Put simply, vitamins are essential micronutrients our bodies need to function properly and healthily. While vitamins are organic compounds, our bodies are unable to produce enough quantities of it. This is why we turn to food as a source of these nutrients. Currently, there are 13 known types of vitamins, which are categorised as either water-soluble or fat-soluble.
THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF VITAMINS YOU MUST BE AWARE OF
1. VITAMIN A
Known for helping maintain good vision, vitamin A is a fat-soluble nutrient that is also important when it comes to preserving the body’s immune system. Chemically, it consists of retinol, retinal and provitamin A carotenoids.
A vitamin A deficiency can lead to night-blindness and a dry cornea, which is caused by keratomalacia. Foods rich in vitamin A include carrots, spinach, pumpkin, collard greens, sweet potato, liver, broccoli, kale, apricot, milk and egg.
2. VITAMIN B
Another one of the different types of vitamins is vitamin B, which is a water-soluble nutrient that aids the nerve function, as well as the release of energy from carbohydrates. It also plays an important role in RNA and DNA production. Its chemical name is thiamine.
A vitamin B deficiency can cause beriberi, which is a disease that affects the nervous system. It can also lead to Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, which can result in damaged sensory perception and dementia. Foods rich in vitamin B include pork, brown rice, cereal grains, sunflower seeds, kale, potatoes, cauliflower, liver, eggs, oranges and yeast.
3. VITAMIN B2
Also under the vitamin B umbrella, vitamin B2 is a water-soluble nutrient that plays a part in the catabolism of fatty acids. Its chemical name is riboflavin.
A vitamin B2 deficiency can cause ariboflavinosis. A sore throat, cracks in your lips, tongue inflammation, pseudo-syphilis, hyperemia and increased sensitivity to sunlight are common symptoms of this deficiency. Foods rich in vitamin B2 include bananas, okra, cottage cheese, milk, fish, chard, yogurt, asparagus, green beans and persimmons.
4. VITAMIN B3
Vitamin B3, chemically known as niacin or niacinamide, is a water-soluble nutrient that is greatly involved in the metabolism of alcohol, glucose and fat. A deficiency in vitamin B3 can lead to pellagra, whose symptoms include weakness, dermatitis, mental confusion, diarrhoea, aggression and insomnia.
Beef, chicken, salmon, tuna, kidney, heart and liver are good sources of vitamin B3. Other foods that are rich in the nutrient include leafy vegetables, avocados, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, asparagus, carrots, broccoli, dates, eggs, milk, mushrooms, nuts, legumes and whole-grains.
5. VITAMIN B5
Chemically known as pantothenic acid, vitamin B5 is required in the metabolisation of many molecules, as well as the oxidation of carbohydrates and fatty acids. This nutrient is water-soluble. A vitamin B5 deficiency can cause paresthesia and acne. Good sources of this nutrient include fish ovaries, avocados, broccoli and meats.
6. VITAMIN B6
Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble nutrient that plays an integral role in amino acid metabolism. Its chemical names are pyridoxine, pyridoxamine and pyridoxal.
A deficiency in vitamin B6 can lead to an impaired nervous system (apart from the spinal cord and the brain), anaemia, peripheral neuropathy, pink eye and neurological symptoms like epilepsy.
To get your dose of vitamin B6, consume foods like vegetables, bananas, meats and whole-grains. Freezing these foods or getting them out of a can aren’t advised, as these processes can bring down the vitamin content.
7. VITAMIN B7
Another one of the different types of vitamins under the B class, vitamin B7 is a nutrient chemically known as biotin. Apart from being water-soluble, vitamin B7 aids in the metabolism of carbohydrates, lipids and proteins.
A vitamin B7 deficiency may lead to an inflamed intestine and dermatitis. Though adverse symptoms resulting in a lack of vitamin B7 are uncommon in adults, it can cause neurological disorders or impair growth in infants. Foods rich in the nutrient include liver, egg yolk and a number of vegetables.
8. VITAMIN B9
Chemically known as folic acid and folinic acid, vitamin B9 is a water-soluble nutrient that plays a huge role in the creation and repair of DNA, as well as the production of red blood cells. It also greatly helps rapid cell division and growth. This vitamin is particularly important during infancy and pregnancy.
A vitamin B9 deficiency can cause macrocytic anaemia and increased levels of homocysteine. An expectant mother lacking in vitamin B9 can result in birth defects in her offspring. Foods rich in vitamin B9 include leafy vegetables, liver, sunflower seeds, legumes and baker’s yeast. Some fruits and beers also have it, though in lesser quantities.
9. VITAMIN B12
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble nutrient that aids in the metabolism of all cells in the body, including fatty acids and amino acids. It’s necessary for red blood cell production in the bone marrow. Its chemical names include cyanocobalamin, hydroxocobalamin and methylcobalamin.
A deficiency in vitamin B12 can lead to macrocytic anaemia, peripheral neuropathy and memory loss. A person lacking in the nutrient can also be diagnosed with megaloblastic anaemia, wherein the bone marrow produces abnormal red blood cells.
To avoid this, it helps to consume foods rich in vitamin B12, such as poultry, meat, shellfish, dairy products and soy products. Vegans, in particular, must consider taking B12 supplements.
10. VITAMIN C
Perhaps one of the more well-known types of vitamins, vitamin C is a water-soluble nutrient that helps repair tissues and maintain the body’s immune system. Known chemically as ascorbic acid, vitamin C also acts as an antioxidant.
Vitamin C deficiency can cause megaloblastic anaemia and scurvy. A person lacking in the vitamin may produce unstable collagen that can’t properly carry out its role.
Foods rich in vitamin C include citrus fruits like oranges and lemons, strawberries, raw bell peppers and broccoli. It’s important to consume these foods raw, as cooking can lower the vitamin C content.
11. VITAMIN D
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient that plays a crucial role in metabolism. It’s also in charge of calcium, magnesium and phosphate absorption in the intestines. Its chemical names are ergocalciferol and cholecalciferol.
A deficiency in vitamin D can result in rickets, skin pigmentation and osteomalacia. While not a lot of foods boast a vitamin D content, you can find it in mushrooms, eggs and fatty fish.
A good natural source of the nutrient is through sunlight, specifically ultraviolet B (UVB) exposure. However, it’s unsure how much sun exposure is safe as there’s a risk of getting skin cancer.
12. VITAMIN E
Another fat-soluble nutrient, vitamin E functions as an antioxidant that aids in the protection of cells. Its chemical names are tocopherols and tocotrienols.
It’s generally rare to have vitamin E deficiency, though it’s not without its risks. Insufficient vitamin E can lead to retinopathy, peripheral neuropathy, ataxia, myopathies and the destruction of red blood cells. Good sources of vitamin E include nuts, eggs, milk, avocado, kiwi fruit, whole-grains and leafy green vegetables.
13. VITAMIN K
Vitamin K is a fat-soluble nutrient that also goes by the chemical names phylloquinone and menaquinones. It’s necessary for the coagulation of blood through the synthesis of some proteins.
Symptoms of vitamin K deficiency, while uncommon in adults, include bleeding of the gums, anaemia, nosebleeds and bruising. Insufficient vitamin K can also lead to a bleeding disorder called coagulopathy. Foods rich in this nutrient are avocados, kiwi fruit, parsley and green leafy vegetables.
There you have it. If you’re unsure whether you are getting your recommended daily dose, you may want to consider consulting with a physician. While he or she may prescribe you with supplements, it also pays to know which foods are rich in what vitamins. That way, you can have a balanced diet and lead a healthy lifestyle.