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Haven't we all heard - Eat carrots for great eye health, eat oranges for great immunity and to heal your wounds quicker. That's because these foods are rich in vitamins that aid in better health in many ways. Vitamins are substances that our body needs to work properly, so that we grow, develop and maintain daily functions efficiently. Every vitamin has specific roles to play.
Vitamin D aids in calcium absorption that helps in bone development. Vitamin C helps build our immunity, thus leads to better wound healing, quicker recovery during colds and cough. Vitamin A helps protect retinal health and gives us good eye health.
All vitamins are segregated into two categories: Fat-soluble vitamins: Vit A, Vit D. Vit E. Vit K; Water-soluble vitamins: B vitamins and Vit C.
Fat-Soluble vitamins are stored in the body and our liver. When our body needs these vitamins, it uses up these from the stored reserves. Some of these vitamins stay in our body for a few days, and some stay up to a few months. Water-soluble vitamins are not stored in the body. Our bodies absorb what is needed, and the rest is passed out of the urine.
Let's take a closer look at the vitamins, there uses and the foods rich in them.
(1) Water-soluble Vitamins
Vitamin C: This vitamin enables collagen production, Bone health and heal wounds with better immunity. It leads to better absorption of iron and supports the immune system. It is also present in antioxidant all-citrus fruits like oranges, pomelos, lemons. Indian gooseberry is rich in Vitamin C. Guavas, and leafy green vegetables are also a great source of Vitamin C. Apart from enhancing our immunity, this vitamin is also a carrier of the mineral Iron that we consume from the foods we eat. Hence when you are eating a bowl of dal or a green vegetable in lunch, the iron from that food item will be better absorbed when there is a source of vitamin C that has been had along with it.
B - Vitamins: This includes a range of vitamins namely- B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), niacin, B6 (pyridoxine), folic acid, B12 (cobalamin), biotin, and pantothenic acid. These vitamins are critical in the metabolic process and generate energy from food and provide to the body. They are also responsible for making red blood cells and deliver oxygen to the body. They help in optimal nerve function. There are a lot of foods that provide the B-vitamins like whole grains like wheat, rice, millets, leafy greens, dairy products, beans, pulses, eggs and meat.
(2) Fat-Soluble Vitamins
Vitamin A: In-plant food sources we find Beta carotene, which is a precursor to Vitamin A, i.e., this is converted to Vitamin A by the body. The body needs this vitamin for a good vision, healthy skin, immune system. A deficiency of this vitamin can cause night blindness and can cause the front layer of the eye to grow dry. Animal foods like egg, liver, meat are good sources of this vitamin. The vegetarian sources include carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, spinach, pumpkin and all green leafy vegetables.
Vitamin D: Have you been feeling lethargic, short of energy, facing mood swings, muscle pains or seeing a lot of hair loss recently? The sunshine vitamin or Vit D could be the reason behind it. Vitamin D is often referred to as the sunshine vitamin as your body makes it by itself -- but only after skin exposure to sufficient sunlight. A lack of vitamin D can lead to bone deformities such as rickets in children, and bone pain caused by osteomalacia in adults. It also plays an important role in maintaining proper bone structure. Vitamin D helps regulate the immune system and also in the life cycle of human cells. All animal foods, dairy products, mushrooms are great food sources of vitamin D.
Vitamin E: Is an antioxidant, also known as tocopherol. It helps the body form red blood cells and uses vitamin K. Some good sources of Vitamin E are almonds, eggs, nuts, leafy greens, and vegetable oils.
Vitamin K: This is needed because blood would not stick together (coagulate). Some studies suggest that it is important for bone health. Green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds are good sources of these vitamins.
Some vitamin deficiencies are commonly observed in individuals:
Vitamin D: For vegetarians and vegans, it becomes difficult to get sufficient Vit D from food alone. In such cases, supplementation becomes important.
Vitamin B12: This is essential for a healthy nervous system, and a deficiency can lead to anaemia and some types of neurological problems. Fermented foods like kanji, kombucha, fermented foods and homemade pickles are a good source of Vitamin B12. Most animal foods have sufficient amounts of vitamin B12.
Vitamin C: Since this is a water-soluble vitamin and is not stored bu the body, one needs to eat sufficient amounts every day. A deficiency can lead to poor immune function, lesser collagen production and slower wound healing. The best way to ensure sufficient intake of vitamin C every day is to ensure we squeeze lemon juice in our meals. This also ensures better absorption of iron from the food. In fruits, we should include one citrus fruit. Salads should have a Vit C rich vegetable like a tomato.
On A Final Note…
Many people these days are prescribed multivitamin tablets on a regular basis. However, a body's needs for nutrition can be generally met through diet.
Some individuals with specific needs such as pregnant ladies, people engaged in extensive sports, people suffering from illness are prescribed supplements. Some medications can interact with vitamin supplements. Overall, it is important to speak with a healthcare provider before trying any supplement.