What Are Vitamins?
Vitamins are organic substances that are necessary in small quantities for normal health and growth in higher forms of animal life1.
They are distinct in several ways from other biologically important compounds such as proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids1.
There are 13 essential vitamins which means that these vitamins are required for the body to work properly2.
Fat-Soluble v.s. Water-Soluble Vitamins
Vitamins are either soluble in fat or water3.
Fat-soluble vitamins are vitamins A, D, E, and K3.
They dissolve in fat and tend to accumulate in the body4.
The body absorbs these vitamins as it does dietary fats3.
Vitamin A is absorbed with fats in your diet and stored in your body’s fatty tissue6.
There are two types of vitamin A: preformed vitamin A and provitamin A carotenoids7.
Preformed vitamin A is found in animal products such as meat, fish, poultry, and dairy foods7.
Provitamin A carotenoids are found in plant-based foods such as fruits and vegetables7.
It is also produced endogenously when ultraviolet (UV) rays from sunlight strike the skin and trigger vitamin D synthesis8.
Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption in the gut and maintains adequate serum calcium and phosphate concentrations to enable normal mineralization of bone9.
It is also needed for bone growth and remodeling9.
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble nutrient that occurs naturally in many foods10.
It acts as an antioxidant, helping to protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals,11molecules produced when your body breaks down food or is exposed to harmful things like tobacco smoke and radiation12.
Vitamin E is also important to vision, reproduction, and the health of your blood, brain and skin12.
Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin that comes in two forms: phylloquinone and menaquinones13.
Both are used by the body to form clots to reduce bleeding when injured13.
Water-soluble vitamins are vitamins that dissolve in water16.
The two types of water-soluble vitamins are vitamin C and B-vitamins16.
B vitamins are a group of water-soluble vitamins that play important roles in cell metabolism and synthesis of red blood cells17.
The B group of vitamins include thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), biotin (B7), folate (B9) and cyanocobalamin (B12)18.
These vitamins help a variety of enzymes do their jobs, ranging from releasing energy from carbohydrates and fat to breaking down amino acids and transporting oxygen and energy-containing nutrients around the body19.
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is necessary for the growth, development and repair of all body tissues20.
Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant in the body, helping to protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals21.
Free radicals are compounds formed when our bodies convert the food we eat into energy21.
The Bottom Line
They are enhancers of various body reactions, i.e., they speed up the reactions24.
They are involved in the synthesis of various substances in the body like fats, proteins, DNA, RNA24.
They play a key role in the formation of body cells like red blood cells (RBC), WBC, etc24.
Vitamins and minerals are considered essential nutrients—because acting in concert, they perform hundreds of roles in the body25. They help shore up bones, heal wounds, and bolster your immune system2526. They also convert food into energy and repair cellular damage25.
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