Vitamin Dietary Nutrition in Foods
Vitamins (organic chemicals found in foods) are essential micronutrients that play an important role in maintaining good health. They are essential for building body tissues (eg. bones, skin, glands, blood), and help us to convert proteins, fats and carbs into energy. They also protect against disease by boosting our immunity. The human body needs 11 vitamins including: A, B-complex, C, D, E and K. Unlike nutrients (eg. carbohydrates, proteins and fats), vitamin micronutrients do not provide energy. Vitamins work best in conjunction with minerals, phytochemicals and other vitamins. For details of daily vitamin needs (RDAs), symptoms of vitamin deficiency and best food sources, see Diet Nutrition Advice.
Vitamin A comes from retinol in animal foods, or beta-carotene in plant foods. Vitamin A is essential for cell growth and development, immune function, skin and other biochemical reactions. Vitamin A works best with vitamin B-complex, vitamin D, vitamin E, calcium, phosphorus and zinc. Vitamin A is fat-soluble. See also Nutritional and Health Benefits of Vitamin A.
Vitamin B-complex - including B1 (Thiamin), B2 Riboflavin), B3 (Niacin), B5 (Pantothenic Acid), B6, B12 (cyanocobalamin), Folate (Folic Acid) - offers a wide range of health benefits. Vitamin B regulates energy metabolism from food. It also regulates the synthesis of cholesterol, fat and red blood cells. Folate is especially important for cell division and formation of DNA, RNA and proteins, and ptotects against neural tube defects in the unborn child. Vegans requires Vitamin B12 supplements or B12-fortified foods. Many of the B vitamins work best with other members of the B-complex. They are water-soluble. See also the following Nutritional and Health Benefits of Vitamin B1. Vitamin B2. Vitamin B3. Vitamin B5. Vitamin B6. Vitamin B12. Folate.
Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) comes mainly from plant foods, like fruits - especially citrus fruits - and vegetables. Vitamin C's role in collagen manufacture is essential for healthy bones, cartilage and skin. In addition, Vitamin C is an essential antioxidant, helps neurotransmitters (like serotonin) and boosts iron absorption. Vitamin C works best in conjunction with bioflavonoids, calcium and magnesium. It is a water-soluble vitamin. See Nutritional and Health Benefits of Vitamin C.
Vitamin D (Calciferols) comes from oils, eggs and oily fish. Vitamin D is needed to absorb calcium and phosphorus to regulate the formation of healthy teeth and bones. Vitamin D is also available via the action of sunlight on the body. Ultraviolet sunrays act on oils in the skin to produce vitamin D. Works well with vitamin A and vitamin C. Vitamin D is fat soluble. See Nutritional and Health Benefits of Vitamin D.
Vitamin E (Tocopherols) comes from wheatgerm, vegetable oils, nuts and seeds. Vitamin E is another vital antioxidant which reduces the oxidation activity of free radicals in the body. It works best in conjunction with selenium, and it enhances the activity of vitamin A. See Nutritional and Health Benefits of Vitamin E.
Vitamin K is a group of chemicals used by the body to produce specialised proteins found in blood plasma, like prothrombin the blood-clotting protein. Vitamin K is essential for healthy bones as it activates several proteins that help form new bone cells. Vitamin K is found in green leafy vegetables and is also produced in the gut. It is fat soluble.
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