What are Vitamins?
Vitamins are organic compounds that the body needs for normal growth and activity. They can often be obtained from eating a well-balanced diet that contains a variety of plant and animal foods.
Basic Vitamin Functions
Vitamins serve many functions in the body. Some, like vitamin D, affect mineral metabolism while vitamin C may function as an antioxidant. The presence of adequate amounts of vitamins in a person’s body is essential for good health.
Characterization of Vitamins
Vitamins are generally categorized into fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins. Vitamins A, D, E, & K are fat-soluble and may be stored by the body. However, most vitamins are not stored in the body and require a person to consume them continuously for a healthy diet.
Poor diets and mal-absorption disorders may lead to vitamin deficiencies. Deficiencies in vitamins can often lead to unwanted health conditions such as rickets, scurvy, and pernicious anaemia. All these conditions may be preventable through proper supplementation.
The Essential Vitamins
The following are the essential Vitamins that human body needs to maintain organ activity and stay healthy:
1. Vitamin A
Vitamin A helps to maintain normal vision and healthy skin.
Vitamin A is found in milk, cheese, liver, kidney, cream and fish liver oil.
The recommended dietary allowance for vitamin A is 700-900 micrograms. For pregnant and nursing women it is 1300 micrograms.
2. Vitamin B1 – Thiamine
Thiamine is required for carbohydrate metabolism. It helps support heart and nerve function.
Vitamin B1 can be obtained from whole grains, meat, fortified bread, cereals and pasta.
The recommended dietary allowance is 1.1 milligrams for women and 1.2 milligrams for men.
3. Vitamin B2 – Riboflavin
Riboflavin is required for carbohydrate and amino acid metabolism. It supports mucous membranes.
The sources of vitamin B2 are eggs, meat, poultry, shellfish, milk and milk products.
The recommended dietary allowance for Vitamin B2 is 1.1 milligram for women and 1.3 milligrams for men.
4. Vitamin B3 – Niacin
Vitamin B3 aids in the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats.
The key sources include dried yeast, liver, whole grains, legumes, and fish.
The recommended dietary allowance for vitamin B3 for women is 14 milligrams. For men, it is 16 milligrams per day.
5. Vitamin B5 – Pantothenic Acid
Vitamin B5 is required for the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats.
Vitamin B5 is found in egg yolk, liver, meat, yeast, and vegetables.
The recommended dietary allowance for vitamin B5 varies from person to person but a 5-milligram daily intake is generally ideal.
6. Vitamin B6 – Pyridoxine
Pyridoxine is required for fat and carbohydrate metabolism. It helps in the production of red blood cells and supports nerve function.
Dried yeast, liver, organ meat, whole grains, and legumes are the main sources of vitamin B6.
The recommended dietary allowance for vitamin B6 is 1.5 milligram for women and 1.7 milligram for men is the recommended daily allowance.
7. Vitamin B7 – Biotin
Vitamin B7 helps in the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats.
Liver, kidney, egg yolks, fish, milk, yeast, nuts, and legumes are the sources for vitamin B7.
The recommended dietary allowance for vitamin B7 is 30 micrograms is a good amount to take every day.
8. Vitamin B9 – Folic Acid
Vitamin B9 is required for maturation of red blood cells. It is also critical for DNA and RNA synthesis.
Leafy green vegetable, asparagus, broccoli, and organ meats are the basic food sources.
The recommended dietary allowance for vitamin B9 400 micrograms is the established dietary allowance for a day.
9. Vitamin B12 – Cobalamin
Cobalamin helps in fat metabolism. It supports DNA and RNA synthesis; it also ensures healthy nerve functioning.
Liver, meats, eggs, milk and milk products contain large amounts of vitamin B12.
The recommended dietary allowance for vitamin B12 is 2.4 micrograms.
10. Vitamins C
Vitamin C is an antioxidant. It protects cells from free radicals, promotes healing and healthy growth and also aids iron absorption.
The key sources are citrus fruits. Green pepper, tomatoes and potatoes are good vegetable sources as well.
The recommended dietary allowance for vitamin C is 75 milligram for women, 90 milligrams for men and smokers should add 35 milligrams to keep sustained levels of vitamin C.
11. Vitamin D
Vitamin D promotes calcium and phosphorus absorption. They help the body in mineralization, growth, and repair.
Cheese, butter, margarine, cream, fortified cereals and milk are the food sources. Sunlight is the mega source of vitamin D.
The recommended daily allowance for Vitamin D is as follows:
-200 IU for 50 yrs or younger
-400 IU for 50-70 yrs
-600 IU for 70 yrs or above
12. Vitamin E
Vitamin E is an antioxidant. It protects cells and tissues from free radicals and is good for the skin.
Vegetable oil, wheat germ, leafy vegetables, egg yolk, margarine, and legumes are the best sources.
The recommended daily allowance for Vitamin E is 22 IU from a natural source and 33 IU from a synthesized source.
13. Vitamin K
Vitamin K stimulates blood clotting in the body. This can help prevent hemorrhages.
Green leafy vegetables are the key sources. Soybeans are also a good source.
The recommended daily allowance for Vitamin K is 65 milligrams for women and 40 milligrams for men.
What are Minerals?
Minerals are inorganic chemical elements that enable the body to perform essential functions. Like vitamins, minerals can be obtained through a well-balanced diet, but individuals with certain disorders may be prone to deficiencies.
Basic Mineral Functions
The role of minerals in the body varies greatly. For example, calcium is needed to support strong healthy bones while sodium and potassium function in the body as electrolytes. Iodine, on the other hand, is needed for the body to make thyroid hormones.
Categorization of Minerals
Minerals are often separated into two categories: macro-minerals and trace minerals. The body needs larger amounts of macro-minerals than trace minerals. The macro-minerals include calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, chloride, and sulfur, and can be found in the body in abundance. Trace minerals, such as selenium and chromium exist in the body in limited quantities.
Most people who eat a balanced diet will consume an adequate amount of minerals. However, consuming too much may be very harmful. Your doctor can detect mineral deficiencies by performing a blood or urine test.
The Essential Minerals
Following are the most essential minerals that one must have in his/her diet.
Calcium forms and maintains bones and tissues. It also supports muscle health.
Dairy products are a good source of calcium. Additionally salmon, kale, and broccoli are good sources.
Iron transports oxygen throughout the muscle tissues. It also supports the immune system and triggers the formulation of haemoglobin.
The key source is soybeans. Moreover, lentils, tofu, spinach and beans also provide substantial amounts.
Magnesium boosts the production of energy in the body. It also supports and stimulates brains and nerve function.
Pineapple suffices almost 60% of magnesium requirements in the body. Other sources are soybeans, rye, spinach, and oats.
Zinc boosts cell development in the human body. It supports a healthy immune system and is also a great player in wound healing.
Oysters, beef, fortified cereals, and cashews are the sources for zinc.
Phosphorus works with calcium for the development of bones and tissues and performs the function of tissue repairs in the body.
Milk products and meat are the main sources.
Vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients as they help perform hundreds of roles in the body. Remember to keep a balanced diet to obtain these nutrients. You can also try our vitamins and mineral supplements if you are not getting enough in your regular diet to ensure you stay healthy.