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Vitamins: What Are They and Why Do We Need Them?

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Vitamins and minerals are nutrients that the body needs in small amounts to support healthy function and immune support. Discover more.

Vitamins are nutrients and minerals that the body needs, albeit in small amounts, to support healthy functioning. The majority of the vitamins we consume do come for the foods we have in our diets. You might already know a lot about vitamins, what foods they are in, and which foods are great for certain vitamins. You may even be taking some every day, but have you ever wondered; why do we need vitamins? And what are vitamins, really? Well, in this article we will be detailing all things vitamins and why we need them.

What are vitamins?Vitamins

These holy grail nutrients are amalgamations that the body needs to work properly, its as simple as that. However, it is important to note that the body can’t make most of the vitamins on its own, which is why its so important to make sure you are consuming the right foods, to support your bodies functioning with the right vitamins.

There are 13 different vitamins, and all 13 vitamins play different roles in the body, although they may overlap in some areas, each vitamin is important for the overall support of your organs, and health.

Why do we need vitamins?

As mentioned, vitamins are crucial for healthy body function. They help with boosting your immune system, to aiding a healthy metabolism. Without sufficient amounts of vitamins, or any vitamins at all, our bodies would be unable to perform essential functions in the body. Things like building and maintaining health bone structure, and keeping things like our teeth, muscles, blood and hair, and let’s not forget the biggest organ of them all, the skin in working order.

The 13 vitamins

Vitamins fall into two categories, there are water-soluble vitamins and fat-soluble vitamins. Fat-soluble vitamins are vitamins that are stored in the liver and fatty tissue, and this means that we don’t have to consume them every day, but too much, and they can build up in the body, which may be harmful. Let’s get to know the vitamins, shall we?

Vitamin A

Vitamin A, also known as retinol, is a fat-soluble vitamin. Vitamin A is crucial for our health and has many important functions in the body. Vitamin A helps us to see, it supports the thin membrane that covers an area of the front surface of the eye, as well as the inner surface of the eyelids. Vitamin A also supports the function of the cornea.

Vitamin A also supports the skin and lining of parts of the body by keeping them healthy. You can find vitamin A in many different foods, such as carrots and sweet potatoes.

Vitamin B1

Vitamin B1, also known as thiamine, is crucial for healthy metabolism. B vitamins are part of the water-soluble group, which means they can’t be stored in the body, so need to be consumed everyday in your diet. Vitamin B1 helps the body process carbohydrates into energy.

Vitamin B1 can be found in foods such as whole grains, meat, and fish. Vitamin B1 is also vital for muscle contraction and conducting nerve signals.

Vitamin B2

Vitamin B2 is vital for energy production, growth and development. The B2 vitamin goes hand in hand with the release of energy from proteins. There are a few foods that are great sources of vitamin B2, these are eggs, kidney, liver, milk and green vegetables.

Vitamin B3

Vitamin B3 works, similarly to B2, in the production of energy, however B3 turns food into energy, ready for B2 to release the processed energy. Vitamin B3 also helps to keep the nervous system, digestive system and our skin working in the healthiest way possible.

There are a few foods that are great sources of vitamin B2, these include, meat, fish, milk, eggs, and cereal grains.

Vitamin B5

Vitamin B5 has many functions, and is found in the majority of meats and vegetables. Vitamin B5 helps release energy from food, much like vitamin B2, and it also helps make fatty acids and helps produce hormones and cholesterol.

It is rare to have a deficiency in any B vitamin, but not impossible.

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is an essential vitamin that helps the immune system produce antibodies and haemoglobin. Vitamin B6 can be found in foods such as, fish, potatoes, liver, and fruits, except citrus fruits.

Vitamin B7Pills in pots

Vitamin B7, or also known as biotin, helps to metabolize fatty acids, glucose and amino acids, it can be found in various foods with high protein content. Vitamin B7 is an interesting vitamin that is produced by bacteria in your gut.

A couple of B7 rich foods are eggs, fish, meat, seeds, nuts and sweet potato.

Vitamin B9

Folic acid, or vitamin B9, helps the body produce new cells, which is why B9 is especially important for pregnant women, or women that are preparing for pregnancy. Making sure you are consuming enough of the vitamin will ensure the prevention of major birth defects in the baby’s brain and spine.

Foods that contain folic acid are fruits, dried beans, peas, and nuts. There are specific fruits that are rich are in vitamin B9 and those include oranges, lemons, bananas, strawberries and melons.

Vitamin B12

Red blood cell production is an essential process of the human body, and this is where vitamin B12 comes in. Vitamin B12 is essential for the healthy function of red blood cell formation, metabolism, nerve function and the production of DNA. An interesting fact about vitamin B12 is that the body can store enough vitamin B12 for a few years, hence making a B12 deficiency rare.

The majority of people are able to get sufficient amounts of the vitamin in their diet, however if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, you may be at risk of a deficiency as those types of diets tend to not contain much of the vitamin.

Foods such as spinach, meat, fish, eggs and milk are all great sources of vitamin B12.

Vitamin C

Now, onto a water-soluble vitamin, vitamin C is essential for many things, including normal growth, healing wounds, and supporting our bones and teeth. The human body is unable to store vitamin C, which is why its vital to ensure you consume enough in your daily diet.

Fruits and vegetables are the best sources of vitamin C.

Vitamin D

We all want healthy and strong teeth and bones, which is why vitamin D is crucial to support these body parts. There are not many foods that contain vitamin D but a few are salmon, tuna and mackerel. Fish liver oils are also a great way to make sure you are consuming enough vitamin D.

It is no secret that everyone says the sun brings not just heat, but also vitamin D and this is correct. Vitamin D can also be produced by the ultraviolet rays in the sun when it hits the skin, but apply sun cream, this won’t affect the absorption of vitamin D.

Vitamin E

This is another fat-soluble vitamin, that has antioxidant properties. Vitamin E helps to support healthy eye, and skin function as well as strengthening the immune system, to help ward off any unwanted illnesses or infections.

There are a wide variety of foods that contain vitamin E, such as vegetable oils, nuts, seeds and leafy greens.

Vitamin K

A strange sounding one we know, but this vitamin is important in ensuring that your blood clots, and is essential in helping to heal wounds. Remember those healthy bones we mentioned in vitamin D? Well, vitamin K helps the body to make the essential proteins for healthy bones and tissue.

Vitamin K is another member of the fat-soluble group, and is stored in the liver. Foods containing vitamin K are green vegetables, vegetable oils and some fruits.

 

Are there vitamins that are more important than others?multivitamins

The long and short of it is, yes. Even though all the vitamins listed above are incredibly important for supporting the smooth functioning of the body, we need to ensure that we are consuming the water-soluble vitamins every day, as the body doesn’t store these.

So, make sure you are consuming enough Vitamin C and vitamin D. Vitamin C can be found in oranges, broccoli, strawberries, and red and green peppers. Vitamin D can be found in oily fish, fortified cereals and eggs.

 

Right, that is our guide to what vitamins are and why we do really need them. If you are curious and want to scratch your vitamin itch, why not head over to our health hub and engross yourself in all the interesting factual content we have waiting for you.

 

Sources:

https://www.foodunfolded.com/article/vitamins-in-food-why-do-we-need-vitamins

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/195878#the-13-vitamins

https://www.hollandandbarrett.com/the-health-hub/vitamins-and-supplements/vitamins/what-is-a-vitamin/

https://atlasbiomed.com/blog/the-ultimate-guide-to-vitamins/

 

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