Vitamins are organic substances essential to the normal functioning of our bodies. They are necessary for growth and vitality. Most vitamins cannot be made by our bodies and need to be obtained through foods or dietary supplements. Three vitamins (A, D and E) are absorbed by the skin. There are 13 known vitamins of which 4 are fat-soluble (A, D, E and K) and the rest are water-soluble.
A water-soluble vitamin is a vitamin that dissolves in water. It cannot be stored in the body for long periods of time. It travels through the body and whatever the body doesn't need, comes out through the urine. These kinds of vitamins need to be replaced daily.
A fat-soluble vitamin is absorbed with the help of fat. It can be stored in the liver and fat tissues of the body. These kinds of vitamins should not be ingested in amounts that are too high, because they cannot be cleared by the kidneys. High levels of fat-soluble vitamins can be toxic.
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is an antioxidant, which inhibits the formation of nitrosamines (a suspected carcinogen). It is important for maintenance of bones, teeth, collagen and blood vessels and enhances the formation of red blood cells. It also promotes the body's effective use of other nutrients, such as iron, B vitamins, vitamins A and E, calcium and certain amino acids. By promoting the formation of strong connective tissue, it helps to heal wounds and burns. Stress, fever and infection increase the body's need for vitamin C.
A deficiency may result in soft and bleeding gums, tooth decay, bruising, anemia, loss of appetite, slow healing wounds and fractures, swollen or painful joints, nosebleeds, muscular weakness, skin hemorrhages, capillary weakness and impaired digestion.
Please click here for some good food sources of vitamin C.
Thiamin (Vitamin B1)
Thiamin is necessary for the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates. It prevents beriberi, stabilizes the appetite and promotes growth and muscle tone. It is essential for the normal functioning of the nervous system, muscles and heart.
A deficiency may result in a loss of appetite, weakness, fatigue, paralysis, nervous irritability, loss of weight, insomnia, minor aches and pains, mental depression, constipation and hearth and gastrointestinal problems.
Please click here for some good food sources of thiamin.
Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)
Riboflavin is essential for cell growth and for enzymatic reactions by which the body metabolizes proteins, carbohydrates and fats. It also aids in the formation of antibodies and red blood cells and supports normal vision, hair, nails and skin health.
A deficiency may result in itching and burning eyes, bloodshot eyes, dermatitis, digestive disturbances, purplish tongue, sores in the mouth and on the lips, retarded growth, sluggishness, trembling and oily skin.
Please click here for some good food sources of riboflavin.
Niacin (Vitamin B3)
Niacin is important in carbohydrate metabolism, the formation of testosterone and other hormones and the formation of red blood cells. It helps the body metabolize protein, sugar and fats and is necessary for a healthy nervous system and digestive system. Niacin also improves circulation and reduces the cholesterol level in the blood.
A deficiency may result in fatigue, gastrointestinal disturbance, headaches, indigestion, loss of appetite, mental depression, nervousness, minor aches and pains, insomnia, skin disorders, muscular weakness, bad breath and canker sores.
Please click here for some good food sources of niacin.
Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5)
Pantothenic acid is necessary for the normal functioning of the adrenal gland, which directly affects growth. It is also essential for the formation of fatty acids and participates in the utilization of riboflavin and in the release of energy from carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Further it improves the body's resistance to stress, helps the adrenal glands and fights infections by building antibodies.
A deficiency may result in burning feet, digestive disorders, dizzy spells, muscle cramps, restlessness, retarded growth, skin abnormalities, stomach stress and vomiting.
Please click here for some good food sources of pantothenic acid.
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) is essential in protein metabolism. It facilitates the release of glycogen from the liver and muscle and helps to maintain the proper balance of sodium and potassium, which regulate body fluids and promotes the healthy functioning of the nervous and muscular system. It also aids in the formation of antibodies, promotes healthy skin and reduces hand numbness, leg cramps, muscle spasms and nausea.
A deficiency may result in anemia, insomnia, loss of hair, nervousness, skin eruptions, loss of muscular control, arm and leg cramps and water retention.
Please click here for some good food sources of vitamin B6.
Folate (Vitamin B9)
Folate (folic acid) is an AB-complex vitamin that functions together with vitamin B12 and vitamin C in the utilization of proteins. Folate occurs naturally in food (also known as food folate) while folic acid is the synthetic form of this vitamin that is found in supplements and fortified foods. It is also necessary for the development of red blood cells. Folate is essential during pregnancy to prevent neural tubular defects in the developing fetus. Further it is essential for DNA and RNA synthesis which is necessary for the proper growth and reproduction of all body cells.
A deficiency may result in anemia, gastrointestinal disorders, vitamin B12 deficiency and premature gray hair.
Please click here for some good food sources of folate.
Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin) is necessary for normal metabolism of nerve tissues and is active in carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism. It is essential for the normal functioning of all body cells, especially those of bone marrow, gastrointestinal tract and nervous system. It is also necessary for the formation of red blood cells, improves the functions of iron in the metabolic cycle and assists folic acid in the synthesis of choline. Vitamin B12 also promotes growth in children and plays an important role in the production of DNA and RNA, the genetic material of living cells.
A vitamin B12 deficiency causes abnormally shaped, large blood cells, because they haven't divided properly. Because of the larger size, the blood cells have more difficulty carrying oxygen, causing fatigue. A vitamin B12 deficiency can have serious effects on the nerve cells, spinal cord and brain. Symptoms are confusion, mental depression, irritability, inability to concentrate, tingling and numbness in fingers, arms and legs, lack of sensation and eventual paralysis. Other problems that can occur are heart disease, strokes or a growth failure in children.
Vitamin B12 can be found in bacteria. If we didn't clean our food as much, we would get B12 from a lot more sources. Vitamin B12 can be found in animal products, because animals consume particles of soil or manure when they eat grass or feed. The B12 producing bacteria are consumed and the vitamin ends up in the flesh or milk of the animal.
There are no reliable vegan food sources of vitamin B12. Vegans can make sure they get enough B12 by consuming fortified products, like B12 fortified soy or rice milk or B12 fortified breakfast cereals. With all the current information available, it is recommended that vegans take a vitamin B12 supplement.
Vitamin A (retinol, carotene) is essential for normal growth and development of the body (most notably the bones and teeth), protection of mucous membranes from infection, normal vision (especially night vision), lactation and healthy skin and hair.
A deficiency may result in night blindness, rough, dry, scaly skin, increased susceptibility to infections, loss of smell and appetite, fatigue and defective teeth.
Please click here for some good food sources of vitamin A.
Vitamin D regulates the amount of calcium and phosphorus in the blood by improving their absorption and utilization. This is required for bone and teeth formation. It also maintains a stable nervous system and normal heart action. Vitamin D can be made by enzymes in the skin by direct sunlight and can also be found in certain foods. Mushrooms that have been exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light, contain large amounts of Vitamin D2.
A deficiency may result in rickets, softening of bones, lack of energy, tooth decay, improper healing of fractures, muscular weakness, inadequate absorption of calcium and retention of phosphorous in the kidneys.
15 minutes of sunlight exposure on face and arms daily is enough (more is needed for darker-skinned people). If there isn't enough sun, we can get vitamin D from:
D2 (ergocalciferol) is usually vegan, whereas D3 (cholicalciferol) is usually derived from an animal source.
Vitamin E (tocopherol) is an important antioxidant nutrient that protects cell membranes, fats and vitamin A from destructive oxidation. It also inhibits the oxidation of LDL cholesterol ("bad" cholesterol), which may reduce the risk of heart disease. Further it helps protect red blood cells, brings nourishment to cells, prevents and dissolves blood clots and supplies oxygen to the blood, which is then carried to the heart and other organs, alleviating fatigue.
A deficiency may result in the rupture of red blood cells, lack of sexual vitality, abnormal fat deposits in muscles, degenerative changes in the heart and other muscles and dry skin.
Please click here for some good food sources of vitamin E.
Vitamin K is made by bacteria living in the intestine and can also be found in certain foods. It is necessary for the formation of prothrombin, a compound required for blood to clot which is critical when there is injury to tissue. Vitamin K is also essential for liver function, the storage of glycogen, a form of sugar, converted later to energy and for proper bone growth by helping the body transport calcium.
Please click here for some good food sources of vitamin K.
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