In this lesson, you will learn about vitamins and the different types your body needs. You will also learn how vitamins function in your body, by the use of specific examples.
If you are like most people, you’ve probably heard at least one of these sayings: ‘Don’t forget to take your vitamins!’ or ‘Eat your veggies — they are packed with vitamins!’ or maybe ‘Need more energy? Take your vitamins!’ But what exactly are vitamins?Vitamins are nutrients your body needs to function and fight off disease. Your body cannot produce vitamins itself, so you must get them through food you eat or in some cases supplements. There are 13 vitamins that are essential to your body working well.
Knowledge of the different types and understanding the purpose of these vitamins are important for good health.
Types and Examples of Foods
There are two types of vitamins: fat-soluble and water-soluble. Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in your fat cells, consequently requiring fat in order to be absorbed.
Water-soluble vitamins are not stored in your body; therefore, they need to be replenished daily. Your body takes what it needs from the food you eat and then excretes what is not needed as waste. Here is a list of some vitamin types and common food sources:
- Vitamin A – comes from orange colored fruits and vegetables; dark leafy greens, like kale
- Vitamin D – can be found in fortified milk and dairy products; cereals; (and of course, sunshine!)
- Vitamin E – is found in fortified cereals; leafy green vegetables; seeds; nuts
- Vitamin K – can be found in dark green leafy vegetables; turnip/beet greens
- Vitamin B1, or Thiamin – come from whole grains; enriched grains; liver; nuts; seeds
- Vitamin B2, or Riboflavin – comes from whole grains; enriched grains; dairy products
- Vitamin B3, or Niacin – comes from meat; fish; poultry; whole grains
- Vitamin B5, or Pantothenic Acid – comes from meat; poultry; whole grains
- Vitamin B6, or Pyridoxine – comes from fortified cereals; soy products
- Vitamin B7, or Biotin – is found in fruits; meats
- Vitamin B9, or Folic Acid (Folate) – comes from leafy vegetables
- Vitamin B12 – comes from fish; poultry; meat; dairy products
- Vitamin C – comes from citrus fruits and juices, such as oranges and grapefruits; red, yellow, and green peppers
Purpose of Vitamins
Vitamins are used in many different ways inside your body. While vitamins do not directly serve as a source of energy, they do help the enzymes that generate energy from nutrients such as carbohydrates and fats.
Here are some more ways vitamins function in your body:
One of vitamin A’s main roles is in the production of retinal. Your body uses retinal in the rods and cones of your eyes to sense light and help prevent night blindness. Vitamin A is also important for your teeth, bones, skin, reproduction, and a healthy immune system.
B Complex Vitamins
The B complex vitamins include thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), biotin (B7), folic acid (B9), and B12. They serve many purposes in your body, including aiding in energy production, making red blood cells, and making new DNA so cells can multiply. They are also required for healthy nerve and brain function, intestinal health, and cardiovascular health.
Vitamin C, an antioxidant, may help prevent cell damage and reduce risk for certain cancers, heart disease, and other diseases.
Vitamin C is vital to the formation of collagen, which keeps your blood vessels strong and holds your teeth in their sockets. In addition, vitamin C is important to wound healing and helping your body absorb iron.
Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium and phosphorus from the foods you eat. It deposits calcium and phosphorus in bones and teeth, making them stronger and healthier. Vitamin D also helps protect you against infections by keeping your immune system healthy.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that keeps the blood clean and protects cells from damage. It also helps your body use vitamin K.
Vitamin K helps make protein that allows your blood to clot properly.
Vitamins are essential to your body functioning at its best. Eating a well-balanced diet, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products, should supply you with all the vitamins you need.Some populations may need to take extra care to ensure they receive all their vitamins.
Following a strict vegetarian diet makes it difficult to get the necessary amount of vitamin B12. Unlike some other B vitamins, B12 is not found in any plant food other than fortified cereals. In this case, you may be able to take a vitamin B12 supplement.
Women who are pregnant, or who may become pregnant, should get adequate amounts of folic acid. Folic acid is needed to help prevent neural tube birth defects. It must be taken in the earliest stages of pregnancy. 400 to 800 micrograms of folic acid every day is recommended, while 500 mcg is recommended for women who are breastfeeding.
Vitamins are nutrients your body needs to develop and function properly. There are 13 essential vitamins: A, D, E, and K, which are fat-soluble, and vitamins C and the B-complex group, which are water-soluble. Each vitamin has a distinct role in keeping you healthy. Consuming a well-balanced diet should supply you with all the vitamins you need.
Vitamins Definition ; Vocabulary
- Vitamins: The nutrients that your body needs to function and fight diseases.
- Fat-soluble vitamins: Vitamins that are stored in fat cells and require fat to be absorbed.
- Water-soluble vitamins: Vitamins that are not stored in the body and must be replenished daily.
After completing this lesson, you should be able to:
- Define vitamins
- Name the 13 essential vitamins
- Differentiate between fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins
- List some common food sources for the different types of vitamins
- Summarize the functions of the different vitamins
- Describe some populations who may need to supplement certain vitamins