Vitamins and their uses

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It has become common knowledge that vitamins and minerals are largely beneficial to your health for a number of reasons. However, many of us don’t even know what the vitamins we take are made of, or what exactly they do for us.

 

While most doctors recommend the consumption of vitamin and mineral supplements, it is always as a secondary source, as a healthy, balanced diet should provide all the necessary vitamins. Supplements are not meant to be a replacement for a healthy meal, and should only be taken when a vitamin type is in short supply.

 

The following is a list (adapted from WebMD) of commonly used vitamins, their contents and functions in the human body:

 

Nutrient Function Sources
Vitamin A Needed for vision, healthy skin and mucous membranes, bone and tooth growth, immune system health Vitamin A from animal sources (retinol): fortified milk, cheese, cream, butter, fortified margarine, eggs, liver

Beta-carotene (from plant sources): Leafy, dark green vegetables; dark orange fruits (apricots, cantaloupe) and vegetables (carrots, winter squash, sweet potatoes, pumpkin)

Vitamin D Needed for proper absorption of calcium; stored in bones Egg yolks, liver, fatty fish, fortified milk, fortified margarine. When exposed to sunlight, the skin can make vitamin D.
Vitamin E Antioxidant; protects cell walls Polyunsaturated plant oils (soybean, corn, cottonseed, safflower); leafy green vegetables; wheat germ; whole-grain products; liver; egg yolks; nuts and seeds
Vitamin K Needed for proper blood clotting Leafy green vegetables and vegetables in the cabbage family; milk; also produced in intestinal tract by bacteria

Nutrient Function Sources
Thiamine (vitamin B1) Part of an enzyme needed for energy metabolism; important to nerve function Found in all nutritious foods in moderate amounts: pork, whole-grain or enriched breads and cereals, legumes, nuts and seeds
Riboflavin (vitamin B2) Part of an enzyme needed for energy metabolism; important for normal vision and skin health Milk and milk products; leafy green vegetables; whole-grain, enriched breads and cereals
Niacin (vitamin B3) Part of an enzyme needed for energy metabolism; important for nervous system, digestive system, and skin health Meat, poultry, fish, whole-grain or enriched breads and cereals, vegetables (especially mushrooms, asparagus, and leafy green vegetables), peanut butter
Pantothenic acid Part of an enzyme needed for energy metabolism Widespread in foods
Biotin Part of an enzyme needed for energy metabolism Widespread in foods; also produced in intestinal tract by bacteria
Pyridoxine (vitamin B6) Part of an enzyme needed for protein metabolism; helps make red blood cells Meat, fish, poultry, vegetables, fruits
Folic acid Part of an enzyme needed for making DNA and new cells, especially red blood cells Leafy green vegetables and legumes, seeds, orange juice, and liver; now added to most refined grains
Cobalamin (vitamin B12) Part of an enzyme needed for making new cells; important to nerve function Meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, milk and milk products; not found in plant foods
Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) Antioxidant; part of an enzyme needed for protein metabolism; important for immune system health; aids in iron absorption Found only in fruits and vegetables, especially citrus fruits, vegetables in the cabbage family, cantaloupe, strawberries, peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, lettuce, papayas, mangoes, kiwifruit
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