Vitamins are essential nutrients for our various bodily functions. They don’t provide energy like carbohydrates and fat but play an important role in various functions like immunity, digestion and metabolism. They strengthen the bones, help in wound healing, improve our eyesight and helps in overall growth.
There are 13 essential vitamins which are broadly divided into two categories: fat soluble and water soluble.
The fat soluble vitamins are vitamin A, D, E and K and they can be stored in our body for up to 6 months. The water soluble vitamins are B and C; they cannot be stored in our body, so we need to replenish them regularly.
Here is what you should know about these vitamins:
Vitamin A (Beta carotene)
Function: It is an important antioxidant, enhances our immune system and is extremely essential for our eyesight. Its deficiency can lead to night blindness. It contains beta carotene, which helps in repair of the cornea and eye membranes.
Sources: Carrots, pepper, sweet potato, broccoli, spinach.
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)
Function: It helps in production of certain neurotransmitters and multiple enzyme processes. A deficiency of vitamin B1 can lead to beri beri, nerve degeneration, loss of appetite.
Sources: Foods rich in vitamin B1 are peas, sunflower seeds, cauliflower, potatoes, oranges.
Vitamin B6 ( Pyridoxine)
Function: This is a vitamin which helps in improving the metabolism, burning more calories, strengthening the immunity, and supporting the function of nervous system. It’s deficiency may cause anemia and peripheral neuropathy. Humans cannot produce vitamin B6 so it should be obtained from the diet.
Sources: Foods rich in vitamin B6 are fish, chicken, spinach, chickpeas, bananas, whole grain, nuts.
Vitamin B9 (Folic acid)
Function: It helps in growth and development of baby in the mother’s womb and is important for heart health. The deficiency of folic acid in pregnancy leads to neural tube defects.
Sources: Foods rich in vitamin B9 are green leafy vegetables like spinach, asparagus, fortified cereals, legumes.
Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)
Function: It strengthens our nervous system and is an important part of DNA synthesis and maturation. It helps in converting homocysteine to methionine which plays an essential role in protecting the heart. Deficiency of vitamin B12 can lead to megaloblastic anemia, and some neurological problems.
Sources: Foods rich in vitamin B12 are animal products like liver, meat,poultry.
Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid)
Function: It has got tremendous antioxidant properties. It is crucial for our body’s immune system, wound healing, development of connective tissue like collagen, cardiovascular health and prevention of many diseases.
Sources: Foods rich in vitamin C are oranges, peppers, lemons, broccoli, amla, strawberries, brussel sprouts.
Function: It is a vitamin which helps in formation and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth and also for normal growth and development. In addition, it also helps in proper immune function and muscle development. Lack of exposure to sunlight, reduces the ability to synthesize vitamin D in the skin and can lead to deficiency of the same. It’s deficiency has been associated with weak bones, pain and muscle weakness.
Sources : Sunlight is the best source of vitamin D. When the sun shines on your bare skin, your body makes its own vitamin D. Other sources are egg yolk, mushrooms, Salmon, tuna, fish oils, fortified cereals and fortified milk.
Function: It is a very powerful antioxidant, promotes cardiovascular health and helps in skin repair. Its deficiency is linked to muscle weakness, nerve damage and problems with vision.
Sources: Foods rich in vitamin E are cloves, nuts, seeds, whole grains, tomatoes, mangoes.
Vitamin Supplements: Do you Really Need them?
Our fast paced lifestyles and unhealthy eating habits can cause deficiency of these essential vitamins, causing weakness, fatigue and lowered immunity. The best way to meet our vitamin needs is to eat a well balanced diet which contains a variety of grains, fruits and vegetables. Eat Healthy, Stay Healthy!