Vitamins are essential to us in order to help our bodies function efficiently and to keep us in good health. Vitamins are found in various foods, in addition to being naturally manufactured by our bodies. However, sometimes we need some help in the form of vitamin supplements; it can be difficult knowing which vitamin supplement to choose unless you know the purpose and function of each one. This article summarizes some of the uses and functions of the most common vitamins.
Vitamin A is associated with eye disorders, such as night blindness, and skin disorders, such as acne. It is also needed for immunity and maintenance of the skin. It helps with bone formation and acts as an antioxidant. (source: Prescription for Nutritional Healing, James F. Balch, Phyllis A. Balch). However, a deficiency in vitamin A is uncommon, with the exception of developing countries (source).
Vitamin A can be found in green and yellow fruit and vegetables such as asparagus, apricots, carrots and yellow squash, in addition to fish liver oils. Some plants and herbs, such as fennel seed, lemongrass, rose hips, sage and hops also contain vitamin A. Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin.
There are several types of vitamin B; these include vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, B6 and B12. Vitamin B is a water soluble vitamin. The function of the B vitamins include:
- brain function (vitamin B1)
- nerve health (vitamin B5 & B6)
- skin health (vitamin B3)
- eye health (vitamin B2)
- formation of red blood cells (vitamin B12).
Vitamin B also helps with the functioning of various other functions in the body. Sources of Vitamin B include:
- brown rice
- egg yolks
- sea vegetables (vitamin B12) (source).
Vitamin C is an anti-oxidant and is important in protecting the body against infection, colds, flu, tissue growth and repair, promotes wound healing and increases the absorption of iron. A lack of vitamin C might be caused by smoking, alcohol consumption and the taking of drugs such as anti-depressants and analgesics (source: Prescription for Nutritional Healing, James F. Balch, Phyllis A. Balch).
Vitamin C is found in fruit and vegetables such as oranges, tomatoes, cabbage, green peppers and grapefruit, in addition to cranberries, blueberries and lemons (source). Vitamin C is also a water soluble vitamin.
Vitamin D is needed by the body for a number of functions such as the absorption of calcium, healthy bones and teeth, thyroid function and blood clotting. The reason that many people become deficient in vitamin D during the winter months is that they do not receive enough Vitamin D from sunlight, a natural source of vitamin D, that enables the body to keep and convert enough vitamin D in the body.
You can find vitamin D in dairy products, eggs and fish liver oils. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin.
Vitamin E is another anti-oxidant and is a fat soluble vitamin. Anti-oxidants such as vitamin E help to protect against cardiovascular disease. In addition, vitamin E helps to protect against cell damage and in the manufacture of red blood cells. Vitamin E also helps the body utilize vitamin K and vitamin A.
Vitamin E exists in eight different molecule formats within two groups known as tocopherols and tocotrienols. Sources of vitamin E include sunflower seeds, eggs, mayonnaise, liver, nuts, spinach, beet, asparagus, legumes and cold pressed vegetable oils (source).
Vitamin K is important to the role of blood clotting in that it is needed to produce prothrombin. It also helps to promote healthy liver function. Vitamin K is found in asparagus, safflower oil, green leafy vegetables, egg yolks and liver (source). Vitamin K is a fat soluble vitamin.
Most vitamins can be found in similar foods such as fruit, vegetables, dairy products and fish; vitamins exist in different levels within these foods but if you maintain a healthy diet, you should be absorbing adequate vitamins. However, sometimes the body needs a helping hand if you have a specific disease or problem. If you are unsure about taking vitamin supplements (and how and which ones to take), consult your medical practitioner for advice before using them.
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