Vitamins - Definition, types, functions and natural sources
Table of contents
- Vitamins: the best health insurance
- How long does it take to notice the effects of a multivitamin complex?
- Is it better to take individual supplements of each vitamin or a multivitamin complex?
- Vitamin A, essential for the sight
- Vitamin B1, the energy vitamin
- Vitamin B2, the spark of cells
- Vitamin B3 (niacin), to have nerves of steel
- Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), helps to prevent grey hairs
- Vitamin B6, the athletes's vitamin
- Vitamin B12, essential for muscle power
- Folic acid, the vitamin of wellness
- Biotin, the beauty vitamin
- Vitamin C, the best cell protection
- Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin
- Vitamin E, the vitamin that gives energy to the cells
- Scheme of the vitamins
Normally, it is quite difficult to consume all the vitamins that our body needs on a daily basis only through food. This is why nutritionists advise taking multivitamin dietary supplements.
Everyone knows that vitamins are fundamental to stay healthy, however, most of us are unaware of the specific role that each vitamin plays in the organism.
In this article, we provide detailed information about the most important nutrients and vitamins and their sources. After reading this, you will notice the effects that vitamins, minerals, and essential trace elements have on your physical state, your appearance, and your wellness.
The most recent research has shown that a vitamin deficiency entails serious consequences for the organism, even worse than what was previously thought.
That’s why most nutritionists advise taking a multivitamin/mineral tablet as the best "health insurance" to prevent any nutritional deficiency.
Do not leave your health to chance. The additional intake of vitamin and mineral supplements ensures that your body has all the nutrients it needs. That is why millions of people take them daily.
The time it takes to notice the effects of dietary vitamin supplements depends on the degree of their deficiency in the body. If you have a serious vitamin deficiency, it means that your body will have an increased demand and it will take longer to notice the effects.
In general, and depending on each case, the effects of vitamins can be experienced after 3 to 12 weeks.
The most advisable approach is to take a multivitamin complex since it will provide all the nutrients and vital substances that our body needs on a daily basis.
Moreover, depending on the individual needs, we may also take a specific vitamin apart from the multivitamin complex. If you are a smoker, for example, you should take an extra dose of vitamin C.
If you happen to have high cholesterol, you can add an Omega 3 capsule. If you want to keep your skin young and smooth for longer, taking OPC or amino acid capsules would be ideal.
However, you should always take a basic multivitamin and mineral complex to obtain the essential nutrients.
Vitamin A is fat-soluble. Apart from its beneficial properties for the sight, vitamin A is also crucial for:
- Healthy and strong skin tissue and hair
- Strong defenses
- Healthy cells
- Healthy blood
- Strong libido
- Strong bones and teeth
- Healthy nails
- Proper mucosa
- Good sight
Vitamin A can be found in the following foods: liver, red and orange fruits and vegetables, like carrots (beta carotene), spinach, cheese, salmon, apricot (such as beta-carotene), papaya (beta-carotene), kale (beta-carotene) and egg yolk.
Tip: If you work long hours in front of the computer or watch TV for hours, you must take a proper supply of vitamin A. The eyes have to regulate the stimuli received from light and darkness continuously. These light stimuli produce retinol rhodopsin, which requires a lot of vitamin A.
The B vitamins are water soluble. Vitamin B1 is essential for:
- Improving memory
- Having greater mental agility
- Quick healing of wounds
- Calming the nerves
- Metabolising carbohydrates
- Promoting a good digestion
- Keeping the heart healthy and strong
- Having more energy
Wheat germ, brewer's yeast, spirulina, whole grains, sunflower seeds, nuts, egg yolk, liver and buckwheat.
Tip: If you smoke, drink a lot of coffee or tea, suffer stress, or take the pill, you will need additional vitamin B1.
Vitamin B2 is important:
- For cell energy and breathing
- For a healthy skin and hair
- For the metabolism of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins
- For the fertility
- For a correct sight
- For the proper functioning of the thyroid gland
- For strong nails
Spirulina, almond, salmon, liver, egg yolk, cheese, milk, whole grains, and green leaf vegetables
Tip: If you undergo a lot of stress, you need a proper supply of vitamin B2. Most of the people undergo a lot of pressure, due to their work, certain personal situations, or specific problems. The vitamin B2 reserves are spent more quickly with the presence of stress hormones.
Vitamin B3 is important for:
- The production of sex hormones
- A proper condition of the nervous system
- A good digestion
- A healthy dermis
- A lower cholesterol
- A positive mental state
- A good oxygenation of the blood
Brewer's yeast, peanuts, spirulina, salmon, tuna, chicken, and lamb.
Tip: The greatest enemy of vitamin B3 is sugar. If you eat sweets, chocolate, candies, gums, Coca-Cola and other sugary drinks regularly, you may have a vitamin B3 deficiency.
Vitamin B5 is important for:
- Gaining energy and vitality
- Metabolizing fats, proteins, and carbohydrates
- Forming hair pigments (help to avoid grey hairs)
- Maintaining a healthy cartilage and connective tissue
- Healthy nerves
- Increasing the ability to focus
Kidney, yeast, mushrooms, egg, avocado, salmon, broccoli, and mung beans.
Tip: If you wake up and notice that your arms and legs are stiff, you are aching and you have difficulty to move, you could be suffering from a vitamin B5 deficiency.
Vitamin B6 is important for:
- The metabolism of proteins
- Coping with stress
- Maintaining stable sugar levels in the blood
- Encouraging vitality and wellness
- Improving the defenses
- Women during pregnancy and menopause
- The optimal functioning of the brain
Liver, salmon, sardines, bananas, avocados, dates, figs, walnuts, and soybeans.
Tip: The concentration of vitamin B6 in the body drops by 20%, just three hours after taking the contraceptive pill. This poses a serious risk for women who take the pill, since it could cause mental disorders. Vitamin B6 is also specially important during the menopause, since its use counteracts the loss of bone mass associated with menopause.
Vitamin B12 is important for:
- The bones
- Optimal levels of fat
- The brain and nervous system
- The formation of red cells
- Mental agility
- Strength and muscle power
- Cell division and the formation of DNA and RNA
- Coping with stress
- Maintaining a positive mental state
Oysters, spirulina, herring, yolk of egg, dairy products, cabbage, meat and fish.
Tip: Vitamin B12 is found mainly in meat, and therefore its consumption can be a problem for vegetarians. Specially for vegetarians who do not eat milk or eggs. In these cases the intake of vitamin B12 dietary supplements is essential to provide adequate levels of vitamin B12 in the body.
Folic acid is important for:
- The formation of red cells
- Cell division and a healthy development of the fetus
- Endorphins, the hormones of happiness
- Serotonin and norepinephrine
- People with stress
- A healthy and strong hair
- The gastrointestinal activity
Liver, wheat germ, brewer's yeast, egg yolk, nuts, beets, asparagus, and vegetables.
Tip: It is advisable to take an additional amount of folic acid when we are planning to become pregnant, since it is necessary for the healthy development of the fetus, and it also helps to prevent premature birth, spontaneous abortion, and any deformity in the baby.
Biotin is important for:
- A healthy, silky, and beautiful dermis
- Maintaining stable sugar levels
- A balanced metabolism of fats
- Making hair and nails grow healthily
- Healthy muscles
- Energy for the brain and nerve cells
Liver, spirulina, soybean, egg yolk, nuts, whole grains, brewer's yeast, salmon, and brown rice.
Tip: Biotin is required for a silky and luminous dermis and to keep the hair strong and shiny. Biotin has a stronger effect than many expensive cosmetic products. Biotin is also produced by intestinal bacteria. When the intestinal flora is damaged by nicotine, alcohol, or unhealthy foods, a biotin deficiency can occur in the body.
Vitamin C is water soluble and it is important for:
- Maintaining the body's defences
- Protecting us from the free radicals
- Tissue regeneration
- A smooth and soft skin
- The metabolism of calcium in the body
- Healthy gums
- Optimism and happiness
- Mental focus
- The elasticity of the blood vessels
Fruits such as cherry, kiwi, lemons, oranges, grapefruit, raspberries. Also spinach, cabbage, and peppers.
Tip: Taking vitamin C is specially important for people who smoke. We should take more vitamin C in order to counteract significant increase of the free radicals that comes with smoking. A vitamin C deficiency can cause premature wrinkles. Taking vitamin C can prevent and counteract these symptoms.
Vitamin D is fat-soluble and it is important for:
- Keeping your bones strong
- Keeping the teeth healthy and strong
- Wellness and joy
- Strengthening the immune system
- Preventing osteoporosis
- Preventing colon and breast cancer
- When you have low levels of vitamin A
Liver, cod liver oil, egg yolk, milk, dairy products, butter, yeast, vegetables, tuna, herring, sardines, and margarine. This vitamin is not found in fruits nor vegetables.
Tip: Getting some sunlight for half an hour is enough for the requirements of the body. However, if we live in areas where there is little sunlight, we should take vitamin D supplements to prevent this deficiency.
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin and it is important for:
- Protecting the cells from the harmful effects of the free radicals
- The prevention of degenerative diseases
- A proper production of sperm
- A good circulation
- A faster wound healing
- Helping to cure scarring problems
- People undergoing heavy physical stress
- A healthy cardiovascular system
Wheat germ oil, sunflower seeds, soy, almonds, spirulina, dried fruit, pepper, salmon, and flax seeds.
Tip: Athletes and sportspeople need more vitamin E. Vitamin E helps to transport enough oxygen to the muscles, which helps to increase the strength and physical performance. Oxygen is very important for the muscles, since it helps to prevent the harmful effects of the free radicals.
The term vitamin was coined by doctor Funk, and it means "amines of life"; even though they do not have an amine function, there is no life without vitamins. The main characteristic that separates vitamins from minerals is their organic nature when compared to the inorganic nature of the minerals. The function of vitamins consists on regulating many of the chemical processes that take place in the organism, which means that each vitamin performs a specific task. The organism cannot produce most of the vitamins, which is why it is so important to follow a balanced diet so that we do not trigger any deficiency, even though the needs of vitamins are minimal, a lack can have catastrophical consequences for the body.
Vitamins are mainly divided in to groups:
- Water soluble
- Fat soluble
The water soluble ones are the 8 vitamins from the B group and vitamin C. They must be consumed daily, since the organism has a very reduced ability to store them, so that the excess is eliminated through the urine.
The fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) are soluble in a fatty substance and they are stored in the organism, specially in the liver, so that we can have some kind of reserve in otder to face a deficiency; however, you should not consume more than what you need, since an excess (10 times the recommended amount) or hypervitaminosis can trigger serious health problems.
|C (Ascorbic acid)||Antioxidant, Transports O2 and H2, Coenzyme in the synthesis of collagen, Coenzyme in the synthesis of noradrenaline, Iron (Fe) Absorption, Participates in the metabolism of lipids and certain amino acids as well||Scurvy: Inflammation of the gums, weakening and fall of the teeth, dry mouth and eyes, joint pain, hair loss, and even death||It does not have toxic effects if the dose does not exceed 1g/day. If it is higher it can produce diarrhea, kidney stones, and an iron overdose||Kiwi, guayaba, red pepper, black currant, parsley, Brussels sprouts, lemon, cauliflower, potatos, spinach, strawberries, oranges...||90mg 75mg|
|B1 (Thiamine)||Transfer of aldehyde groups through oxidative decarboxylation, it promotes the CH metabolism and the nervous function of the CNS||Loss of appetite, apathy, depression, numbness in legs and arms, beriberi...||No toxic effects||Whole grain products, whole eggs, nuts, beef or pork meat, lentils, guts, garlics...||1.2mg 1.1mg|
|B2 (Riboflavin)||Forms coenzymes with FAD and FMA, it promotes the oxidation of fats and CH, health of the skin, nails, and hair||Lack of energy, nervousness, depression, disorders of the eyes, mouth, and skin...||No toxic effects||Meat, fish, protein-rich foods in general; nuts, whole cereals and legumes||1.3mg 1.1mg|
|B3 (Niacin)||Forms coenzymes with NAD and NADP, it promotes the anaerobic glycolisis. Promotes the oxidation of fats and CH, the lipolisis, and the health of the skin, nails, and hair||"Pellagra" or the 3 Ds syndrome (dementia, dermatitis and diarrhea)||Headache, nausea, irritation of the skin, hepatic damage, inhibition of the lipolisis...||Meat, guts, fish, whole cereals, cheese, eggs, foods rich in tryptophan||16mg 14mg|
|B5 (Pantothenic)||Essential component of the CoA in the transfer of acyl groups (CH and fats oxidation; lipolisis)||Nausea, fatigue, depression and loss of appetite||No toxic effects||Guts, meat, dairy products, eggs, whole cereals, legumes, vegetables...||5mg|
|B6 (Pyridoxine)||Forms coenzymes with pyridoxal phosphate, Promotes the protein metabolism, Formation of hemoglobin, Formation of red cells, Glycogenolysis and glyconeogensis||Irritability, convulsions, anemia, dermatitis, injuries in the oral mucosa...||Loss of nervous sensitivity and abnormal pace||Whole cereals, walnuts, nuts, bananas, egg yolk, potatos, vegetables, meat and fish||1.3μg|
|B8 (Biotin)||Forms coenzymes to transfer C02, It promotes the metabolsim of Carbohydrates, Fats, and Proteins||Nausea, fatigue, and starches on the skin||No toxic effects||Meat, milk, egg yolk, whole cereals, legumes, vegetables...||30 μg|
|B10 (Para-aminobenzoic acid)||Forms coenzymes with DNA and RNA, Formation of hemoglobin, Formation of red and white cells, Synthesis of purines and amino acids||Anemia, fatigue, diarrhea, digestive disorders, infections, fetal problems during pregnancy...||No toxic effects||Green vegetables, brewer's yeast, whole cereals, nuts, meats, and potatos.||400μg|
|B12 (Cobalamin)||Forms coenzymes with DNA and RNA, formation of red and white cells, Regeneration of the tissues||Anemia, fatigue, nerve damage, paralysis, infections||No toxic effects||Meat, fish, guts, eggs, dairy products, seafood, cereals...||2.4 μg|
|A (Retinol)||Visual pigmentation, Keep the epithelial cells hydrated, Antioxidant, Stability of the cell membranes||Night blindness, dryness of the skin and eyes. It can delay growth in children.||Nausea, headaches, fatigue, hepatic damage, joint pain, dryness of the skin, alterations on the fetus during pregnancy...||Animal guts, carrots, spinach, parsley, butter, sweet potatos, soy oil, tuna, cheese, eggs, vegetables...||0.9mg 0.7mg|
|D (Calciferols)||It regulates the phospho-calcium metabolism: works together with calcitonin (opposite to PTH) and favors the absorption of CA and P in the intestines||Decalcification of the bones, dental caries and even rickets||Nausea, loss of appetite, irritability, joint pain, calcification of the soft tissues (kidneys)||Liver, fish, eggs, oils, margarine, milk, yogurt, and sunbathing||5 μg|
|E (Tocoferols)||Antioxidant, Protects the cell membranes, Facillitates the synthesis of the "hemo" group||Muscle alterations, damage to the retina, inhibits growths in children||Headache, fatigue, diarrhea||Vegetable and seed oils, liver, eggs, soy, wheat germ, nuts, coconuts...||15 mg|
|K (Menadione)||Anti-coagulant||Hemorraghes and bleedings||Thrombosis and vomits||Liver, eggs, green leaf vegetables, cheese, butter...||120μg 90 μg|
If you want to know more...
Vitamin D is a key element to our health. So far the benefits of vitamin D are known to strengthen bones. However it has now been discovered that almost all organs and tissues are receptors of vitamin D, this being the only vitamin with long-term effects on the metabolic processes of the intestine, brain, heart, pancreas, skin, lymphocytes, etc. Read more
Vitamin K is an essential element that is found in plants or is produced by intestinal bacteria. An essential element, in this case a vitamin, is an organic component that contains carbon molecules, that are vital for life and have to be supplied externally, via food or nutritional supplements. Read more