Vitamins are organic compounds which are needed in small quantities to sustain life. We need to take vitamins from food because the human body either does not produce enough of them or none at all.

There are two types of vitamins:

Fat-soluble vitamins: Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the fatty tissues of the body and the liver. Fat-soluble vitamins are easier to store than water-soluble ones and can stay in the body as reserves for days, some of them for months.  Fat-soluble vitamins are absorbed through the intestinal tract with the help of fats (lipids).  Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble.

Water-soluble vitamins: Water-soluble vitamins do not get stored in the body for long – they soon get excreted in urine. Because of this, water-soluble vitamins need to be replaced more often than fat-soluble ones.  Vitamins C and all the B vitamins are water-soluble.

Vitamin A

Chemical names – retinol, retinal, and four carotenoids (including beta carotene)

Good sources include: liver, cod liver oil, carrots, broccoli, sweet potato, butter, kale, spinach, pumpkin, collard greens, some cheeses, egg, apricot, cantaloupe melon, and milk.

Deficiency may cause night-blindness and keratomalacia (an eye disorder that results in a dry cornea).

Vitamin B1

Chemical name – thiamine Water soluble

Good sources include: yeast, pork, cereal grains, sunflower seeds, brown rice, whole-grain rye, asparagus, kale, cauliflower, potatoes, oranges, liver, and eggs.

Deficiency may cause beriberi and Wernicke-Korsakoffsyndrome.

Vitamin B2

Chemical name – riboflavin

Good sources include: asparagus, bananas, persimmons, okra, chard, cottage cheese, milk, yogurt, meat, eggs, fish, and green beans.

Deficiency may cause Ariboflavinosis, glossitis, angular stomatitis

Vitamin B3

Chemical names – niacin, niacinamide

Good sources include: liver, heart, kidney, chicken, beef, fish (tuna, salmon), milk, eggs, avocados, dates, tomatoes, leafy vegetables, broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes, asparagus, nuts, whole-grains, legumes, mushrooms, and brewer’s yeast.

Deficiency may cause pellagra (characterized by diarrhea, dermatitis, and mental disturbance)

Vitamin B5

Chemical name – pantothenic acid

Good sources include: meats, whole-grains (milling may remove it), broccoli, avocados, royal jelly, and fish ovaries.

Deficiency causes paresthesia (Paresthesia refers to a burning or prickling sensation that is usually felt in the hands, arms, legs, or feet, but can also occur in other parts of the body. The sensation, which happens without warning, is usually painless and described as tingling or numbness, skin crawling, or itching)

Vitamin B6

Chemical names – pyridoxine, pyridoxamine, pyridoxal.

Sources of vitamin B6 : meats, bananas, whole-grains, vegetables, and nuts. When milk is dried, it loses about half of its B6. Freezing and canning can also reduce content.

Deficiency causes anemia, peripheral neuropathy (damage to parts of the nervous system other than the brain and spinal cord)

Vitamin B7

Chemical name – biotin

Deficiency of vitamin B7 can cause dermatitis or enteritis (inflammation of the intestine)

Sources of vitamin B7 include: egg yolk, liver, some vegetables.

Vitamin B9

Chemical names – folic acid, folinic acid.

Sources include: leafy vegetables, legumes, liver, baker’s yeast, some fortified grain products, and sunflower seeds. Several fruits have moderate amounts, as does beer.

Deficiency during pregnancy is linked to birth defects. Pregnant women are encouraged to supplement folic acid for the entire year before they get pregnant.

Vitamin B12

Chemical names – cyanocobalamin, hydroxocobalamin, methylcobalamin

Deficiency may cause megaloblastic anemia (a condition where bone marrow produces unusually large, abnormal, immature red blood cells)

Sources include: fish, shellfish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk and dairy products, some fortified cereals and soy products, as well as fortified nutritional yeast Vegans are advised to take B12 supplements.

Vitamin C

Chemical names – ascorbic acid.

Deficiency may cause megaloblastic anemia.

Sources include: fruit and vegetables. The Kakadu plum and the camu camu fruit have the highest vitamin C contents of all foods. Liver also has high levels. Cooking destroys vitamin C.

Vitamin D

Known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is produced by the body in response to skin being exposed to sunlight. It is also occurs naturally in a few foods — including some fish, fish liver oils, and egg yolks  and in fortified dairy and grain products. The Chemical name of vitamin D is ergocalciferol or cholecalciferol.

Vitamin D is essential for strong bones, because it helps the body use calcium from the diet. Traditionally, vitamin D deficiency has been associated with rickets, a disease in which the bone tissue doesn’t properly mineralize, leading to soft bones and skeletal deformities. But increasingly, research is revealing the importance of vitamin D in protecting against a host of health problems.

Vitamin E

Chemical name of vitamin E is tocopherols or tocotrienols.

Sources include: kiwi fruit, almonds, avocado, eggs, milk, nuts, leafy green vegetables, unheated vegetable oils, wheat germ, and whole-grains.

Deficiency of vitamin E is uncommon. Deficiency may cause hemolytic anemia in newborns (a condition where blood cells are destroyed and removed from the blood too early).

Vitamin K

Chemical names – phylloquinone, menaquinones. Fat soluble.

Deficiency may cause bleeding diathesis (an unusual susceptibility to bleeding).

Sources include: leafy green vegetables, avocado, kiwi fruit. Parsley contains a lot of vitamin K.


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