Vitamins are complex chemical substances required by the body in very small amounts. They do not yield energy but act as biocatalysts in the body. They are essential for good health and protect the body from various diseases. They are essential for the utilization of other nutrients that we take in the diet.
Vitamins are grouped into two classes:
- Water soluble vitamins are vitamins B complex and C
- Fat soluble vitamins are vitamins A, D, E and K
Since vitamins cannot be made in our body except for vitamin D, they need to be supplied through food that contain them.
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)
Function: Carbohydrate metabolism; sharpens appetite; functioning of heart, nerve and muscles
Food Sources: Yeast; liver; milk; cheese; leafy vegetables; meat; whole grain cereals
Deficiency Disease: Beri-beri
Symptoms: Pain in hands and feet. Swelling of body. Paralysis of limbs. Oedema.
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
Function: Carbohydrate and protein metabolism; keeps skin healthy
Food Sources: Milk; liver meat; eggs peas; yeast; whole grains; green leafy vegetables
Deficiency Disease: Riboflavinosis; photophobia
Symptoms: Retarded growth and mental disorder. Cracking of skin at corners of mouth. Lesions of eyes.
Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
Function: Coenzyme for protein, fat and carbohydrate metabolism. Keeps the skin healthy.
Food Sources: Fish; eggs; meat; legumes; whole grains; leafy vegetables; peanuts; bean; tomato; potato.
Deficiency Disease: Pellagra
Symptoms: Dermatitis (bad skin), diarrhoea (loose motions), dementia (mental disorder).
Vitamin B12 (Cyanocobalamine)
Function: Blood formation, Nervous tissue metabolism, Nucleic acid synthesis.
Food Sources: Liver; fish; cheese; milk; eggs; meat
Deficiency Disease: Pernicious anaemia
Symptoms: Paleness of skin; breath lessness; retarded growth
Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)
Function: Resistance to infections; keeping teeth, gums and joints healthy; healing of cuts and wounds; maintenance of connective tissue.
Food Sources: Amla, cabbage; tomatoes, lemon; orange; mangoes; chillies, guava, pineapple; sprouted grams.
Deficiency Disease: Scurvy
Symptoms: Bleeding gums; pain in joints; general weakness.
Vitamin A (Retinol)
Function: Maintenance of vision and skin; Essential for synthesis of visual pigment
Food Sources: Milk, cheese, butter, eggs codliver oil, carrots, mangoes, papaya, yellow pumpkin, spinach, sweet potato
Deficiency Disease: Night blindness. Xerophthalmia or keratinol acid. Dry skin
Symptoms: Cannot see in dim light (night blindness); Retarded keratinization of epithelia
Vitamin D (Calaciferol)
Function: Keeps teeth and bones healthy, absorption of calcium and phosphorus
Food Sources: Milk; cheese; egg yolk; cod liver oil, fish; butter; exposure to sunlight.
Deficiency Disease: Rickets, Osteomalacia
Symptoms: Failure of growing bones to calcify; bow legs pigeon chest; softening of bones; Painful bones; spontaneous fracture.
Vitamin E (Tocopherol)
Function: antioxidant; ageing vitamin
Food Sources: Grains, vegetable oil, green leafy vegetables, nuts, liver
Deficiency Disease: Reproduction failure in males and females
Symptoms: Sterlity in males, miscar riage, or death of embryos during pregnancy in females
Vitamin K (Phylloquinone)
Function: Clotting of blood
Food Sources: Green leafy vegetables; soya bean; tomatoes
Deficiency Disease: Faulty blood clotting; haemorrhage
Symptoms: Delayed blood clotting