Water-soluble vitamins are vitamins that can easily dissolve in water. They are found primarily in plant and animal foods, as well as in the form of dietary supplements. Vegetables and fruits with high water content are packed with these vitamins. You can generally get sufficient amounts of these through a balanced diet; older people or vegetarians may opt for supplements to up their B12 intake.
Water-soluble vitamins are not naturally stored in our bodies; they enter directly into the bloodstream during digestion and are taken to bodily tissues, where they are immediately absorbed for use. These vitamins should be replenished regularly, as they travel throughout the system freely and very rarely do we find an excess of them in our bodies. Excess water vitamins are excreted quickly via urine, so they do not usually reach toxic levels.
However, there are a few examples of water-soluble vitamins such as vitamin B6, niacin, choline, folate and vitamin C that are exceptions to this. Very high levels of vitamin B6 over a prolonged stretch of time can cause irreversible nerve damage, while an excess of vitamin C may cause diarrhea.
Benefits of water-soluble vitamins
Water-soluble vitamins perform multiple tasks in the body, the primary function being freeing the energy stored in the food we eat. The other functions mainly serve to maintain tissue health. Here are some of their functions and benefits:
A number of B complex vitamins are crucial components of coenzymes (molecules that assist enzymes); they help in the breakdown of the food we eat and release energy during digestion.
Vitamins B1(Thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), and B7 (biotin) all work together to produce energy.
Building proteins and cells:
Vitamins B6 (pyridoxine), B12 (cobalamin), and B9 (folic acid) are responsible for aiding the metabolization of amino acids, ie: the building blocks of proteins, effectively helping cell regrowth and multiplication.
This is one of the most well-known functions of vitamin C. This vitamin helps in making collagen, which in turn acts as a support for blood vessel walls, helps in healing wounds, keeps the skin elastic, and provides a base for our bones and teeth.
Maintenance of the bodily systems:
Water-soluble vitamins aid in red blood cell and haemoglobin production, maintenance of the nervous system, enzyme function, production of hormones and protection of skin, hair, teeth and bones.
Protection against cancer:
The findings of certain epidemiologic studies suggest that vitamin C-rich foods and vitamin C itself may either have no relation with the disease or may even act as protection against cancer. The strongest evidence suggesting a protective effect is in the case of stomach cancer. However, there is yet to be a definitive case to be made for protection against cancer being one of the health benefits of Vitamin C.
List of water-soluble vitamins
The nine water-soluble vitamins found in our diets consist of vitamin C and the B-complex group. Here is the complete list along with their respective health benefits:
helps to maintain nervous system function and aids in releasing energy from food.
promotes healthy skin, good vision and conversion of amino acid to niacin.
plays a role in metabolism, enzyme function, digestion and maintenance of nerves and healthy skin.
Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid):
participates in metabolic processes and the formation of hormones.
helps in producing insulin, haemoglobin, and red blood cells, and the metabolism of proteins.
metabolizes fats, carbohydrates and proteins during digestion and releases energy.
Vitamin B9 (folate or folic acid):
helps in forming red blood cells and protein metabolism. May play a role in reducing the risk of birth defects involving the neural tube.
helps in forming red blood cells and maintaining the nervous system.
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid):
aids production of collagen, healing wounds and formation of bones, as well as iron absorption and improving immune function.
It is important to include enough fruits, vegetables, fortified dairy products and protein like meat, eggs or protein and whole grains in our diet along with hydrating fluids in order to get sufficient quantities of water-soluble vitamins. An excess or a significant deficiency of these vitamins can lead to various health problems. Health issues related to deficiencies of water vitamins include scurvy, problems with the peripheral nervous system, anaemia, skin disorders, hyperemia, digestive issues and so on.
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