Vitamins are compounds found in certain food which are vital to our health and longevity. Our body needs them for growth, function, energy, tissue repair and waste removal. There are two categories of vitamins: water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins. Water-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins B and C, need to be included in our daily diet as our body does not store any excess of these vitamins. The excess is being excreted in the urine. Fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A, D, E and K, are absorbed by the intestine and transported to different parts of the body by the lymphatic system, which is part of the immune system. Every vitamin has a specific and vital task to perform. It is important to know what vitamins are essential for our health, how they benefit us and where they can be obtained.
* Vitamin A
Vitamin A helps to regulate cell development, promote bone and teeth development, and boost the body’s immune system. It is needed particularly for good vision and healthy skin. It also improves the body’s healing ability. Vitamin A can be found in liver, kidneys, butter, eggs, fish oils, and the beta-carotene of green and yellow fruit and vegetables.
* Vitamin B1
Vitamin B1 is necessary for converting blood sugar into energy, keeping the nervous system healthy and promoting growth. It can be obtained from wheat germ, peanuts, sunflower seeds, beans, pork, cereals and peas.
* Vitamin B2
Vitamin B2 helps the body to produce energy. It is particularly important during the stage of growth and development as it helps to keep the mucous membranes healthy and protect the nervous system, eyes and skin. Vitamin B2 is mainly found in milk, cheese, yogurt, green leafy vegetables, liver, kidneys, chicken and bread.
* Vitamin B3 Vitamin B3 is essential in keeping the skin, nerve system and digestive system healthy. It also helps to release energy from the food we eat and aids in lowering the blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides. The dietary sources of vitamin B3 include lean meats, poultry, fish, avocados, peanuts and sunflower seeds.
* Vitamin B5
Vitamin B5 aids the body fight infections, heal wounds and build cells. It helps to strengthen the body’s immune system. Vitamin B5 is mainly found in liver, kidneys, fish, eggs and whole-grain products.
* Vitamin B6 Vitamin B6 has an important function in the production of cells. This vitamin helps to maintain the health of the nervous and immune systems. It is instrumental in maintaining leucocytes (white blood cells), which produce antibodies. Apart from these, it enables the body to resist stress and helps maintain the proper chemical balance in the body’s fluids. The dietary sources of Vitamin B6 include meat, eggs, cabbage, melon, molasses, yeast, avocados, carrots, bananas, fish, rice, soybeans and whole grains.
* Vitamin B12 Vitamin B12 aids in growth and cell development, particularly in the production of erythrocytes (red blood cells). It also enables the body to process carbohydrates and fats. Helping the nervous system to function properly, it improves memory and concentration. It also helps the body process deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). Vitamin B12 can be obtained from fish, dairy products, pork, beef, lamb and eggs.
* Vitamin C
Vitamin C is required for healthy skin, bones, and muscles. It plays an important role in the manufacture of collagen, which is the connective tissue that holds bones together. Vitamin C also helps to protect the body from viruses and allergies. Besides, it lowers the level of cholesterol and aids the absorption of iron. Being an important antioxidant, it protects the body from free radicals and helps repair damaged tissue. Furthermore, it aids in the production of hemoglobin and red blood cells, accelerates wound healing and maintains the health of gums and teeth. Vitamin C can be found in fresh fruits, berries, tomatoes, broccoli, green peppers, vegetables and potatoes.
* Vitamin D
Vitamin D is important for the growth and development of strong bones and teeth. It assists in the absorption of calcium. A vitamin D deficiency can result in rickets, which is a disease characterized by the softening of bones. Vitamin D can be obtained from milk products, eggs, herring, salmon, sardines and fish oil. Sun exposure is a source of vitamin D. Ultraviolet rays from the sunlight can trigger vitamin D synthesis in the skin.
* Vitamin E
Vitamin E is essential for the absorption of iron, slowing of the ageing process, and fertility. It is a powerful antioxidant which helps protect cells from damage by free radicals. It also assists in the production of red blood cells, helps prevent blood clots and is believed to reduce the development of certain types of cancer. The main sources of Vitamin E include vegetable oils, nuts, sunflower seeds, eggs, wheat germ and green leafy vegetables.
* Vitamin K
Vitamin K helps the clotting of blood and the healing of wounds. This vitamin can be obtained from green vegetables, milk products, cod-liver oil, apricots and whole grains.
The vitamins stated above are important to our health. Our body needs certain amounts of each of these vitamins to function properly. If our daily food intake does not contain sufficient amounts of these vitamins our body requires, our health will suffer. Hence, it is advisable to take a daily vitamin supplement to correct any vitamin deficiency before any health problem arises.