Vitamins and Minerals. Vitamins and minerals are essential substances that our bodies need to develop and function normally. Vitamins allow your body to grow and develop. They also play important roles in bodily functions such as metabolism, immunity and digestion. There are 13 essential vitamins, including vitamins A, C, D, E, and K and B vitamins such as riboflavin and folate. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the best way to meet your vitamin needs is to eat a balanced diet containing a variety of foods. If you can’t meet your needs through food alone, you may require dietary supplements.
Types of Vitamins
Vitamins are classified as fat-soluble or water-soluble, referring to where they are stored in the body. Fat-soluble vitamins include A, D, E and K and are stored for up to six months in your various fat stores. Water-soluble vitamins circulate through your blood and include the B vitamins, namely B-6, B-12, riboflavin, thiamine, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin and folate, and vitamin C. Your body doesn’t store water-soluble vitamins, so you must replenish them regularly.
Each of the 13 vitamins has a specific function, but they also work together to facilitate optimal health. Vitamin A supports healthy eyesight, immune function, skin, bones and teeth. You need vitamin C to support absorption of the mineral iron and also to provide immune protection and encourage healthy tissue development. Vitamin D, along with the mineral calcium, boosts bone health as well as a solid body defense system. Vitamin E facilitates your body’s use of vitamin K, which helps in blood clotting and bone health, as well as promotes the formation of essential red blood cells. The eight B vitamins support a healthy metabolism, brain function, hormone production, regular heart operations, functioning of the central nervous system and cell duties.
B vitamins play a vital role in maintaining good health and well-being. As the building blocks of a healthy body, B vitamins have a direct impact on your energy levels, brain function, and cell metabolism.
Vitamin B complex helps prevent infections and helps support or promote:
- cell health
- growth of red blood cells
- energy levels
- good eyesight
- healthy brain function
- good digestion
- healthy appetite
- proper nerve function
- hormones and cholesterol production
- cardiovascular health
- muscle tone
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is a nutrient your body needs to form blood vessels, cartilage, muscle and collagen in bones. Vitamin C is also vital to your body’s healing process.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps protect your cells against the effects of free radicals — molecules produced when your body breaks down food or is exposed to tobacco smoke and radiation from the sun, X-rays or other sources. Free radicals might play a role in heart disease, cancer and other diseases. Vitamin C also helps your body absorb and store iron.
Most people get enough vitamin C from a healthy diet. Vitamin C deficiency is more likely in people who:
- Smoke or are exposed to secondhand smoking
- Have certain gastrointestinal conditions or certain types of cancer
- Have a limited diet that doesn’t regularly include fruits and vegetables
Vitamin E is a nutrient that’s important to vision, reproduction, and the health of your blood, brain and skin.
Vitamin E also has antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are substances that might protect your cells against the effects of free radicals — molecules produced when your body breaks down food or is exposed to tobacco smoke and radiation. Free radicals might play a role in heart disease, cancer and other diseases. If you take vitamin E for its antioxidant properties, keep in mind that the supplement might not offer the same benefits as naturally occurring antioxidants in food.