Do you really know why vitamins are so important for your body? Are all the vitamins the same?
Overall, people have a very good understanding about macronutrients, like carbohydrates, proteins and lipids. Everyone knows why these are useful and important in our nutrition as there is a lot of information available, however people’s knowledge of micronutrients is a lot less. With this article I will explain why vitamins are important, which ones are the most common, how each of them helps your body and in which kind of food to find them.
Vitamins are also called micronutrients, because the body requires a small amount of each. There is a wide variety of micronutrients which the body needs, so more than the amount it’s the variety that is important. Vitamins are mentioned as essential nutrients because the body cannot produce them itself, so must gain them through food.
Vitamins have many diverse functions in the body. While vitamins do not directly provide energy, they do help the enzymes that produce energy from fats and carbohydrates. That’s why getting sufficient quantities can provide substantial benefits to your health.
- Plays an important role in growth and cell differentiation, being related to healthy skin and mucous membrane in the eye, lungs and digestive system. It’s also crucial for vision and immune system. Where to get it: Carrots, dark green leafy veggies, orange coloured fruits, salmon, other cold-water fish, egg yolks and whole milk.
- B1: Important for maintaining a healthy metabolism because it is used for several metabolic pathways such as the one used to release energy from the carbohydrates. It also helps maintain normal digestion, appetite and proper nerve function. Where to get it: wholegrains, legumes, nuts and seeds
- B2: Energy metabolism in relation to the release of energy from carbohydrates, protein and fat. It also aids adrenal function and involved in the transport and metabolism of iron. It supports normal vision and helps maintain healthy skin. Where to get it; Eggs, grains, liver, legumes, poultry, dairy products and raw mushrooms
- B3: Is used to metabolize energy and promote normal growth, also related to the normal function of skin and mucous. Where to get it: Lean meats, poultry, seafood, milk, eggs, legumes and fortified breads
- B6: Allows the body to use and store energy from protein and carbohydrates in food. It also forms haemoglobin, the substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen around the body. Where to get it: Meat, fish, poultry, grains, cereals, bananas, green leafy vegetables, potatoes and soybeans
- B9: Used in making DNA, RNA, red blood cells, and synthesizes certain amino acids. Vitamin B9 is also important for pregnant women, as it helps prevent birth defects. Where to get it; Liver, yeast, leafy green vegetables, asparagus, orange juice, fortified flour, avocados and legumes
- B12: Is very important in the normal function of the nervous system as it participates in the formation of the myelin for nerve fibres. Also, related with the production of red blood cells, DNA, RNA. Where to get it; In almost all food of animal origin
- It is required in the fabrication of collagen, which is required in skin, cartilage, bones and in the strengthening of blood vessel walls. Moreover promotes wound healing and iron absorption, supports immunity and serves as a key antioxidant. Where to get it; Citrus fruits, melons, berries, peppers, potatoes, green vegetables
- Aids calcium absorption, builds and maintains strong bones and teeth, because it is a precursor to one of the hormones involved in the equilibrium of calcium in the body. Where to get it; the body has the molecule to produce vitamin D but it needs to be activated by sun exposure. Some foods are fortified to help with the poor sunlight.
- Protects fatty acids, maintains muscles, red blood cells and serves as an important antioxidant. Where to get it; Eggs, vegetable oils, margarine, mayonnaise; nuts, seeds.
- Used for the synthesis of several proteins required for proper blood clotting. Where to get it; Green leafy vegetables, spinach, broccoli, meat and dairy products
As you can appreciate most of the vitamins have a crucial role in the body. It’s clear that a good variety of food can give you most of your daily demand. Supplements are a very common practice to reach the body requirements, however we have to be careful because they can become a distraction form healthy lifestyle practices that provide much greater benefits. Indeed, they should never be a substituted for a balanced, healthy diet.
Now that you have gained a little bit more knowledge about vitamins, you can check if your diet includes at least one food item for each vitamin, how to exchange or replace and in case you want to encourage some particular areas, which food can be more favourable.
Let’s try to keep healthy, eat in a balanced way, and try to include as many colours and different kinds of foods!