There are many kinds of vitamins, and each has a different function within the body. The way vitamins are absorbed differs according to the vitamin type. It is also important to know which foods contain which vitamins to ensure a balanced intake. Vitamins affect the body in different ways, and the levels required also vary according to someone’s age and circumstance.
Vitamins are substances or nutrients which, in small amounts, help sustain life and help the body function properly. There are two main types of vitamins: fat soluble, and water soluble. Fat soluble vitamins are normally stored within the body and once they are ingested, dissolve in fat. Fat soluble vitamins are: Vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Water soluble vitamins are not stored within the body, and once ingested they dissolve in water. Once this happens these vitamins enter the blood stream, the body uses what it needs, and any excess amounts are excreted in the urine. Since water soluble vitamins are not stored in the body a continuous intake is needed to ensure that the body has enough to stay healthy.
- Q&A on vitamins This site addresses some of the most common questions about vitamins and dietary supplements.
- Water Soluble Vitamins Learn more about water soluble vitamins.
- Fat Soluble Vitamins Learn more about fat soluble vitamins.
- Vitamins and their functions Harvard experts answer questions related to vitamins and their functions.
- The most important vitamins This site lists the most important vitamins and their functions in the body.
Vitamin A can be found in foods such as: liver, butter, whole milk, and egg yolks. A sufficient intake of Vitamin A helps ensure healthy eyes and good vision; it also aids cell growth and repair. Vitamin A is essential for a healthy reproductive system and helps to protect the body against infection.
- Vitamin A Learn more about Vitamin A, dietary sources and available forms.
- Vitamin A Beta-Carotene and Vitamin A.
Vitamin B is a combination of eight water soluble vitamins: thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, folic acid, biotin and vitamin B12. The following foods contain high levels of vitamin B: liver, kidney, whole grains, all seeds and nuts, dairy products, eggs, brand, wheat germ, brewer’s years, lentils, beans, peas, soybeans, and leafy green vegetables. B vitamins help with the digestion of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. They also help maintain healthy hair, skin, nerves, blood cells, a healthy immune system, hormone producing glands and a healthy digestive system.
- Vitamin B Discussion of function, disease treatment, safety and food sources, from the Linus Pauling Institute.
- Vitamin B Benefits of vitamin B6.
Vitamin C can be found in fruits and vegetables. Citrus fruit, in particular, tomatoes and green peppers are known to contain high levels of vitamin C. This vitamin aids the production of collagen, and also helps with the healing of wounds, adrenal hormone production and is also an antioxidant.
- Vitamin C Discussion of function, deficiency, disease prevention, disease treatment, food sources, new research, and recommendations from the Linus Pauling Institute.
- Vitamin C Facts about Vitamin C.
Vitamin D is produced in small quantities in the skin, and can also be found in the following foods: fortified milk, oily fish, liver, and eggs. Vitamin D helps the body to maintain a healthy immune system, to regulate certain hormones, and also to ensure normal cell growth.
- Vitamin D Find out how much Vitamin D you need to stay healthy.
- Vitamin D Learn about the different sources of Vitamin D
Vitamin E can be found in the following foods: wheat germ, nuts and seeds, whole grain, grain cereals, eggs, and leafy greens. Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant to help protect cells against free radicals and the damage caused by them.
Vitamin K can be found in the following foods: dark leafy greens, oils from green plants and some dairy products. This vitamin is essential for blood clotting, bone metabolism, and kidney function.
- Vitamin K Discussion of function, deficiency, disease prevention, disease treatment, food sources, supplements, research, and recommendations
- Vitamin K Information on Vitamin K and its functions.
Biotin works in conjunction with pantothenic acid, folic acid, and vitamin B 12. The following foods are good sources of biotin: liver, kidney, brewer’s yeast, egg yolks, fish, nuts, oatmeal and beans. This vitamin helps ensure healthy skin, and hair. It helps regulate blood sugar levels, and is also useful in fat metabolism.
- Biotin More information on Biotin, dietary sources and deficiency symptoms.
Niacin, also known as nicotinic acid and nicotinamide, can be found in: meat, fish, pulses and whole grains. Niacin helps to release the energy from food; it also helps to maintain healthy skin and blood cells as well as a healthy digestive system. Normal growth and development, hormone production, a healthy brain and a healthy nervous system all require sufficient levels of Niacin.
- Niacin Information on Niacin and its functions in the body.
Folate, or folic acid, can be found in the following foods: liver, pulses, and dark green leafy vegetables. Folate is especially helpful in ensuring a healthy pregnancy; it also helps ensure healthy hair, red blood cells and bones. A healthy nervous system, digestive system and immune system also requires an adequate intake of folate.
- Folate Facts about Folate (Folic acid).
Pantothenic acid (Vitamin B5) can be found in the following foods: yeast, liver, eggs, wheat germ, milk, meat, poultry and whole grains. Pantothenic acid helps maintain: healthy red blood cells, a healthy immune system, proper adrenal gland function and a healthy nervous system. It also helps with the body metabolize fatty acids and cholesterol.
- Pantothenic acid What it is, how it works and deficiency symptoms.
Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) can be found in: meat, dairy products, and fortified grains. Riboflavin helps produce energy from food; it also helps ensure normal growth and development, a healthy immune system, as well as healthy skin and hair. It helps regulate hormone function and helps keep the nervous system and brain healthy.
- Riboflavin Information on the vitamin and how it helps the body.
Thiamin (Vitamin B1) can be found in the following foods: meat, fish, whole grains, and nuts. Thiamine helps release the energy from food; it ensures healthy growth, healthy skin, blood, hair, and muscles. Additionally, it helps maintain a healthy nervous system and brain. This vitamin also helps metabolize alcohol. Thiamin supplements have been used to help improve mental function in alcoholics and in the elderly.
- Thiamin Information on Thiamin and its functions in the body.
The body requires certain levels of nutrients to function properly, but these requirements change according to age and circumstance. Women, pregnant women, men, teenagers and seniors will all have different needs.
Some of the most important vitamins and minerals for women are Vitamins: D, C, E, A, B12, and folic acid. Vitamin D helps prevent osteoporosis and helps ensure healthy skin. Vitamins A, E and C act as antioxidants, and these can help counteract aging, prevent heart disease, memory loss and ensures healthy eyes and vision. Vitamin B12 is essential to the health of the heart and brain. Folic acid also plays an important part in woman’s health.
- Vitamins for Women Information on vitamins and supplements for women.
Pregnant women have higher nutrient needs and can benefit from the following vitamins and minerals: Folic acid, Niacin (B3), Pyridoxine (B6), Calcium, and Magnesium. Folic acid aids cell formation and DNS synthesis; it can help prevent low birth weights and neural tube defects. Niacin (B3) helps with a healthy birth weight, length and head circumference. Pyridoxine (B6) is helpful in relieving nausea and morning sickness and also helps blood and nerve synthesis. Calcium helps with pregnancy complications such as leg cramps, pre-eclampsia, and pre term delivery. Magnesium helps prevent pregnancy complications such as leg cramps and tension headaches.
- Vitamins during Pregnancy General information on prenatal vitamins.
Men can benefit from the following vitamins: Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C and Vitamin E. Vitamin A increases immunity and has anti-cancer effects. It also helps to protect eyesight. Another important vitamin is Vitamin B6; it enhances immunity and can help to prevent cancer of the skin and bladder. It also helps prevent kidney stones, and this is important since men are twice as likely to develop kidney stones. Vitamin C can help strengthen the immune system, prevent heart disease, strokes and protects the teeth and gums. In order to lower cholesterol and prevent arterial buildup a sufficient intake of Vitamin E is necessary. This vitamin enhances immunity, and helps remove impurities from the body.
- Vitamins for Men Information on supplements and vitamins for men.
Children need certain vitamins for proper growth and development, and this is why it is so important to ensure their nutritional needs are met. The vitamins most important in a child’s diet are: Vitamins A, C, K, and D. Vitamin A helps ensure good vision and healthy eyes, it also assists with cell growth. Vitamin C helps to maintain a healthy immune system and encourages the healing of wounds. Vitamin K is necessary for proper blood clotting, and Vitamin D helps ensure normal cell growth. This vitamin is also produced in the skin during sunlight exposure.
- Vitamins for Children Information on how to choose the best vitamin for a child.
Teenagers need a lot of vitamins to ensure they stay healthy, especially during growth spurts and puberty. The vitamins that are most important during this stage of life are: Vitamins A, B, C, D, and E. Vitamin A is a natural antioxidant that helps fight free radicals. This vitamin is essential to skin and eye health. Vitamin B, or the B complex vitamins are also important, the most important of these is folic acid as it is essential in cell production. Other important B vitamins are: B2, B5, and B6. Vitamin C has antioxidant qualities and helps prevent disease. It also helps the synthesis of chemicals in the brain such as dopamine, adrenaline, and noradrenalin. Vitamin D is especially beneficial in regulating hormone production, it also boosts the immune system. Vitamin E can help lower bad cholesterol it is also a strong antioxidant.
- Vitamins for Teens Learn what vitamins are, what they do and how to ensure a sufficient daily intake.
Seniors are not as physically active and because of their lowered calorie intake they tend to take in fewer nutrients. The most important vitamins for seniors are: Folic acid and Vitamins E, C, D, and B6. Folic acid is particularly useful for seniors because of its benefits in reducing the risk of colon cancer. Vitamin B6 helps regulate the mental functions and enhances the mood, while Vitamin D preserves bone density and prevents fractures. Vitamin C helps to lower blood pressure and spasms of the arteries. In addition; Vitamin E can help to reduce the risk of heart attacks.
- Vitamins for Seniors Article with information to help seniors make educated vitamin choices.