The ABCs of Vitamins

- By Ishrath Shaik

Has anyone ever told you to stand in the sun for vitamin D? Or say that eating oranges will give you vitamin C? What exactly are vitamins?

Vitamins are micronutrients that we need for our bodies to function properly. They are found in the food we eat. However, sometimes, we don’t eat enough of the right foods to get them, but knowledge is power. Once you know the vitamins you need, and what you should eat to get them, it will be much easier to incorporate it into your diet.

There are two types of vitamins: water-soluble and fat-soluble. Water-soluble vitamins travel in your blood, and when the body doesn’t need them, they are excreted through the urine. These kinds of vitamins need to be replaced often, as they don’t stay in the body. Like how you have to water plants regularly, you need to have a source of water-soluble vitamins. Water-soluble vitamins include vitamin C and the group of vitamins B- B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B7 (biotin), B9 (folic acid), and B12 (cobalamin).

Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the fat stores in your body and the liver, when not required. As soon as they are needed, special carriers move them out. Fat-soluble vitamins include vitamins A, D, E, and K. This video explains how vitamins work:

Fat Soluble Vitamins:

Vitamin A:

This vitamin is good for eyesight and prevents blindness at night. It also helps your immunity. As vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, an excess can be stored as well, which is why using supplements and medication for vitamin A is a bad idea, as it can lead to toxicity. Eating vegetables with vitamin A rarely leads to this toxicity which is why it’s safer.

Foods rich with vitamin A: orange vegetables like sweet potato and carrots (yes, carrots are good for vision), palak (spinach), and muskmelon.

Vitamin D:

This is needed for the formation of strong bones and teeth. It helps absorb calcium (a very important mineral). Vitamin D can also be made by the skin when exposed to sunlight (always remember to wear sunscreen before this!).

Foods rich in vitamin D: cow milk, curd, fatty fish, and egg yolk

Vitamin E:

It protects your tissues and cells from damage, by being an antioxidant. Vitamin E is also important for red blood cells and the brain.

Foods rich in vitamin E: vegetable oils (sunflower, olive), peanuts, and green vegetables (spinach, fenugreek).

Vitamin K:

Vitamin K is essential for the formation of clots when you get hurt.

Foods rich in vitamin K: milk, curd, and green leafy vegetables

Water-Soluble Vitamins:

Vitamin B:

This is not just a singular vitamin, but rather a complex of a bunch of different vitamins that are often found together. These are important in making energy-rich molecules that can be used anytime to release energy. They are also important in making red blood cells.

Foods rich in vitamin B: whole grains (wheat, barley), lentils (dals), seeds, nuts, and meats (red meat, eggs, chicken)

Vitamin C:

Vitamin C keeps all the body tissues healthy and helps in repairing when there is damage. It is also an antioxidant and helps in immunity. Millions of sailors died from the lack of vitamin C, which causes scurvy. The simple inclusion of citrus fruits in their diets stopped this from happening.

Foods rich in vitamin C: Citrus Fruits (oranges, lemons, grapefruit, mosambi), kiwi, and tomatoes.

"आरोग्यं परमं भाग्यं स्वास्थ्यं सर्वार्थसाधनम् |"

"Good health is the greatest blessing. Health is means of everything. "

An awareness of what we eat and how does it benefit the functioning of our body as a whole can help us be wise while making our food choices. Only when we are physically fit can we work hard, stay happy and enjoy being with our loved ones. Hence, being thoughtful of our eating habits can help us in our pursuit of happiness. Hence, "Eat Well to Live Well".

About the Author

Ishrath is a medical student. She believes in life long learning and constantly strives to try to make small changes in this big, big world. Her life mantra is "compassion at all times, especially in times of trouble;with yourself and the the people around, ultimately leads to be being content".