Vitamins are organic substances present in minute quantities in natural foodstuffs and are essential to normal metabolism. When there are insufficient amounts in your diet it may result in numerous diseases.
There are two primary groups of vitamins… fat-soluble and water-soluble.
- Fat-soluble vitamins are stored within the fat cells of our bodies and in the liver. They are easier to store than water-soluble vitamins and some can actually remain in the body as reservations for many days.
- Water-soluble vitamins cannot be stored in the body for very long; and are shortly expelled through urine. Thus water-soluble vitamins will need to be replaced more often than fat-soluble ones.
Vitamins A, D, K and E are fat-soluble. Vitamins C and all the B vitamins are water-soluble.
Whereas vitamins are organic substances (made by plants or animals), minerals are inorganic elements that come from the soil and water and are absorbed by plants or consumed by animals. Your body requires larger amounts of some minerals over others, such as calcium, to keep healthy. Other minerals such as chromium, copper, iodine, iron, selenium, and zinc are known as trace minerals since you only need very little amounts of them daily.
Vitamins and what they do
- Chemical names: Retinol, Retinal and Beta Carotene. Vitamin A is fat-soluble. Deficiency can cause Night-Blindness or Keratomalacia (an eye disease that affects the cornea). Good food sources: broccoli, carrots, sweet potato, butter, kale, spinach, pumpkin, collard greens, cheese, egg, apricot, cantaloupe melon, milk, liver and cod liver oil.
- Chemical name: Thiamine. Vitamin B1 is water-soluble. Deficiency can cause Beriberi and Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (impaired vision & memory as a result of acute B1 deficiency as a consequence of intense alcohol abuse). Good food sources: yeast, cereal & whole grains, sunflower seeds, brown rice, asparagus, cauliflower, kale, potatoes, pork, eggs and liver.
- Chemical name: Riboflavin. Vitamin B2 is water-soluble. Deficiency can cause Ariboflavinosis (diminished liver function). Good food sources: asparagus, bananas, chard, okra, persimmons, milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, eggs, poultry, fish and green beans.
- Chemical name: Niacin (Niacinamide). Vitamin B3 is water-soluble. Deficiency can cause Pellagra (classically called “The four D’s” Pellagra is a really serious disease that begins with chronic nausea; subsequently dermatitis, followed by dementia and when left untreated, death in just four or five years). Good food sources: liver, heart, kidney, chicken, beef, fish (tuna, salmon), milk, eggs, avocados, dates, tomatoes, leafy vegetables, broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes, asparagus, nuts, whole grains, legumes, mushrooms and brewer’s yeast.
- Vitamin B5. Chemical name: Pantothenic Acid. Vitamin B5 is water-soluble. Deficiency can cause Paresthesia (symptoms include regular sensations of tingling or numbness of one’s skin; more commonly called feeling “pins and needles” or of a limb “falling asleep”). Good food sources: meats, whole grains, broccoli, fish and avocados.
- Chemical names: Pyridoxine, Pyridoxamine or Pyridoxal. Vitamin B6 is water-soluble. Deficiency can cause Anemia (lack of red blood cells and hemoglobin); Peripheral Neuropathy (damage to the nervous system). Good food sources: legumes, bananas, whole grains, vegetables and nuts. Note that powdered or”dried milk” loses about half of its B6. Foods exposed to freezing and canning will also lose significant B6 content.
- Vitamin B7. Chemical name: Biotin. Vitamin B7 is water-soluble. Deficiency may lead to Dermatitis (moderate to severe skin disorders) or Enteritis (inflammation of the small intestine leading to cramps, diarrhea and fever). Good food sources: egg yolk, liver and some green vegetables.
- Vitamin B9. Chemical names: Folic Acid, Folinic Acid. Vitamin B9 is water-soluble. Deficiency among pregnant women has been linked to birth defects. Good food sources: leafy vegetables, legumes, liver, baker’s yeast, grain products and sunflower seeds. Several fruits have moderate levels of B9.
- Chemical names: Cyanocobalamin, hydroxyl-cobalamin, methyl-cobalamin. Vitamin B12 is water-soluble. Deficiency can cause Megaloblastic Anemia (an anemia caused by inhibition of DNA synthesis in red blood cell production). Good food sources: fish, shellfish, poultry, meat, eggs, milk, and dairy products. Some fortified cereals and soy products, in addition to fortified nutritional yeast.
- Chemical names: Ascorbic Acid. Vitamin C is water-soluble. Deficiency can cause Megaloblastic Anemia (like Vitamin B12 deficiency). Good food sources: fruit and veggies. Liver also has vitamin C.
- Chemical names: Ergocalciferol, Cholecalciferol. Vitamin D is fat-soluble. Deficiency can cause Osteomalacia (weakening disease of the bones frequently resulting in fractures and deformity; associated with Rickets). Good food sources – fatty fish (salmon), eggs, beef liver and mushrooms. Also note that Vitamin D is produced in the skin following exposure to ultraviolet rays in sunlight or artificial sources.
- Chemical names: Tocopherols, tocotrienols. Vitamin E is fat soluble. Vitamin E deficiency is rare; though it might lead to anemia as a result of oxidative damage to red blood cells and impairment of the immune system. Good food sources: kiwi fruit, almonds, avocado, eggs, nuts, milk, leafy green vegetables, unheated vegetable oils, wheat germ and whole grains.
- Chemical names: Phylloquinone, Menaquinones. Vitamin K is fat-soluble. Deficiency can cause Bleeding Diathesis (lack of normal blood coagulation and impaired wound healing). Good food sources: leafy green vegetables, avocado, kiwi fruit. Also note that although Parsley is mainly used as a garnish in restaurants, it comprises a very substantial amount of vitamin K.