Vitamins are essential micronutrients that the body needs to function correctly. They are involved in different processes, including cell function, growth, and development. Let’s explore, what Are The Different Types of Vitamins and Their Benefits?

There are 13 essential vitamins. By essential it means, you need to acquire them through food. This is because either the body cannot produce them at all or insufficient amounts.

There are two types of vitamins, depending on their solubility. They include water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins. These two work differently but towards the same goal of maintaining health and wellbeing.

See also 6 Essential Nutrients You need and Vitamins For Heart Health

Keep reading to find out more about these vitamins and their benefits.\

What Are The Different Types of Vitamins and Their Benefits?

Water-soluble vitamins

Water-soluble vitamins easily dissolve in water and are quickly absorbed into the tissues for immediate use. These vitamins cannot be stored in the body, and any extra amount is excreted in the urine. So they require regular replenishment to avoid deficiencies.

They include vitamin C and all the B vitamins

1.   B1 (thiamin)

Thiamine was the first B vitamin to be discovered by scientists. It’s needed by every cell in your body for the conversion of food into energy. And since it cannot be synthesized in the body, it must be obtained from thiamine-rich foods such as whole grain, pulses, nuts, and thiamine fortified foods.

Other benefits of thiamine include

  • Promoting memory
  • Anti-aging benefits
  • Ensures proper digestion
  • Prevents Alzheimer’s disease
  • Lowers the risk of cataracts
  • Improves appetite
  • Maintains a healthy heart
  • Promotes red blood cell production

Thiamine deficiency may result in loss of appetite, fatigue, irritability, tingling and pricking sensation of the upper and lower limbs, muscle weakness, blurry vision, delirium, nausea and vomiting, and changes in heart rate.

Although thiamine deficiency is rare, especially in developed countries, conditions such as diabetes, old age, HIV/AIDS, alcohol dependency, bariatric surgery, and high dose diuretic use may increase the risk.

2.   B2 (riboflavin)

Riboflavin is another B vitamin essential for energy production, maintaining a healthy digestive tract lining, promoting proper skin development, enhancing red blood cells production, enhancing wound healing, and promoting brain health.

A deficiency may result in anemia, inflammation of the mouth and tongue, migraines, chronic diarrhea, dry skin, cracked red lips, bloodshot eyes, and sore throat.

Best sources include:

  • Cruciferous vegetables like spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, watercress, and dandelion greens
  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Mushrooms
  • Nuts
  • Parsley
  • Pumpkins
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Whole-grain bread
  • Legumes such as lima beans, peas, and navy beans

3.  B3 (niacin)

Also known as nicotinic acid, niacin helps keep the digestive system, nervous system, and skin healthy. It’s also important in controlling cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, supporting digestion, relieving migraines, and improving mental health.

High niacin foods include avocados, mushrooms, green peas, brown rice, and mushrooms.

4.   B4 (pantothenic acid)

Like other B vitamins, pantothenic acid converts carbohydrates, fat, and protein into energy needed for different cell functions.

It’s also used in cholesterol synthesis, stress and sex hormone formation, and the production of red blood cells and coenzyme A (CoA). This CoA promotes different enzymatic activities, including the production of fatty acids.

B5 is less known due to its very rare deficiencies, mainly because your colon lining may produce some of it.

Best sources include

  • Whole grains
  • Legumes such as split peas, lentils, and soybeans
  • Vegetables including sweet potatoes, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, and tomatoes
  • Avocado
  • Mushrooms
  • Corn
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Oatmeal

5.   B6 (pyridoxine)

Pyridoxine is commonly used to treat peripheral neuropathy (a nerve condition) caused by isoniazid, a common tuberculosis medication.

B6 is vital for the production of neurotransmitters and red blood cells and it helps the body store energy from fat, protein, and carbohydrate metabolism.

It promotes health by

  • Boosting mood
  • Reducing the signs of depression
  • Promoting brain health
  • Lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s
  • Increasing hemoglobin production, which prevents anemia
  • Reducing the risk for heart disease
  • Promoting eye health and preventing eye-related conditions

Best sources include potatoes and other starchy vegetables, chickpeas, bananas, and fruit other than citrus.

6.   B7 (biotin)

Also known as vitamin H, biotin is one of the B complex vitamins widely used to treat hair loss, scaly skin, and brittle nails. Biotin is known to stimulate keratin production. Keratin is a type of protein that makes up your hair, nails, and skin.

The best dietary sources include legumes, seeds, nuts, sweet potatoes, avocados, and broccoli.

7.   B9 (folic acid or folate)

Folate is the natural form of B9, while folic acid is its synthetic form. It’s naturally found in many foods such as legumes, asparagus, leafy greens, beets, citrus fruits, Brussels sprouts, avocado, and fortified grains.

Vitamin B9 is essential for the production of the body’s genetic material (DNA and RNA), for cell division and growth during infancy, adolescence, and pregnancy, for the production of red blood cells and white blood cells, and the conversion of carbohydrates into energy.

A deficiency in B9 can result in anemia and lowered immune system making you susceptible to infections, and neural tube defects for the unborn child.

8.   B12 (cobalamin)

Vitamin B12 is necessary for normal brain and nervous system function. It’s also essential for the formation of red blood cells, which helps prevent megaloblastic anemia, a condition associated with abnormally large but immature red blood cells.

Animal foods are high in B12, while plant foods have minimal to none. This puts vegans or anyone on a plant-based diet at risk of B12 deficiency.

Nonetheless, vegan foods such as sauerkraut, nutritional yeast or fortified foods can improve your levels however, a vegan B12 supplement is always better.

Fat-Soluble Vitamins

Unlike water-soluble vitamins, fat-soluble vitamins need fat to be dissolved, absorbed, transported, and stored. So they are often stored in the fatty tissues of the body or the liver. And since they can be stored for long periods in the body, fat-soluble vitamins may increase the risk of toxicity if taken in massive amounts, especially when supplements are used.

Otherwise, they are largely available in various plant foods.

They include:

1.   Vitamin A

Your body needs vitamin A for different vital functions, including growth and development and maintaining healthy vision, skeletal and soft tissue, teeth, skin, and the mucous membrane.

Best plant sources include

2.   Vitamin D

Vitamin D is essential for regulating phosphate and calcium, the two crucial minerals in maintaining healthy muscles, teeth, and bones. It also promotes immunity and promotes heart health.

It’s produced on the skin in response to sun exposure. However, during the cooler months when there is no sun or if you rarely soak in the sun, a supplement or fortified foods may be good for you.

3.   Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant and a common ingredient in most skincare products. It’s important to strengthen the immune system, maintain healthy skin and eyes, fight inflammation, promote reproduction, lower the risk of certain cancers, and improve brain function.

Best plant sources include

  • Sunflower seeds
  • Red bell peppers
  • Almonds
  • Avocado
  • Asparagus
  • Mango
  • Pumpkin

4.   Vitamin K

Vitamin K is another fat-soluble vitamin necessary for blood clotting processes that help prevent excessive bleeding. Vitamin K is also essential for better heart health and calcium regulation, including uptake by the bone, which helps promote strong and healthy bones.

Foods high in vitamin K include

  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Green beans
  • Kiwi
  • Prunes
  • Avocado
  • Green peas
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage

Final Thoughts

Vitamins are essential elements present in food that the body needs to function correctly.

They are generally classified into water-soluble and fat-soluble.

Water-soluble vitamins include all the B complex vitamins and vitamin C, while the fat-soluble vitamins include vitamins A, D, E, and K.

 

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