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:

  1. Water soluble vitamins are vitamins B complex and C
  2. 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