Top 13 Essential Vitamins and their Functions

Balanced and Healthy Diet

The main aspects to consider when selecting a healthy diet are portion control and balance. There is a saying “to eat the rainbow”. This comes from the fact that the more colourful fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins. So should the diet consist of a wide variety of colourful veg and dark leafy green then almost all vitamins are supplied.

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When selecting portions, a handy guide is to use amounts you are familiar with. Such as a an amount of meat the same as the palm of your hand, 2 fistfuls of vegetables and a thumb sized piece of fat. This will ensure that you are getting enough food at each sitting to both satisfy your appetite and meet your nutritional requirements.

Most people can get enough vitamins by following that simple advice. However, old age, lifestyle habits such as smoking, and conditions such as pregnancy may require additional intake amounts. Therefore, it may be important to include the recommended supplements for health and vitality. Otherwise, following a diet plan is the only way to ensure that you are getting sufficient amounts of these essential vitamins.

Different Types of Essential Vitamins

There are 13 different types of essential vitamins required for normal body function. They are classified into two categories namely: Water-soluble and Fat-soluble vitamins.

  • Water-soluble- They include vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, C, Biotin, and Folate. They are not stored in huge amounts in the body and the excess is lost in urine. Aim to get a reasonable amount of these on a daily basis.
  • Fat-soluble- Fat-soluble vitamins include vitamins A, D, E, and K. They are stored in the body and, therefore, should be consumed in little amounts since extremes could cause health problems.

Functions, and Food Sources of Essential Vitamins

Vitamin A (Retinol)

Vitamin A has antioxidant properties which help improve immune health by maintaining healthy mucus membranes and fighting diseases. It helps build strong teeth and bones, prevents Alzheimer’s disease, heart diseases, arthritis, and age-related muscular degeneration problems. It also reduces wrinkles and fine lines associated with aging by rejuvenating the cells.

The dietary sources of Vitamin A include milk and dairy products such as yogurt, cheese, butter, eggs, fish liver oils, beef, kidney, chicken, leafy vegetables, pumpkins, carrots, sweet potatoes, and fruits like mangoes, peaches, winter squash, apricots, and cantaloupe.

RDA: Men: 900mcg Women: 700mcg

Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)

Vitamin B1 helps convert food into energy. It’s essential for healthy skin, hair, brain, heart, and for normal nerve functioning.

B1 helps prevent kidney stones, Beriberi, heart diseases, and indigestion. It’s especially crucial for elderly patients who are at a risk of Alzheimer’s.

Sources include pork chops, ham, liver, dried beans, nuts, and seeds.

RDA: Men: 1.2mg Women: 1.1mg

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)

This vitamin helps with energy production in the body by enabling conversion of food into energy. It also helps the body use other B vitamins properly. It’s needed for healthy eyes, hair, skin, blood, brain. It improves the body’s metabolic activity, boosts the immune system, and promotes the health of the nervous system.

Vitamin B2 comes from whole grains, dairy products, soybeans, meat and poultry, liver, eggs, and mushrooms.

RDA: Men: 1.3mg Women: 1.1mg

Vitamin B3 (Niacin, nicotinic acid)

This nutrient also helps convert food into energy and is important for the nervous system, digestive system, skin health, hair, and brain. It helps with indigestion, reduction of weakness, heart disorders, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, skin disorders, migraines, and diarrhoea.

Niacin occurs naturally in foods and can also be made by the body from the amino acid tryptophan with the help of B6. It’s found in a wide variety of foods including meat, poultry, whole grains, mushrooms, potatoes, and peanut butter.

RDA: Men: 16mg Women: 14mg

Vitamin B7 (Biotin)

Biotin helps convert food into energy and synthesizes glucose. Also, it can help break down some fatty acids. It allows the body to use proteins, fats, and carbohydrates from the food consumed. Its helps improve metabolism and treats skin disorders.

It’s found in whole grains, non-fat milk and yogurt, sweet potatoes, peanuts, almonds, eggs, liver, poultry meat, organic meats, and fortified soy milk.

RDA: Men: 30mcg Women: 30mcg

Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)

It helps the body make good use of proteins and glycogen. It also helps form haemoglobin which carries blood in the body. It improves sleep, moods, and appetite. It also boosts the immune system. The only vitamin deficiency known to cause or worsen seizures in infants is a deficiency of vitamin B6. Some doctors may also try vitamin B6 in older children with difficult-to-control seizures, but there is no solid evidence that it will be helpful.

Most people do not get enough of this nutrient. It’s mainly found in foods such as meat, potatoes, bananas, poultry, liver, soybeans, lentils, nuts, bran, oats, chickpeas and sunflower seeds.

RDA: Men: 1.3mg Women: 1.3mg

Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)

B12 helps improve body metabolism, synthesizes red blood cells and keeps the nervous system healthy. Deficiency can cause anaemia. The vitamin is only found in animal food sources such as meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, milk and other dairy products.

RDA: Men: 2.4mcg Women: 2.4mcg

Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)

It helps convert food into energy and also makes lipids and haemoglobin. Deficiency causes burning feet and neurological problems. It’s commonly found in whole grains, mushrooms, broccoli, tomatoes, avocado, and poultry.

RDA: Men: 5mg Women: 5mg

Folate (folic acid)

It’s vital for new cell creation. It helps prevent birth defects when taken during pregnancy, reduces heart and colon cancer risks and offsets breast cancer risks among women who consume alcohol.

It’s mainly found in asparagus, spinach, okra, broccoli, legumes like chickpeas and black-eyed peas, tomato juice, and orange juice.

RDA: Men: 400mcg Women: 400mcg

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)

It’s generally an antioxidant that promotes healthy teeth and gums, improves the body’s ability to absorb iron, boosts the immune system and maintains healthy tissues. It’s abundant in citrus fruits, broccoli, potatoes, bell peppers, spinach, tomatoes, Brussel sprouts, and strawberries.

RDA: Men: 90mg Women: 75mg: Smokers: An additional 35mg

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is essential for good bone health as it increases the amount of calcium and phosphorus absorbed in the body, making bones and teeth stronger and healthier. It also helps protect against infections by boosting the immune system health. Dietary sources include milk, fish, eggs, organ meats fish liver oils, and rice beverages.

RDA: Men: 10mcg Women: 10mcg

Vitamin E

It helps maintain a healthy immune system and other body processes. It also acts as an antioxidant and protects cells from damage. It’s found in vegetable oils, leafy green vegetables, avocados, some nuts, sunflower seeds, peanut butter, and wheat germ.

RDA: Men: 15mg Women: 15mg

Vitamin K

This nutrient activates proteins and calcium essential for blood clotting and also helps prevent hip fractures. It can be found in liver, broccoli, spinach, sprouts, kale, eggs, collard, and other leafy green vegetables.

RDA: Men: 120mcg Women: 90mcg

Author Bio:

Alex Morgan – Currently studying in Dublin, Alex is a career writer, by choice! Versed in a number of subjects he mainly specialises in tech, education, health and fitness and gaming; of the video variety. He posts on a number of blogs and websites and harbours desires to begin a great novel, but struggles creating character names – Look for the epic fantasy “Tom the Barbarian” on shelves soon.

He can often be found on twitter under the handle @Al_Exical. He finds it comforting to talk about himself in the third person.

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