Understanding Vitamins And Their Role In Diet

Introduction And Background

You’ll be surprised to know the history behind vitamins. The name vitamin was actually appointed to a certain organic nutrient which was required to prevent the nutritional deficiency of Beri-Beri which was once quite prevalent in the rice eating countries of the Far East. There were sailors who would often come back with swollen and bleeding gums along with joints pains and signs of rickets. Afterwards it was known that their diet did not contain any vitamin C or vitamin D which was essential for proper bone and collagen formation. Thus, slowly and gradually, scientists and scholars began to understand the vitamins and their role in diet and then with their improved knowledge does the world now benefit from.

They are naturally occurring organic compounds which are essential for normal metabolic functions of the body and for maintenance of the health and to ensure growth promotion. The deficiency of vitamins produces disorders and accelerates diseases and infections. It also often delays healing processes and growth retardation also occurs. The requirement of vitamins is seen according to age, sex, size and even nature of the work that the person is doing. Requirement usually increases during exercise, any kind of fever, any diseases or any antibiotic therapy. It also increases specifically during periods of pregnancy or lactation.

Types Of Vitamins
There are basically two types of vitamins. The types are lipid soluble vitamins and water soluble vitamins. The difference between the two is that lipid soluble vitamins can be stored in the body for later use. Their deficiency does not occur very often since the vitamins are stored whenever they are taken and can be used whenever. Water soluble vitamins however are not stored in appropriate amounts in the body. Hence, they must be taken daily through diet for maintaining normal health. Vitamin like substances are also present but we don’t need to get into that.

Lipid Soluble Vitamins
The lipid soluble vitamins are the ones which are stored in the liver. The names of the vitamins are written below along with their role in the diet and how they function. Sources of the vitamins are also mentioned.

  • Vitamin A
    This vitamins is basically used for blindness since it plays a major role in the visual cycle. This vitamin is also needed for growth of cell membrane and skin roughening and dryness occurs in its deficiency. The vitamin is found in liver mostly, be it bear liver or fox liver. It is found in liver oils too such as cod oil and fish oil. Egg yolk and dairy products are also a good source of this vitamin.
  • Vitamin D
    We all know about this vitamin and how important it is for the bones and proper growth. This vitamin our skin can create by the help of sunlight so its deficiency is quite rare for the people in sunny areas. For those living in cloudy areas or rainy regions, they need to fulfill their vitamin D requirements through the diet or by taking supplements. Vitamin D also plays a role in the calcium absorption and reabsorption in the body.
  • Vitamin E
    This vitamin is an antioxidant and is pretty great for the skin. It helps to maintain the epithelium which in turn helps to retain good skin. Good sources include vegetable oil, cod oil and also sunflower oil. Green leafy vegetables such as lettuce and cabbage also contain Vitamin E. Its main function is that as an antioxidant though.
  • Vitamin K
    This vitamin is very important for wound healing. Deficiency can easily lead to delayed healing which can lead to course skin and scarring. Green leafy vegetables, potatoes and the plant ‘Alfalfa’ contain good amounts of vitamin K.

Water Soluble Vitamins
These vitamins are the ones you need to fulfill through your daily diet. They are necessary for growth and proper development, the same as lipid soluble vitamins. They are of the vitamin B category which includes vitamin B1, B2, B3, B6, B10 and B12 and also includes the famous Vitamin C. We all know about vitamin C and how important it is that we get it. Otherwise, bleedings gums and poor collagen formation follows. This vitamin is found mostly in citrus fruits. As for the B group of vitamins, they are pretty important too. They are needed for wound healing, hair, absorption of proteins and carbohydrates, keratin formation etc. These are only a few roles in diet, to name a few.

Hopefully this article has helped you to understand better how vitamins work in our daily lives and how they are so very vital to everything that we do. Vitamins might not be given as much importance as the food pyramid components such as proteins but their deficiency defects can definitely be as drastic.

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