps; difficulty sleeping.
Food sources of Pantothenic acid: liver, kidney, meats, egg yolk, whole grains, legumes.
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
Vitamin B6 is important for the brain and nerves to function normally. It also helps the body break down proteins and make red blood cells and helps body use fats.
Lack of vitamin B6 may cause skin disorders, dermatitis, cracks at corners of mouth, irritability, anemia, kidney stones, nausea, smooth tongue.
Food sources of Vitamin B6: potatoes, bananas, seeds, nuts, red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, green leafy vegetables, spinach, fortified cereals.
Vitamin B9 (Folic acid)
Vitamin B9 helps the body make red blood cells, break down proteins, and keep the heart healthy, prevents birth defects of spine and brain, lowers homocystein levels and thus coronary heart disease risk. It is also needed to make DNA.
Lack of vitamin B9 may cause anemia, smooth tongue, diarrhea.
Food sources of Folic acid: dried beans and other legumes, leafy green vegetables, asparagus, citrus fruits, poultry.
Vitamin B12 helps to build DNA, aids in development of normal red blood cells, and is important for nerve cell function.
Lack of vitamin B12 may cause pernicious anemia, anemia, neurological disorders, degeneration of peripheral nerves that may cause numbness, tingling in fingers and toes.
Food sources of Vitamin B12: fish, red meat, poultry, milk, cheese, and eggs.
Biotin (Vitamin H)
Biotin helps release energy from carbohydrates; aids in fat synthesis.
Lack of Biotin may cause fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, depression, muscle pains, anemia.
Food sources of Biotin: liver, kidney, egg yolk, milk, most fresh vegetables.
Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid)
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is needed to form collagen, a tissue that helps to hold cells together. It aids in wound healing, assists in bone and tooth formation, strengthens the blood vessel walls, is vital for the function of the immune system, improves absorption and utilization of iron and calcium, and contributes to brain function. It also helps prevent nutritional ailments such as scurvy.
Lack of vitamin C may cause rapid heartbeat and respiration, shortness of breath, general weakness, tendency toward disease of the heart and blood vessels, headache, tooth decay, sore joints and bones, peptic and duodenal ulcers, impaired adrenal function, scurvy, difficulty in knitting broken bones.
Food sources of Vitamin C: cabbage, cucumber, grapefruit, orange, lemon, papaya, parsley, pineapple, radish, spinach, tomato, turnip, carrot, rhubarb.