We are all aware of the importance that a proper diet has on the general well-being of the human body. This article is about one of the essential micronutrients that human organisms need – vitamins.
The infographic below shows that these essential compounds have many biochemical functions such as regulating cell and tissue growth and differentiation, regulating the metabolism of minerals for healthy bones and other organs, functioning as antioxidants, and many more.
Vitamins are divided based on their solubility. There are two groups: water-soluble (B complex, C) and fat-soluble (A, D, E, K). It’s time to take a look at the benefits that each vitamin brings and the illnesses that could occur due to their deficiency.
- Vitamin B1 helps in keeping you
energized by stimulating nerve and muscle function. Foods naturally rich in
vitamin B1 are fish, whole grains, and meat. Beriberi and Wernicke-Korsakoff
syndrome are the diseases caused by its deficiency.
- Vitamin B2 also helps the body maintain
a steady energy supply to the muscles and assists in red blood cell production.
There are many foods that have vitamin B2, but eggs, dairy products, and meats
are especially high in this vitamin. Ariboflavinosis, glossitis, and angular
stomatitis can occur due to its deficiency.
- Vitamin B3 helps the body metabolize
fat, glucose, and alcohol, and reduces the levels of bad cholesterol in the
bloodstream. You can find vitamin B3 in many plant- and animal-based foods such
as beef, chicken, whole wheat, and more. Pellagra is one of the deficiency
- Vitamin B5 oxidizes fatty acids and
carbohydrates, and participates in the formation of red blood cells. It also
ensures the correct functioning of the adrenal glands. A variety of whole
grains and meat have vitamin B5, including some fruits and vegetables.
Paresthesia can occur as a result of the deficiency of this vitamin.
- Vitamin B6 helps with red blood cell
production and liver detoxification. It also assists in the development and
proper functioning of the brain and nervous system. Fish, meat, and potatoes
are the richest in vitamin B6. Its deficiency can lead to anemia and peripheral
- Vitamin B7 plays a role in the
metabolism of lipids, proteins, and carbohydrates, and contributes to hair and
skin health. The variety of foods rich in vitamin B7 is broad, but seeds, eggs,
meat, nuts, and fish are the most abundant sources. Dermatitis and enteritis
can occur due to its deficiency.
- Vitamin B9 is another vitamin that
helps with the formation of red blood cells, and it also reduces the risk of
central nervous system defects in unborn babies. High B9 vitamin foods include
dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach and legumes such as lentils and
black-eyed peas. Its deficiency during pregnancy is associated with neural tube
- Vitamin B12 plays a role in the
metabolism of carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins, and is essential for the
production of blood cells. Vitamin B12 can be found in fruits, vegetables,
meat, and dairy, but lentils, legumes, spinach, and black-eyed peas have the
most. Pernicious anemia is the main deficiency disease for this vitamin.
- Vitamin C improves blood circulation, helps the healing of wounds, and protects against infections such as the flu and common cold. Fruits and vegetables are the richest in vitamin C, but prolonged storage and cooking reduce the vitamin content, so it’s crucial to consume promptly and properly. Its deficiency can lead to scurvy.
- Vitamin A is essential for eye health
and a strong immune system. Beef and lamb liver are especially rich in vitamin
A, while other good sources include sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and carrots. Night
blindness, hyperkeratosis, and keratomalacia are several of the diseases
associated with the deficiency of this vitamin.
- Vitamin D reduces the incidence of
fractured bones and may prevent or slow the process of osteoporosis. The best
sources of vitamin D are fish liver oils and fatty fish, like salmon and tuna
fish. Its deficiency can lead to rickets and osteomalacia.
- Vitamin E helps in balancing
cholesterol and fights free radicals. Foods to consume to get sufficient
amounts of vitamin E are vegetable oils, seeds, and nuts. Its deficiency can
lead to mild hemolytic anemia in newborn infants, although it is very rare.
- Vitamin K is the vitamin responsible for regulating blood clotting. You can find vitamin K in many food products including a variety of vegetables, fruits, eggs, dairy products, and meats. Bleeding diathesis is this vitamin’s deficiency disease.
Many find it odd that vitamin letters and numbers jump around, but there are many more in the list that just aren’t suitable for humans. The vitamins listed above are the ones that are necessary for proper body function. The vitamins that aren’t listed are important for other organisms but could even be dangerous for humans.
It is important to note that the best way to get a sufficient amount of vitamins is by following a diverse diet. Although it is best to get your daily intake of vitamins through a healthy diet, there are a number of alternative options available through supplementation.
For a complete list of the functions, food sources, and daily requirements for all 13 vitamins, check out the following infographic.