Introduction

We all live a busy and hectic lifestyle, always rushing towards one thing from another. Keeping up with the fast-paced life comes with significant sacrifices, especially in the area of our diet and nutrition. Not everyone in India is fortunate to prepare and consume balanced meals, having appropriate proportions of vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates, and fats, daily. Often, we tend to rely on ready-to-eat ingredients mixed with artificial colours, additives, and fillers, which make our food less nutritious.

As an antidote to such a less nutritious diet, health experts recommend taking daily supplements. But are these synthetic vitamin supplements effective in meeting our nutrient goals? The vitamin and supplement industry is a million-dollar business worldwide. The section has grown along with the increase in lifestyle-related diseases. However, before you decide to buy these supplements, how about you understand the essential vitamins for our body? Besides, we will also look into understanding each of its benefits and which food are good sources.

What are Vitamins?

In medical terms, vitamins are organic substances present in small proportions in our natural food items. It is an organic compound containing carbon and is an essential nutrient needed by our body.

Vitamins convert the energy from the food consumed into usable energy for our body. Moreover, it encourages tissue repair and cell development. 13 recognised vitamins are needed to lead a healthy life. These include:

  • Vitamin A

  • Vitamin B1

  • Vitamin B2

  • Vitamin B3

  • Vitamin B5

  • Vitamin B6

  • Vitamin B7

  • Vitamin B9

  • Vitamin B12

  • Vitamin C

  • Vitamin D

  • Vitamin E

  • Vitamin K

Going ahead, let us learn about each of these vitamins in detail.

13 Essential Vitamins

The table below gives a detailed walkthrough of the 13 essential vitamins.

Vitamin Type

Function

Benefits

Deficiency

Good Food Sources

Vitamin A

(Fat-Soluble)

 

Chemical Names: Retinol, retinal, and the four carotenoids (includes beta carotene)

Essential for eye health.

  • Lowers the risk of prostate cancer.

  • Keeps tissues and skin healthy.

  • Helps in bone growth and improves the immune system.

  • Lowers the risk of lung cancer.

  • Carotenoids act as antioxidants and can protect against cataracts.

  • Can cause night blindness.

  • Develop keratomalacia that causes the front layer of your eye to grow dry and cloudy.

Liver, cod liver oil, carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, butter, kale, spinach, pumpkins, collard greens, cheese, eggs, apricots, cantaloupe melon, milk, etc.

Vitamin B1

(Water-Soluble)

 

Chemical Name: Thiamine

Essential for several enzyme productions that helps break down blood sugar in our body.

  • Helps convert the food consumed into energy for the body.

  • Keeps skin, hair, muscles, and brain healthy.

  • Essential for maintaining never functionalities.

Can cause Beriberi and Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome.

Yeast, pork, cereal grains, sunflower seeds, brown rice, whole grain rye, asparagus, kale, cauliflower, potatoes, oranges, liver, eggs, etc.

Vitamin B2

(Water-Soluble)

 

Chemical Name: Riboflavin

  • Essential for your body’s growth and development.

  • Helps maintain your metabolism.

  • Helps convert the food consumed into energy for the body.

  • Keeps skin, hair, blood, and brain healthy.

  • Can cause inflammation of the lips.

  • Fissures in the mouth.

Asparagus, bananas, persimmons, okra, chard, cottage cheese, milk, yoghurt, meat, eggs, fish, green beans, etc.

Vitamin B3

(Water-Soluble)

 

Chemical Name: Niacin or Niacinamide

Essential for cell growth.

  • Helps convert the food consumed into energy for the body.

  • Keeps skin, hair, blood, and brain healthy.

  • Low levels of Vitamin B3 can lead to health issues such as Pellagra.

  • It can further cause diarrhoea, skin changes, and intestinal distress.

Chicken, beef, tuna, salmon, milk, eggs, tomatoes, leafy vegetables, broccoli, carrots, nuts and seeds, tofu, lentils, etc.

Vitamin B5

(Water-Soluble)

 

Chemical Name: Pantothenic Acid

Essential for energy and hormone production in the body.

  • Helps convert the food consumed into energy for the body.

  • Helps produce lipids (fats), neurotransmitters, steroid hormones, and haemoglobin.

Can cause paresthesia.

Meats, whole grains, broccoli, avocados, yoghurts, etc.

Vitamin B6

(Water-Soluble)

 

Chemical Name: Pyridoxine, Pyridoxamine, or Pyridoxal

Essential for forming red blood cells.

  • Helps lower homocysteine levels, which further reduces the risk of heart diseases.

  • Helps convert tryptophan to niacin and serotonin (it is a neurotransmitter that helps maintain the sleep cycle).

  • Helps improve the immune system.

Can cause anaemia and peripheral neuropathy.

Chickpeas, beef liver, bananas, squash, nuts, etc.

Vitamin B7

(Water-Soluble)

 

Chemical Name: Biotin

  • Essential to maintain body metabolism.

  • Contributes to keratin and healthy skin, hair, and nails.

  • Helps convert the food consumed into energy for the body.

  • Breaks down fatty acids and contributes to healthy bones and hair.

Can cause dermatitis or inflammation of the intestines.

Egg yolk, liver, broccoli, spinach, cheese, etc.

Vitamin B9

(Water-Soluble)

 

Chemical Name: Folic Acid or Folinic Acid

Essential in the production of DNA and RNA.

  • Helps create new cells in the body.

  • Prevents brains and spine birth defects.

  • Lowers levels of homocysteine and reduces the risk of heart diseases.

  • Lowers the risk of colon cancer.

  • Lowers the risk of breast cancer in women who consume alcohol.

In pregnancy, it can affect the fetus’s nervous system.

Leafy vegetables, peas, legumes, liver, fortified grain products, sunflower seeds, etc.

Vitamin B12

(Water-Soluble)

 

Chemical Name: Cyanocobalamin, Hydroxocobalamin, Methylcobalamin.

Essential for the health of the nervous system.

  • Helps lower homocysteine levels, which further reduces the risk of heart diseases.

  • Helps create new cells and break down fatty acids and amino acids.

  • Helps produce red blood cells and DNA.

Can lead to neurological issues and types of anaemia.

Fish, shellfish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk and other dairy products, fortified cereals, fortified soy products, fortified nutritional yeast, etc.

Vitamin C

(Water-Soluble)

 

Chemical Name: Ascorbic Acid

  • Essential for collagen production, wound healing, and bone formation.

  • Helps strengthen blood vessels and the immune system.

  • Helps absorb iron and acts as an antioxidant.

  • Lowers the risk of several cancers.

  • Prevention against cataracts in the long run.

  • Strengthens the immune system.

  • Can cause scurvy, leading to gums bleeding and loss of teeth.

  • Further, it can cause poor tissue growth and slows wound healing.

Fruits and vegetables.

Note: Cooking can destroy Vitamin C.

Vitamin D

(Fat-Soluble)

 

Chemical Name: Ergocalciferol or Cholecalciferol

Essential for healthy mineralisation of bones.

Lowers the risk of several non-spinal fractures.

  • Can cause rickets and osteomalacia.

  • Further, it can lead to softening of bones.

Exposure to UVB rays from the sun, fatty fish, eggs, beef liver, mushrooms, etc.

Vitamin E

(Fat-Soluble)

 

Chemical Name: Tocopherol or Tocotrienol

The antioxidant activity is essential to prevent oxidative stress (a health issue that increases inflammation in the body and leads to other ailments).

  • Protects Vitamin A and damage of certain lipids.

  • Can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

Although rare, it can cause hemolytic anaemia in babies (a condition known to destroy blood cells).

Wheat germ, kiwis, almonds, eggs, nuts, leafy greens, vegetable oils, etc.

Vitamin K

(Fat-Soluble)

 

Chemical Name: Phylloquinone or Menaquinone

Essential for blood clotting.

Helps prevent hip fractures.

Can cause unusual susceptibility to bleed or bleeding diathesis.

Natto, leafy greens, pumpkins, figs, parsley, etc.

How Can You Ensure Regular Supply of these Essential Vitamins?

As you may know, people usually consume multivitamin supplements to combat deficiencies. However, consuming supplements is not entirely necessary. Instead, you can plan a balanced meal throughout the day that is rich in necessary vitamins and minerals. Eating plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy products, fish, and meat is a healthy and primary source of vitamins and minerals in food.

You can refer to the table above to know the good food sources of essential vitamins.

On the other hand, in case of pregnancy, restriction in diets, or specific health issues, you can consume fortified foods and supplements for providing complete nutrition to the body. Besides, if you do take multivitamin supplements, ensure to not exceed the maximum dose. Consuming more than the needed quantity of supplements can lead to severe health issues.

Talk to your doctor or nutritionist before taking any vitamin supplements.

Takeaway

This concludes that vitamins are an essential nutrient that primarily comes from a balanced diet. Each essential vitamin plays a vital role in maintaining health. Vitamin deficiencies can cause severe side effects and health issues in an individual.

Instead of relying on supplements, aim to get the necessary vitamins by consuming a nutrient-rich diet. Get in touch with your doctor immediately in case of overdose. Besides, contact your health insurance provider to check whether such situations are covered in your health insurance policy or not.

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