Although vitamin supplements have their place, they should not
be your main source.
Although vitamin supplements have their place, they should not be your main source. Ideally, the vitamins and minerals should come from the food you eat.

Vitamins are substances that are required by your body and play a key role in energy production and cell growth, maintenance and repair. They are only needed in small amounts, but the body cannot manufacture them on its own. Vitamins must be obtained through the diet.

There are 13 essential vitamins that the human body needs. They have no calories; therefore they cannot be used for fuel.

Vitamins are divided into two groups – fat-soluble and water-soluble. The fat-soluble vitamins are absorbed into the body with the help of fats in your diet and they are stored in the fat cells.

These vitamins are A (which can be obtained through yellow or orange fruits and vegetables, green leafy vegetables, liver and dairy products), D (which can be found in fortified milk, sunlight, fish eggs, butter and fortified margarine), E (which is provided by multi-grain cereals, nuts, wheat germ, vegetable oils, and green, leafy vegetables) and K (which is found green, leafy vegetables, fruit, dairy and grain products).

Each of these vitamins performs a different function. Vitamin A aids in the formation of skin, hair and mucous membranes.

It helps you see in dim light, which is why carrots are good for your eyesight. It also promotes bone and tooth growth (important for offsetting bone density loss, or osteoporosis).

Vitamin D also helps with bone and tooth formation (“Milk…it does a body good.”) as well as maintaining heart action and your nervous system. Vitamin E protects blood cells, body tissue and essential fatty acids from dangerous destruction in the body. The last of the fat-soluble vitamins, Vitamin K is necessary for blood-clotting functions.

The second group of vitamins, water-soluble vitamins, gets absorbed right in the blood and do not require fats for absorption. There are eight of these vitamins, which include the B vitamins and vitamin C.

Vitamin B1(thiamine) helps the body release energy from carbohydrates during metabolism and promotes growth and muscle tone. It can be found in fortified cereals and oatmeal, meats, rice and pasta, whole grains, and liver.

B2 (riboflavin) serves to help the body release energy from carbohydrates during metabolism as well. It also promotes growth and muscle tone.

B2 is found in whole grains, green, leafy vegetables and organ meats (such as liver). B6 (pyridoxine) helps the body build tissue and assists in the metabolism of protein. This vitamin can be provided by fish, poultry, lean meats, bananas, prunes, dried beans, whole grains and avocados.

Biotin, another B vitamin, is involved in metabolism of protein, fats and carbohydrates. It is found in cereal/grain products, yeast, legumes and liver.

Folate (also known as folacin and folic acid) is also a B vitamin that helps with genetic material development and with red blood cell production. Green, leafy vegetables, organ meats, dried peas, beans and lentils are great sources for this vitamin.

The last B vitamin is niacin. Like biotin, niacin is involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Meat, poultry, fish, enriched cereals, peanuts, potatoes, dairy products and eggs are suppliers for this vitamin.

The final water-soluble vitamin is vitamin C (ascorbic acid). We all know citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruits etc) are great sources, but it is also found in berries and vegetables (particularly peppers).

There is a third group of vitamins known as anti-oxidants. These vitamins preserve and protect the body from other damage. Vitamins C and E are among the anti-oxidant group.

Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA) are guidelines which determine how much of each vitamin a person needs daily. The goal is to strive for 100 percent of each one, without exceeding this allowance. Individuals taking too much over the RDA run the risk of consuming toxic levels.

Vitamins are crucial to staying healthy. My next article will focus on the minerals required by our bodies.

Karen Frost is the Wellness Director for Gold’s Gym of Morgan Hill. Her column runs on the second and fourth Tuesday. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Physical Education from New York University and is certified by the American Council on Exercise as a Personal Trainer and a Lifestyle and Weight Management Consultant.

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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