Vitamins – Types, Sources & Functions

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Vitamins – Types, Sources & Functions


Vitamins - Types, Sources & Functions


Eating the correct foods keeps our bodies working correctly. Thanks to a mix of essential vitamins and nutrients. Found in various foods, from fresh fruits and vegetables to healthy energy bars. Vitamins can either be water-soluble or fat-soluble. It is necessary to have a good balance of the correct vitamins in your system. Doing so contributes to your energy level and ability to combat off disease.

Water-soluble vitamins

Water-soluble vitamins travel easily through the body. And additional amounts usually are excreted by the kidneys. The body needs water-soluble vitamins in frequent, small doses. These vitamins are not as probable as fat-soluble vitamins to reach toxic levels. But niacin, vitamin B6, folate, choline, and vitamin C have upper ingesting limits. Vitamin B6 at high levels over an extensive period of time has been shown to cause irreparable nerve damage.

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A balanced diet usually offers enough of these vitamins. People older than 50 and some vegetarians may want to use supplements to get enough B12.

Water-soluble vitamins

Nutrient              Function                                Sources 

Thiamine (vitamin B1)

Part of an enzyme needed for energy metabolism; important to nerve function

Found in all nutritious foods in moderate amounts: pork, whole-grain or enriched breads and cereals, legumes, nuts and seeds

Riboflavin(vitamin B2)

Part of an enzyme needed for energy metabolism; important for normal vision and skin health

Milk and milk products; leafy green vegetables; whole-grain, enriched breads and cereals

Niacin (vitamin B3)

Part of an enzyme needed for energy metabolism; important for nervous system, digestive system, and skin health

Meat, poultry, fish, whole-grain or enriched breads and cereals, vegetables (especially mushrooms, asparagus, and leafy green vegetables), peanut butter

Pantothenic acid

Part of an enzyme needed for energy metabolism

Widespread in foods


Part of an enzyme needed for energy metabolism

Widespread in foods; also produced in intestinal tract by bacteria

Pyridoxine (vitamin B6)

Part of an enzyme needed for protein metabolism; helps make red blood cells

Meat, fish, poultry, vegetables, fruits

Folic acid

Part of an enzyme needed for making DNA and new cells, especially red blood cells

Leafy green vegetables and legumes, seeds, orange juice, and liver; now added to most refined grains

Cobalamin (vitamin B12)

Part of an enzyme needed for making new cells; important to nerve function

Meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, milk and milk products; not found in plant foods

Ascorbic acid (vitamin C)

Antioxidant; part of an enzyme needed for protein metabolism; important for immune system health; aids in iron absorption

Found only in fruits and vegetables, especially citrus fruits, vegetables in the cabbage family, cantaloupe, strawberries, peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, lettuce, papayas, mangoes, kiwifruit

Fat-soluble Vitamins

Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the body’s cells and are not excreted as simply as water-soluble vitamins. They do not need to be consumed as often as water-soluble vitamins, although adequate amounts are needed. If you take too plentiful of a fat-soluble vitamin, it could become toxic. Your body is especially subtle to too much vitamin A from animal sources (retinol) and too much vitamin D. A balanced diet usually provides enough fat-soluble vitamins.

Fat-soluble Vitamins

NutrientFunction Sources

Vitamin A (and its precursor*, beta-carotene) *A precursor is transformed by the body to the vitamin.

Needed for vision, healthy skin and mucous membranes, bone and tooth growth, immune system health

Vitamin A from animal sources (retinol): fortified milk, cheese, cream, butter, fortified margarine, eggs, liver Beta-carotene (from plant sources): Leafy, dark green vegetables; dark orange fruits (apricots, cantaloupe) and vegetables (carrots, winter squash, sweet potatoes, pumpkin)

Vitamin D

Required for proper absorption of calcium; stored in bones

Egg yolks, liver, fatty fish, fortified milk, fortified margarine. When exposed to sunlight, the skin can make vitamin D.

Vitamin E

Antioxidant; protects cell walls

Polyunsaturated plant oils (soybean, corn, cottonseed, safflower); leafy green vegetables; wheat germ; whole-grain products; liver; egg yolks; nuts and seeds

Vitamin K

Required for proper blood clotting

Leafy green vegetables such as kale, collard greens, and spinach; green vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and asparagus; also produced in intestinal tract by bacteria

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