Vitamins: What are they and what do they do?


Vitamins: What are they and what do they do? What do you know? Continue reading to test your knowledge. Vitamins are organic compounds that are needed in small quantities to sustain life. Most vitamins need to come from food. It’s because the human body either does not produce enough of them, or it does not produce any at all.

Furthermore, each organism has different vitamin requirements. For example, humans need to consume vitamin C or ascorbic acid, but dogs do not. Dogs can produce, or synthesize, enough vitamin C for their own needs, but humans cannot.

People need to get most of their vitamin D from exposure to sunlight because it is not available in large enough quantities in food. However, the human body can synthesize it when exposed to sunlight.

They have different roles, and therefore, are required in different quantities.

This article explains, what they do, and which foods provide each type.

Fast facts on vitamins

  • There are 13 known vitamins.
  • They are either water-soluble or fat-soluble.
  • Fat-soluble vitamins are more natural for the body to store than water-soluble.
  • Vitamins always contain carbon, and are described as “organic.”
  • Food is the best source, but some people may be advised by a physician to use supplements.

What are vitamins?

A vitamin is one of a group of organic substances that is present in minute amounts in natural foodstuffs. Therefore, vitamins are essential to a healthy metabolism. Furthermore, if we do not get enough of any vitamin, certain medical conditions can result.

A vitamin is both:

  • An organic compound, which means it contains carbon.
  • An essential nutrient that the body cannot produce enough of and which it needs to get from food.

Vitamins are either fat-soluble or water-soluble.

Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the fatty tissues of the body and the liver. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble. These are easier to store than water-soluble vitamins, and they can stay in the body as reserves for days, and sometimes months.

Furthermore, fat-soluble vitamins are absorbed through the intestinal tract with the help of fats, or lipids.

Water-soluble vitamins do not stay in the body for long. The body cannot store them, so they are excreted in urine. Because of this, water-soluble vitamins need replacement more often than fat-soluble ones.

Vitamin C and all the B vitamins are water-soluble.

These are the 13 different types of vitamins.

Vitamin A

Chemical names: Retinol, retinal, and four carotenoids, including beta-carotene.

It is fat soluble.

Deficiency may cause night-blindness and keratomalacia, an eye disorder that results in a dry cornea.

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.

Vitamin B

Chemical name: thiamine.

It is water soluble.

Deficiency may cause beriberi and Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.

Good sources include yeast, pork, cereal grains, sunflower seeds, brown rice, whole-grain rye, asparagus, kale, cauliflower, potatoes, oranges, liver, and eggs.

Vitamin B2

Chemical name: Riboflavin

It is water soluble

Deficiency may cause ariboflavinosis

Good sources include asparagus, bananas, persimmons, okra, chard, cottage cheese, milk, yogurt, meat, eggs, fish, and green beans

Vitamin B3

Chemical names: Niacin, niacinamide

It is water soluble.

Deficiency may cause pellagra, with symptoms of diarrhea, dermatitis, and mental disturbance.

Good sources include 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.

Vitamin B5

Chemical name: Pantothenic acid

It is water soluble.

Deficiency may cause paresthesia, or “pins and needles.”

Good sources include meats, whole-grains (milling may remove it), broccoli, avocados, royal jelly, and fish ovaries.

Vitamin B6vitamins

Chemical names: Pyridoxine, pyridoxamine, pyridoxal

It is water soluble.

Deficiency may cause anemia, peripheral neuropathy, or damage to parts of the nervous system other than the brain and spinal cord.

Good sources include meats, bananas, whole-grains, vegetables, and nuts. Freezing and canning can also reduce content.

Vitamin B7

Chemical name: Biotin

It is water soluble.

Deficiency may cause dermatitis or enteritis, or inflammation of the intestine.

In particular, good sources include egg yolk, liver, some vegetables.

Vitamin B9

Chemical names: Folic acid, folinic acid

It is water soluble.

Deficiency during pregnancy contributes to congenital disabilities. Pregnant women are encouraged to supplement folic acid for the entire year before becoming pregnant.

Similarly, good sources include leafy vegetables, legumes, liver, baker’s yeast, some fortified grain products, and sunflower seeds. Additionally, several fruits have moderate amounts, as does beer.

Vitamin B12

Chemical names: Cyanocobalamin, hydroxocobalamin, methylcobalamin

It is water soluble.

Deficiency may cause megaloblastic anemia, a condition where the bone marrow produces unusually large, abnormal, immature red blood cells.

Good sources include fish, shellfish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk and dairy products, some fortified cereals, and soy products, as well as fortified nutritional yeast.

Additionally, Vegans are advised to take B12 supplements.

Vitamin C

Chemical name: Ascorbic acid

It is water soluble.

Deficiency may cause megaloblastic anemia.

For instance, good sources include fruit and vegetables. The Kakadu plum and the Camu fruit have the highest vitamin C contents of all foods. Furthermore, cooking destroys vitamin C.vitamins

Vitamin D

Chemical names: Ergocalciferol, cholecalciferol.

It is fat soluble.

Deficiency may cause rickets and osteomalacia, or softening of the bones.

Good sources: Exposure to ultraviolet B (UVB) through sunlight or other sources causes vitamin D to be produced in the skin and also found in fatty fish, eggs, beef liver, and mushrooms.

Vitamin E

Chemical names: Tocopherols, tocotrienols

It is fat soluble.

Deficiency is uncommon, but it may cause hemolytic anemia in newborns. It’s a condition where blood cells are destroyed and removed from the blood too early.

Specifically, good sources include Kiwi fruit, almonds, avocado, eggs, milk, nuts, leafy green vegetables, unheated vegetable oils, wheat germ, and whole-grains.

Vitamin K

Chemical names: Phylloquinone, menaquinones

It is fat soluble.

Deficiency may cause bleeding diathesis, an unusual susceptibility to bleeding.

For example, good sources include leafy green vegetables, avocado, kiwi fruit. Parsley contains a lot of vitamin K.

Dietary sources

The 2015-2020 U.S. Dietary Guidelines focus on the overall diet as the best way to get enough nutrients for good health. Vitamins should come firstly from a balanced and varied diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables.

However, in some cases, fortified foods and supplements may be appropriate.

A health professional may recommend vitamin supplements for people with certain conditions, during pregnancy, or for those on a restricted diet.

Therefore, those taking supplements should take care not to exceed the stated maximum dose, as health problems can result. Some medications can interact with vitamin supplements, too, so it is essential to talk to a healthcare provider before using supplements.

I hope you found this article helpful and informative. If you have anything that you’d like to share or any opinions on any of the content on my site, please do speak up. I look forward to your comments, questions and the sharing of ideas.

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