Why do we need Vitamins ? : Our body needs Nutrition in order to work properly and it is provided by various vitamins available in the eatables. Vitamins help our body to perform specific activities like production of energy, protection of cells from damage, guiding mineral utilization, and regulating cell and tissue growth.If our body doesn’t get enough of the vitamins it needs, it can lead to many deficiencies and altered function that over time may result into various diseases. For human being, each organism has different vitamin requirements to be outsourced. For example, vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is necessary for humans to be taken through eatables but animals can synthesize it sufficiently for their own needs.
Vitamins are natural organic substances, usually found in foods and that help our body to be healthy. Since they always contain carbon, they are described as “organic”. These are the compounds, necessary for our normal growth and function, which our body can not produce itself. For our better health, we need to obtain them from our foods. Most of these compounds are needed for our body cells for our health and can be made by our cells from other nutrients.
Since they have been present amply in ordinary foods throughout evolution, human beings need tiny amounts of vitamins. But their deficiency can weaken our body and bring about a number of diseases. Similarly, we should not take any particular vitamin in excess of our actual demand.
So far, there are 14 vitamins identified to interact with our cell enzymes for regulating a variety of essential physical functions. Some of them are crucial for many of our metabolic processes to release energy from nutrients, build up and maintain bones, teeth, skin, blood and many other vital body tissues. We can have two main categories of vitamins –
Type of vitamins and their function (classification of vitamins) :
- Fat-soluble, and
Fat-soluble vitamins use the fats that we eat as a transport system to get around our body. Since they are stored in those fatty tissues and our liver, they should not be taken daily. 2-3 times per week can be sufficient in most cases for adults. Excessive high intakes of them can be toxic and harmful.
One reason why we need fat in our diet is that the fat-soluble vitamins are transported with fats in “lipoproteins” in our blood, or with specific transport proteins because they cannot dissolve in water (or blood). These vitamins operate in cells and their membranes as these vitamins can be stored in our body itself. Fat soluble vitamins are:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
Vitamin A, which has Chemical names – retinol, retinal, and four carotenoids (including beta carotene), plays a vital role in bone growth, vision and cell division. It promotes good vision and helps to maintain healthy bones, teeth, skin, and soft tissues. Sources of Vitamin A include both animal and plant sources. Animal sources include Beef, Eggs, Chicken, Fish and other Seafood. Fruits and vegetables are good plant sources. Some of the fruits that are high in vitamin A include Apple, Apricots, Oranges, Mangos, Cantaloupe, Watermelon, Kiwis, Plums, Peaches and Blackberries. Some of the vegetables that are high in vitamin A are Greens, Carrots, Spinach, Collards, Pumpkin, Peas, Broccoli, Tomato, Turnip, Escarole, and Wheat germ Dairy products such as cheese, milk, and yogurt are also good natural sources of vitamin A.
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that performs several significant roles in the functioning and development of a child’s body. It has five prominent tasks within the body.
Vitamin a function :
1. Vitamin A improves vision, primarily night vision –
It helps in the production of Rhodopsin. When it is activated by light, Rhodopsin slips into two proteins (Opsin and All Trans Retinal). In the dark, the reverse process occurs requiring large amounts of vitamin A to recombine these two proteins to form Rhodopsin. An individual with a large vitamin A storage is able to complete this process at a faster rate and more efficiently, allowing for better eyesight in darkness. Its deficiency may cause night-blindness and keratomalacia (an eye disorder that results in a dry cornea)
2. Vitamin A acts as a barrier to bacteria and infection –
It assists in the maintenance and promotion of healthy growth of skin and tissues cells. Healthy growth of tissue cells aids in maintaining a moist environment within the urinary, respiratory, genital, intestinal tracts and eyes, mouth and stomach linings, which primarily acts as a barrier against harmful bacteria and virus’s. Vitamin A also boosts our immunity to protect our body against various diseases.
3. Vitamin A increases strength of bones, teeth and connective tissues –
It aids the production of collagen which is the foundational matrix of bones, teeth, tendons, connective tissue and cartilage. Vitamin A ensures sufficient collagen is produced to build strong healthy bones and other connecting tissues.
4. Vitamin A supports unproblematic reproduction –
Vitamin A assists in the functionality of the testicles and ovaries in the production of healthy gametes.
5. Vitamin A decreases risk of cancers –
Vitamin A exists as beta-carotene which is an antioxidant in prevention of common cancers.
There are two forms of Vitamin A, each form is found from different sources. The form found in animals is known as retinol. The liver of animals is the richest source. Other rich sources are oily fish (e.g. mackerel) and dairy products (e.g. butter and milk).
The form found in plants is known as beta-carotene. It is found in green, orange, yellow and red fruits like mango and melon) and vegetables like spinach, carrot, and red pepper. Vitamin A is stored in our liver. Good sources include: liver, cod liver oil, carrots, broccoli, sweet potato, butter, kale, spinach, pumpkin, collard greens, some cheeses, egg, apricot, cantaloupe melon, and milk. Carrots are a good source of vitamins A and B3.
Vitamin D is addressed as ergocalciferol, cholecalciferol in chemical sciences. It is Fat soluble. Its deficiency may cause rickets and osteomalacia (softening of the bones).
Vitamin D is required to regulate and improve the uptake of calcium and phosphate in our body for healthy bones and teeth. It is very important for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers to help with the child’s bone development. Without it, it is possible that the child will suffer from “Ricketts”. It is also required to activate our immune defense to fight off infection.
Sources of vitamin D
Vitamin D is vital for healthy bones and teeth. It helps to absorb calcium and maintain the level of calcium and phosphorus. Sun is the best source for vitamin D. However, several food sources are also available. Vitamin D is amply available in Breakfast cereals like corn flakes, Mashed potatoes, Dairy products, Dark green leafy vegetables, Milk, Yogurt, Ice cream, Organ meats such as liver, kidneys, Eggs, Mackerel and Salmon.
Most of our vitamin D is made in our skin by the action of sunlight. As little as exposure of body for 20 minutes a day to sunlight is enough in summer. It is produced in the skin after exposure to UV (ultraviolet) B light from the sun or artificial sources. It is also found in fatty fish, eggs, beef liver, and mushrooms. The other way to obtain it is through our diet. A rich dietary source of vitamin D is oily fish like tuna and mackerel. Other useful sources include eggs, breakfast cereals, some yogurts and fortified foods like margarine.
Almonds are a good source of vitamin E. Vitamin E is known as tocopherols, tocotrienols in chemical sciences. It is also a Fat soluble vitamin. Its deficiency is uncommon and cause hemolytic anemia in newborns (a condition where blood cells are destroyed and removed from the blood too early). It is available in kiwi fruit, almonds, avocado, eggs, milk, nuts, leafy green vegetables, unheated vegetable oils, wheat germ, and whole-grains.
What is Vitamin E good for:
Vitamin E is important as a fat-soluble antioxidant, to protect cell membranes. It is also needed for effective immune function. Its deficiency is pretty uncommon because you need only a small amount and it is naturally contained in many foods. Low levels may add risks of heart disease.
It is naturally found in many foods, but rich sources are within vegetable oils and spreads, nuts, seeds, oily fish and most green leafy vegetables. Foods that are rich in vitamin E include Avocado, Tomato, Watercress, Brussels sprouts, Spinach, Berries, Salmon, Whole grain products, Nuts, Olive oil, Sunflower oil and Mackerel.
Vitamin K plays a vital role in the blood clotting process in the body and helps to maintain strong bones. It has chemical names – phylloquinone, menaquinones. Deficiency of this fat soluble vitamin may cause bleeding diathesis (an unusual susceptibility to bleeding). Vitamin K is fairly unknown to the general public, but it is still very important. It is necessary for normal blood clotting (healing wounds) and in the growth and in development of our bones and kidney. However, the blood-thinning drug, Warfarin, is known to block vitamin K action because its main aim is to prevent blood clotting.
Good sources for this vitamin include leafy green vegetables, avocado, kiwi fruit. Parsley contains a lot of vitamin K. It is also available in Meat, Liver, Egg yolk, Whole grain, Vegetables like Brussels sprouts, Celery Parsley, Iceberg lettuce, Peas, Asparagus, Cabbage, Cucumbers, Broccoli and Soybean.
Water-soluble vitamins do not get stored in the body for long – they soon get excreted in urine. Because of this, water-soluble vitamins need to be replaced more often than fat-soluble ones. These are:
- Vitamin B
- Vitamin B2
- Vitamin B3
- Vitamin B5
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B7
- Vitamin B9
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin P
B Vitamins are classic water-soluble vitamins which influence growth and development in several different ways. Consuming fruits and vegetables such as avocado, brussels sprouts, grapes, mangoes, nectarines, pineapple, peas and strawberries will ensure children get sufficient B vitamins. B vitamins assist bodily function in diverse ways. It aids natural growth and development and maintains optimal functioning of nervous, gastrointestinal and cardiovascular systems. It assists in the release of energy from foods through the breakdown and manufacturing of glucose. It maintains mucous cell tissues to ensure a secure barrier against harmful bacteria’s and diseases. It helps absorption of Niacin, which plays an important role in the synthesis of DNA. It is responsible for Synthesis, development, production and growth of new cells. It works cooperatively with each other to form haemoglobin for the transport of oxygen on red blood cells.
Vitamin B which has chemical name – thiamine is water soluble vitamin. Its deficiency may cause beriberi and Wernicke-Korsakoffsyndrome. It can be sourced out of yeast, pork, cereal grains, sunflower seeds, brown rice, whole-grain rye, asparagus, kale, cauliflower, potatoes, oranges, liver, and eggs.
Vitamin B2 which is known as riboflavin in chemical science is water soluble vitamin. If its supply to our body is deficient, it may cause ariboflavinosis. Its good sources include Good sources include: asparagus, bananas, persimmons, okra, chard, cottage cheese, milk, yogurt, meat, eggs, fish, and green beans.
Vitamin B3 is known as niacin, niacinamide in chemistry and is Water soluble. Its deficiency may cause pellagra (characterized by diarrhea, dermatitis, and mental disturbance).
We can have this vitamin from liver, heart, kidney, chicken, beef, fish (tuna, salmon), milk, eggs, avocados, dates, tomatoes, leafy vegetables, broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes, asparagus, nuts, whole-grains, legumes, mushrooms, and brewer’s yeast. Broccoli belongs to the cruciferous vegetable family and is a good source of vitamins A, B3, and B5.
Vitamin B5 has Chemical name – pantothenic acid and is Water soluble. Its deficiency may cause paresthesia (“pins and needles”). It can be available from meats, whole-grains (milling may remove it), broccoli, avocados, royal jelly, and fish ovaries.
Vitamin B6 is known as pyridoxine, pyridoxamine, pyridoxal in chemical science. It is Water soluble. Its deficiency may cause anemia, peripheral neuropathy (damage to parts of the nervous system other than the brain and spinal cord).
We can have plenty of it out of meats, bananas, whole-grains, vegetables, and nuts. When milk is dried, it loses about half of its B6. Freezing and canning can also reduce content.
Vitamin B7 which has chemical name – biotin is a water soluble. Its deficiency may cause dermatitis or enteritis (inflammation of the intestine). It is available in egg yolk, liver, some vegetables
Vitamin B9 has Chemical names – folic acid, folinic acid is Water soluble vitamin. If it is deficient in our body during pregnancy, it can lead to birth defects. Pregnant women are encouraged to supplement folic acid for the entire year before they get pregnant. It is available through leafy vegetables, legumes, liver, baker’s yeast, some fortified grain products, and sunflower seeds. Several fruits have moderate amounts, as does beer.
Vitamin B12 is known as cyanocobalamin, hydroxocobalamin, methylcobalamin in chemical sciences. It is a water soluble vitamin. Its deficiency may cause megaloblastic anemia (a condition where bone marrow produces unusually large, abnormal, immature red blood cells). It can be had from fish, shellfish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk and dairy products, some fortified cereals and soy products, as well as fortified nutritional yeast. Those who are Vegans they should take B12 supplements. Eggs are a good source of vitamin B12.
Vitamin C is vital for growth and it boosts the immune system, thereby preventing many ailments such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, malabsorption of iron, etc. We already know that citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C; however, apart from citrus fruits, other foods that are high in vitamin C include Broccoli, Spinach, Green pepper, Peas, Potatoes, Lemons, Strawberries, Pears, Lime, Chicken, Seafood and Pork.
Vitamin C is known as ascorbic acid in chemical science. It is a water soluble vitamin. Its deficiency may cause megaloblastic anemia. It is available in fruit and vegetables. The Kakadu plum and the camu camu fruit have the highest vitamin C contents of all foods. Liver also has high levels. Cooking destroys vitamin C.
Vitamin P, also known as bioflavonoids, helps in blood circulation by strengthening the capillaries. People whose diet includes fruits and vegetables, automatically can fulfill vitamin P requirement, as brightly colored fruits and vegetables are good sources of vitamin P. The best food sources of vitamin P include Fruits such as oranges, lemons, lime, tangerines, mangos, grapefruit, cherries, blackberries, and plums Vegetables such as carrots, tomatoes, green pepper, broccoli, onions Red wine, Buckwheat, Garlic, Herbs like milk thistle, pine bark, and yarrow.
Simply we can tell that yellow fruits and vegetables are good in citric acid, red fruits contain good b group vitamins, carrot is good for vitamin A and antioxidant, violet color is good for heart, dark greens are full of iron and calcium. All vegetables and fruits are good and take at least three different items daily. The seasonal items are always considered good for that season for example, Mango. All green vegetables are good, they are full of minerals and vitamins. Carrot provides beta carotene to fight against carcinoma, broccoli also has cancer fighting vitamins and minerals . Garlic is good for heart and it fights cold. All citrus fruits provide us Vitamin C. Fruits provide us with vitamins and minerals in the most pure form since they are not cooked. All fruits are good. Apple provides Vitamin A. Red grapes help in increasing the haemoglobin in our blood. watermelon, melon, grapes, bananas all provide health benefits.
The US National Library of Medicine says that the best way to get enough vitamins for good health is to follow a balanced diet with a wide range of foods. Some people may need to take a daily multivitamin. Vitamins are essential for the normal functioning of our body, as they play a vital role in cell functions, growth, and development. Vitamins can be grouped into two types: water soluble vitamins and fat soluble vitamins. Out of the 13 essential vitamins, four vitamins, namely, vitamins A, D, E and K, are fat soluble vitamins, while the other 10 vitamins, including vitamins C and the B vitamins, are water soluble vitamins. Fat soluble vitamins can be stored in the fatty tissues, whereas water soluble vitamins except B12 are flushed out of the body through and should be replenished regularly.
One has to include a variety of foods in his/her diet in order to obtain all essential vitamins, as there is no single food that can provide all the vitamins to the body. Many people have the misconception that they can fulfill their vitamin requirement through supplements or pills. However, many food sources of vitamins are available and by including such food groups in a balanced way, one can easily meet the daily requirement of most of the vitamins. There are several natural sources of vitamins are available.
Apart from these natural sources of vitamins, dietary supplements help to fulfill the vitamin requirements, if the food that you eat does not supply the required amount of vitamins. It is best to consult a doctor to find out if you are suffering from any vitamin deficiency. Based on the doctor’s advice, you can then either improve your diet or consume appropriate supplements.
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