The ABCs of Vitamins

 

Vitamins are essential for many bodily processes, and as many cannot be made in the body, or amounts produced are not high enough, they must be gained from the diet.
Most people should be able to get their required vitamins from their diet if it is healthy and balanced, although some people who are at risk of deficiency may be advised to take certain supplements.

Vitamins can be divided into water-soluble and fat-soluble groups. The body has limited to no stores of water-soluble vitamins so regular intakes are necessary, while fat-soluble vitamins may be stored in the body and require fat to be absorbed.

Fat-soluble vitamins

Vitamin A
The vitamin A umbrella covers retinol and some carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, which convert into vitamin A in the body. Pregnant women should avoid rich sources such as liver and supplements.

Needed for:
Vision adaption in dim light
Cell growth and differentiation
Immune response

Found in:
Liver products
Oily fish and fish liver oils
Eggs
Yellow, red and green (leafy) vegetables
Yellow fruit

Vitamin D
Most vitamin D required is produced on exposure of the skin to sun. It is also found in a small number of foods.

Needed for:
Maintaining bone, teeth and muscle health
Supporting immune and nervous systems
May protect against osteoporosis, high blood pressure, some cancers and other diseases

Found in:
Oily fish
Milk
Fortified foods
Egg yolks
Red meat
Liver

Vitamin E
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant and can prevent cells from damaging oxidization.

Needed for:
Antioxidant protection
Maintaining healthy skin and eyes
Strengthening the immune system

Found in:
Wheatgerm
Plant oils
Nuts and seeds
Peanuts and peanut butter

Vitamin K
Most vitamin K is found in plants, while some is made by intestinal bacteria. Those taking anticoagulant drugs should avoid supplements containing vitamin K.

Needed for:
Blood clotting
Wound healing
Bone health

Found in:
Green leafy vegetables
Vegetable oils
Meat
Dairy and eggs

Water soluble vitamins

 

Vitamin C
Vitamin C is also known as ascorbic acid. Deficiency is rare but is known as scurvy.

Needed for:
Maintaining cell health
Keeping skin, blood vessels, bones and cartilage healthy
Enhancement of iron absorption when consumed in same meal
Antioxidant activity
Immune function and wound healing

Found in:
Citrus fruit
Sweet potato
Guava
Mango
Papaya
Pepper
Broccoli

Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)
Riboflavin levels can be negatively affected by UV light so keep food away from direct sunlight.

Needed for:
Promotion of normal growth
Maintaining healthy skin, eyes and nervous system
Aiding iron absorption
Releasing energy from food

Found in:
Eggs
Milk and milk products
Liver and kidney
Yeast extracts
Fortified breakfast cereals

Niacin (Vitamin B3)
There are two forms of niacin – nicotinic acid and nicotinamide – both of which are found in food.
Needed for:
Releasing energy from food
Maintaining healthy nervous system and skin

Found in:
Meat
Wheat flour
Maize flour
Eggs
Milk

Thiamin (Vitamin B1)
Chronic alcoholism is a large cause of thiamin deficiency.

Needed for:
Releasing energy from food
Keeping nervous system healthy

Found in:
Cereal products
Yeast and yeast products
Pulses
Nuts
Pork and other meats
Vegetables
Milk

Folate
Pregnant ladies or those trying for a baby are recommended to take 400mcg supplements daily up to 12 weeks pregnancy (higher for those with family history of neural tube defects) to reduce neural tube defect risk.
Needed for:
Forming health red blood cells
Reducing risk of central tube defects in unborn babies

Found in:
Kale
Spinach
Fortified bread/cereals
Broccoli
Chickpeas
Beans
Nuts
Wholegrain pasta

Vitamin B6
Extremely versatile and involved in a variety of enzymic reactions.

Needed for:
Utilizing and storing energy from ingested carbohydrates and protein
Cognitive development
Immune function
Hemoglobin formation

Found in:
Meat
Wholegrain cereals
Fortified cereals
Bananas
Nuts
Pulses

Cobalamin (Vitamin B12)
B12 is not found in plants so vegans and strict vegetarians may be at risk of deficiency, however it is also manufactured by intestinal bacteria.

Needed for:
Utilizing folic acid
Releasing energy from food
Making red blood cells
Maintaining health nervous system

Found in:
Meat and meat products
Eggs
Milk and dairy products
Fish and fish products
Yeast products and fortified vegetable extracts
Fortified breakfast cereals

Biotin (Vitamin B7)
Biotin can be made by the body and is also found at low levels in many foods. Ingestion of large amounts of unheated raw egg can prevent biotin absorption.

Needed for:
Breaking down fat
Enzyme function
Breaking down amino acids

Found in:
Liver
Kidney
Eggs
Dairy products

Pantothenic acid (Vitamin B5)
Vitamin B5 is widely distributed in food, but not in highly processed foods.

Needed for:
Releasing energy from food

Found in:
Yeast
Offal
Peanuts
Meat
Eggs
Green Vegetables

A healthy, balanced diet should provide all the vitamins needed for most people. If you want to know more about recommended intakes, are thinking about supplementation or are concerned about nutrient drug interaction, talk to your health practitioner.