Vitamins are a group of substances that are important for normal cell function in a person’s body. Cell function is what makes people grow and develop at a normal rate and keep people healthy even when they have reached adulthood. Vitamins are very important for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Vitamins can help people lose weight, boost their energy, lower stress, improve mental and physical task performance and even reduce wrinkles!
Vitamins are natural parts of many foods, especially fruits and vegetables. Eating a healthy diet is a way that people can automatically get these important nutritious needs. There are 13 essential vitamins and they are grouped into two categories:
• “Fat-soluble” vitamins (A, D, E, and K) are stored in the body’s fatty tissue. All bodies need to have some fat to store these vitamins and lack of such healthy and natural fat explains why anorexic people get so sick and weak.
• “Water-soluble” vitamins are used by the body right away and are given to the body mostly through food and drink. Any leftover water-soluble vitamins leave the body through the urine. There are nine water-soluble vitamins but B12 is the only one that can be stored in the liver for several years.
All 13 vitamins do something different yet necessary in order to keep the body functioning at its highest potential. When someone does not get enough of a certain vitamin a “vitamin deficiency” can occur and cause health problems ranging from skin rashes to fatigue. Not eating enough fruits and vegetables is the leading cause of vitamin deficiency problems that can lead to bigger health woes including heart disease and poor bone health (a condition known as “osteoporosis”).
Below is a quick roster of all the 13 vitamins and a brief explanation about what each one does and how to get exposed to its benefits:
1. Vitamin A helps form and maintain healthy teeth, bones, soft tissue, mucus membranes, and skin. It can be found in many meats, dairy products, dark-colored fruits and leafy green vegetables.
2. Vitamin B6 is also called pyridoxine. It helps form red blood cells and maintain brain function. This vitamin also plays an important role in the proteins that are part of many chemical reactions in the body. It is found in meats like poultry, whole grains, and several fruits and vegetables.
3. Vitamin B12 is important for metabolism. It also helps form red blood cells and maintain the central nervous system. It is found in eggs and several different kinds of meats.
4. Vitamin C also called ascorbic acid, is an antioxidant that promotes healthy teeth and gums. It helps the body absorb iron and maintain healthy tissue. It also promotes wound healing. Vitamin C is found in many fruits and vegetables so just by eating healthy you can increase your intake!
5. Vitamin D is usually referred to as the “sunshine vitamin” because it is made by the body after being in the sun. Ten to 15 minutes of sunshine three times a week is enough to produce the body's requirement of vitamin D. People who do not live in sunny places may not make enough vitamin D. It is very difficult to get enough vitamin D from food sources alone. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, which you need for the normal development and maintenance of healthy teeth and bones. It also helps maintain proper blood levels of calcium and phosphorus.
6. Vitamin E is an antioxidant also known as tocopherol. It plays a role in the formation of red blood cells and helps the body use vitamin K. It is found in many fruits and vegetables.
7. Vitamin K is not listed among the essential vitamins, but without it blood would not stick together (coagulate). Some studies suggest that it is important for promoting bone health. It is found in several kinds of meats and vegetables.
8. Biotin is essential for the metabolism of proteins and carbohydrates, and in the production of hormones and cholesterol. It can be found in chocolate, eggs, milk, nuts and pork.
9. Niacin (vitamin B3) helps maintain healthy skin and nerves. It is also has cholesterol-lowering effects. It is found in meats, vegetables, breads and cereals.
10. Folate works with vitamin B12 to help form red blood cells. It is needed for the production of DNA, which controls tissue growth and cell function. Any woman who is pregnant should be sure to get enough folate since low levels of folate are linked to birth defects such as spina bifida. A lot of fruits and vegetables contain folic acid.
11. Pantothenic acid is essential for the metabolism of food. It is also plays a role in the production of hormones and cholesterol. It is found in fruits, vegetables and some meats.
12. Riboflavin (vitamin B2) works with the other B vitamins. It is important for body growth and the production of red blood cells. It is commonly found in wheat and grains.
13. Thiamine (vitamin B1) helps the body cells change carbohydrates into energy. Getting plenty of carbohydrates is very important during pregnancy and breast-feeding. It is also essential for heart function and healthy nerve cells. It is found in many meats, bread and wheat.