The 13 essential vitamins, how do they work?


Vitamins are organic compounds that people need in small amounts. Most vitamins must come from the diet because the body produces them very little or not at all.

Each body has different vitamin needs. For example, humans must get vitamin C from their diet, while dogs can produce all the vitamin C they need. For humans, vitamin D is not available in sufficient quantities in the diet. The human body synthesizes the vitamin when exposed to sunlight, which is the best source of vitamin D. Different vitamins play different roles in the body, and a person needs a different amount of each vitamin to stay healthy. This article explains what vitamins are, what they do, and which foods are good sources of them.

What are vitamins?

Vitamins are organic substances present in minute quantities in natural foods. Having too little of a particular vitamin can increase your risk of developing certain health problems. A vitamin is an organic compound, which means it contains carbon. It is also an essential nutrient that the body may need to obtain through food. There are currently 13 recognized vitamins.

Fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins

Vitamins are either soluble or dissoluble, in fats or in water. We describe the two types below:

Fat Soluble Vitamins

Vitamins A , D, E and K are fat soluble. The body stores fat-soluble vitamins in fatty tissue and the liver, and stores of these vitamins can remain in the body for days or even months. Dietary fats help the body absorb fat-soluble vitamins through the intestinal tract.

Water-soluble vitamins

Water-soluble vitamins do not stay in the body for long and cannot be stored. They leave the body through urine. For this reason, people need a more regular intake of water-soluble vitamins than fat-soluble vitamins. Vitamin C and all B vitamins are water-soluble.

The 13 vitamins: function, source and deficiency

Below, discover each currently recognized vitamin:

Vitamin A

Chemical names: retinol, retinal and “the four carotenoids”, including beta-carotene.

It is fat soluble.

Function: It is essential for eye health.

Deficiency: It can lead to night blindness and keratomalacia, which causes dryness and cloudiness of the frontal clear layer of the eye.

Good sources: Liver, cod liver oil, carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, butter, kale, spinach, pumpkin , collards, certain cheeses, eggs, apricots, melon and milk.

Vitamin B1

Chemical name: thiamine.

It is soluble in water.

Function: It is essential for the production of various enzymes that contribute to the breakdown of blood sugar.

Deficiency: It can cause beriberi and Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.

Good sources: Yeast, pork, grains, sunflower seeds, brown rice, wholegrain rye, asparagus, kale, cauliflower, potatoes, oranges, liver and eggs.

Vitamin B2

Chemical name: riboflavin.

It is soluble in water.

Function: It is essential for the growth and development of body cells and helps to metabolize food.

Deficiency: Symptoms are inflammation of the lips and cracks in the mouth.

Good sources: Asparagus, bananas, persimmons, okra, Swiss chard, cottage cheese, milk, yoghurt, meat, eggs, fish and green beans.

Vitamin B3

Chemical names ques: niacin, niacinamide.

It is soluble in water.

Function: The body needs niacin for the cells to grow and function properly.

Deficiency: Low levels lead to a health condition called pellagra, which causes diarrhea, skin changes, and intestinal upset.

Good sources: Chicken, beef, tuna, salmon, milk, eggs, tomatoes, leafy vegetables, broccoli, carrots, nuts and seeds, tofu and lentils.

Vitamin B5

Chemical name: pantothenic acid.

It is soluble in water.

Function: It is necessary for the production of energy and hormones.

Deficiency: The symptoms include paresthesia, or “tingling”.

Good sources: Meats, whole grains, broccoli, avocados and yogurts.

Vitamin B6

No chemical ms: pyridoxine, pyridoxamine, pyridoxal.

It is soluble in water.

Function: It is essential for the formation of red blood cells .

Deficiency: Low levels can lead to anemia and peripheral neuropathy.

Good sources: Chickpeas, beef liver, bananas, squash and nuts.

Vitamin B7

Chemical name: biotin.

It is soluble in water.

Function: It allows the body to metabolize proteins, fats and carbohydrates. It also contributes to keratin, a structural protein in the skin, hair and nails.

Deficiency: Low levels can cause dermatitis or inflammation of the intestines.

Good sources: Egg yolk, liver, broccoli, spinach and cheese.

Vitamin B9

Chemical names: folic acid

It is soluble in water.

Functions: It is essential for the manufacture of DNA and RNA.

Deficiency: During pregnancy, it can affect the nervous system of the fetus. Doctors recommend folic acid supplements before and during pregnancy.

Good sources: Leafy vegetables, peas, legumes, liver, some fortified grain products and seeds of sunflower. Several fruits also contain moderate amounts.

Vitamin B

Chemical names: cyanocobalamin, hydroxocobalamin, methylcobalamin.

It is soluble in water.

Function : It is essential for the proper functioning of the nervous system.

Deficiency: Low levels can lead to neurological problems and certain types of anemia.

Good sources: Examples include fish, shellfish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk and other dairy products, fortified cereals, fortified soy products, and fortified nutritional yeast.

Doctors may recommend that people on a vegan diet take B12 supplements.

Vitamin C

Chemical name: ascorbic acid.

It is soluble in water.

Function: It contributes to the production of collagen, to wound healing and bone formation. It also strengthens blood vessels, supports the immune system, helps the body absorb iron and acts as an antioxidant.

Deficiency: It can lead to scurvy, which causes bleeding from the gums, tooth loss, as well as poor tissue growth and wound healing.

Good sources: These include fruits and vegetables, but cooking destroys vitamin C.

Vitamin D

Chemical names: ergocalciferol, cholecalciferol.

It is fat-soluble.

Function: It is necessary for the proper mineralization of bones.

Deficiency: It can cause rickets and osteomalacia, or softening of the bones.

Good sources: Exposure to UVB rays from the sun or other sources causes the body to produce vitamin D. fatty fish, eggs, beef liver and mushrooms also contain this vitamin.

Vitamin E

Chemical names: tocopherol, tocotrienol.

It is fat-soluble.

Function: Its antioxidant activity helps prevent oxidative stress, a problem that increases the risk of generalized inflammation and various diseases.

Deficiency: It is rare, but it can cause hemolytic anemia in newborns. This condition destroys blood cells.

Good sources: Wheat germ, kiwi fruit, almonds, eggs, walnuts, leafy green vegetables and vegetable oils.

Vitamin K

Chemical names: phylloquinone, menaquinone.

It is fat soluble.

Function: It is necessary for blood clotting.

Deficiency: Low levels can cause unusual susceptibility to bleeding, or bleeding diathesis.

Good sources: leafy green vegetables, pumpkins, figs and parsley.

Vitamin supplements

Many people take multivitamins and other supplements, although these may not be necessary or helpful. A balanced and varied diet, containing plenty of fruits and vegetables, should be the main source of vitamins. Fortified foods and supplements may, however, be appropriate in some cases, including during pregnancy, for people with restricted diets, and for people with specific health conditions. Anyone taking supplements should be careful not to exceed the maximum dose, as taking too many vitamins can lead to health problems. Also, some medications can interact with vitamin supplements. Overall, it’s important to consult a doctor before trying any supplement.

Vitamins are essential nutrients that come primarily from food. Each plays different roles in the body, and deficiencies in different vitamins can affect health in different ways. Try to get vitamins from a balanced, varied diet with lots of fruits and vegetables. If a person is pregnant, has a medical condition, or has a restricted diet, a doctor or nutritionist may recommend dietary supplements.

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