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Vitamins and what they do
Right from the school days, we have been learning about the significance of vitamins and minerals in our diet. As an adult, now is the time to take action. It is our duty to see whether our daily diet consists of sufficient vitamins and minerals. These days, owing to the hectic lifestyle, people tend to eat processed food or even junk food. These foods do not provide the nutrients that are required for proper functioning of the body. These days, people opt for various supplements that are advertised in an attractive manner. In fact, natural foods are a rich source of vitamins and minerals.

They should be incorporated in the regular diet as they promote physical growth and help keep diseases and illnesses away. Excessive consumption of fortified foods (excessive consumption of vitamins and minerals) leads to toxicity and can result in life-threatening side effects. In order to deal with problems of vitamin deficiency and overdose, it is imperative to know about vitamins and what they do. Take a look at the chart that provides information on important vitamins and their functions in the body.

List of Vitamins and their Functions

Vitamins A, B vitamins, vitamin C, D, E and K are important vitamins. Vitamin C and B vitamins are water soluble vitamins which means you need to include these vitamins in your regular diet. Your body cannot store these vitamins. Since they are soluble in water, they are thrown out of the body with waste material, at regular intervals. Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat soluble vitamins which are stored in the body fat for future use. The following chart, along with the list of vitamins, presents the sources of vitamins and daily recommended intake values for vitamins.

Vitamin A
Function
  • Anti-oxidant, anti-carcinogenic
  • Improves vision, strengthens bones, resistance towards micro organisms and parasitic infections
  • Helps prevent heart disease and stroke by lowering cholesterol
  • Fights skin disorders like acne and psoriasis, works as a skin anti aging agent
  • Eases glaucoma and measles
Deficiency Effects
  • Dry hair, dry skin, brittle nails
  • Low resistance to infections
  • Poor night vision, decreased ability to see in poorly lit areas
  • Untreated condition can lead to blindness.
Food Sources
Liver, Carrot, Broccoli, Sweet potato, Butter, Kale, Spinach, Pumpkin, Collard greens, Cheddar cheese, Cantaloupe melon, Eggs, Apricot, Papaya, Mango, Pea, Milk
Recommended Daily Intake
  • Men and boys over 10 years: 1000 mcg
  • Women and girls over 10 years: 800 mcg
Vitamin B1 or Thiamine
Function
  • Helps produce energy from carbohydrates.
  • Promotes smooth functioning of the heart, muscle and nervous system.
  • Enhances blood formation and improves blood circulation.
  • Essential for growing children, for proper growth.
Deficiency Effects
  • Excessive weakness
  • Nerve damage.
  • Beriberi resulting in severe leg cramps, weak muscles and inflammation of heart
  • In severe cases, heart failure and death.
Food Sources
Berries, Green vegetables, Lean Meat, Legumes, Nuts, Pork, Wheat germ, Whole grain cereals
Recommended Daily Intake
  • Men: 1.5 mg
  • Women: 1.1 mg
Vitamin B2 or Riboflavin
Function
  • Helps produce energy from carbohydrates.
  • Involved in the synthesis of proteins, carbohydrates and fats, works as an enzyme.
  • Helps maintain the health of the mucus membranes in the digestive tract.
  • Promotes absorption of vitamin B6 and iron.
  • Reduces the chances of formation of cataract
Deficiency Effects
  • Hair loss
  • Light sensitivity.
  • Skin lesions near nose and mouth.
  • Dizziness
Food Sources
Dark green vegetables, Eggs, Fish, Grains, Lean meat, Legumes, Milk
Recommended Daily Intake
  • Men: 1.7 mg
  • Women: 1.3 mg
Vitamin B3 or Niacin
Function
  • Helps maintain normal body metabolism.
  • Boosts the production of energy from nutrients
  • Lowers bad cholesterol level and raises good cholesterol level
Deficiency Effects
  • Pellagra, resulting in skin irritation on exposure to sunlight.
  • Mental confusion
  • Diarrhea and swollen tongue.
Food Sources
Fish, Lean Meat, Peanuts, Poultry, Whole grains
Recommended Daily Intake
  • Men: 19 mg
  • Women: 15 mg
Vitamin B5 or Pantothenic Acid
Function
  • Boosts the production of energy and promotes metabolism of proteins, fats and carbohydrates
  • Promotes adrenal gland function and stimulates the release of a hormone
  • Stimulates red blood cell formation and bile production
Deficiency Effects
  • Excessive weakness
  • Nausea
  • Tingling in hands
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Headaches
Food Sources
Beef, Eggs, Legumes, Mushrooms, Vegetables, Whole grains
Recommended Daily Intake
  • Men: 4 mg - 7 mg
  • Women: 4 mg - 7 mg
Vitamin B6 or Pyridoxine
Function
  • Regulates metabolism of protein.
  • Encourages red blood cell and hemoglobin formation.
  • Stimulates the function of the immune and nervous system.
Deficiency Effects
  • Kidney stone formation
  • Skin diseases and disorders
  • Dizziness
  • Convulsions
Food Sources
Avocados, Bananas, Fish, Green beans, Poultry, Spinach, Whole grains
Recommended Daily Intake
  • Men: 2.0 mg
  • 1.6 mg
Vitamin B7 or Biotin
Function
  • Promotes production of energy from food
  • Promotes metabolism of fats, proteins and carbohydrates
  • Helps maintain health of the skin, hair and nails
Deficiency Effects
  • Reduced appetite
  • Excessive tiredness
  • Muscle pain
  • Very dry skin
Food Sources
Cheese, Egg yolk, Green vegetables, Liver, Sunflower seeds, Sweet potatoes
Recommended Daily Intake
  • Men: 100 mcg
  • Women: 100 mcg
Vitamin B9 or Folic Acid
Function
  • Controls amino acid levels in blood.
  • Promotes synthesis of DNA for normal cell division.
  • Enhances hemoglobin and protein formation.
Deficiency Effects
  • Swollen tongue
  • Mouth ulcers.
  • Affects growth.
  • Birth defects that cause brain disorders.
Food Sources
Citrus juice, Fortified grains and products, Legumes, Green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, etc.), Nuts
Recommended Daily Intake
  • Men: 200 mcg
  • Women: 180 mcg
Vitamin B12 or Cobalamin
Function
  • Stimulates protein and red blood cell formation.
  • Essential for healthy functioning of nervous system.
Deficiency Effects
  • Anemia
  • Nervous system damage, peripheral neuropathy
  • Memory loss
  • Weakness
Food Sources
Eggs, Fish, Fortified breakfast cereal, Liver, Meat, Milk
Recommended Daily Intake
  • Men: 2.0 mcg
  • Women: 2.0 mcg
Vitamin C or Ascorbic acid
Function
  • Strengthens immune system
  • Boosts the absorption of iron and calcium
  • Essential for overall improvement and enhancement of health
Deficiency Effects
  • Scurvy resulting in bleeding into the skin
  • Frequent infections
  • Weakness
Food Sources
Black current, Guava, Melon, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts
Recommended Daily Intake
  • Men: 65 mg
  • Women: 75 mg
Vitamin D (Sunshine Vitamin)
Function
  • Promotes absorption of calcium
  • Helps maintain proper blood levels of calcium and phosphorus.
  • Keeps various autoimmune diseases at bay
  • Helps prevent osteoporosis, high blood pressure, certain forms of cancer
  • Plays an important role in the process of cell differentiation
  • Boosts immune system
Deficiency Effects
  • Mood swings, sleep disorder
  • Muscle pain, fatigue, weight loss, depression
  • Diarrhea, loss of appetite
  • Weak fragile bones, weak immune system
Food Sources
Tuna, mackerel, salmon and sardines, cod liver oil, fortified milk and juice, beef liver, egg yolk
Recommended Daily Intake
  • Infants, children and adults up to 50 years of age : 200 IU
  • Adults 51 to 70 years old : 400 IU
  • Adults above 70 years old : 600 IU
Vitamin E (Tocopherol)
Function
  • Reduces the risk of cardio-vascular diseases
  • Helps prevent certain cancers.
  • Helps other vitamins in their fight against free radicals
  • Helps DNA to repair itself
  • Boosts immune system
  • Offers glowing skin and strong shining hair
  • Reduces the chances of Parkinson's disease and cognitive decline
  • Relieves age related aches and pains
  • Helps improve fertility and prevents miscarriages
Deficiency Effects
  • Weight loss and delayed growth in infants
  • Muscle weakness, slow growth in children
  • Nonspecific neurological deficits in adults
  • Fragile red blood cells
  • Decrease in sex drive
  • Muscle, liver, bone marrow and brain function abnormalities
Food Sources
Avocado, peach, papaya, kiwi, pumpkin, Swiss chard, almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts, olive oil, sunflower oil, turkey baken, eggs, sardines, herrings
Recommended Daily Intake
  • Children between 4-8 years : 10.5 IU
  • Adults and Pregnant women : 22.5 IU
  • Lactating women : 28.5 IU
Vitamin K
Function
  • Promote strong bones in the elderly
  • Helps in coagulation of blood (clotting).
  • Offers glowing skin
  • Prevents calcium build-up
  • Supports brain and nervous system structure
  • Offers glowing skin and strong shining hair
  • Promotes healthy liver function
  • Relieves age related aches and pains
Deficiency Effects
  • Heavy menstrual bleeding, internal bleeding, or bleeding through abrasions and wounds, leading to hemorrhaging and/or anemia
  • Decrease in bone mineral density
Food Sources
Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Celery, Parsley, Swiss chard, Spinach, Kale, fruits like Avocado, kiwi, etc.
Recommended Daily Intake
  • Males : 80 mcg
  • Females : 70 mcg

Note: mg = milligram, mcg = microgram

All vitamins are essential for the body to function properly. Functioning of the bodily systems and organs depends upon the supply of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, proteins and fats. I hope you found the above chart of vitamins and their functions helpful. Now that you know about vitamins and what they do, you should incorporate maximum fruits, vegetables, whole grains, good fats like olive, flaxseed oil, fish, lean meat, eggs in your diet and stay healthy.