Finding Vitality with Vitamins

A vitamin is an organic compound required as a vital nutrient in limited amounts. Your body can’t make vitamins in sufficient quantities, so you must obtain them from your diet or from supplements.

Each vitamin comprises one or more vitamer compounds grouped under a letter of the alphabet, such as “vitamin A”, which includes the compounds retinal, retinol, and about 50 carotenoids. Your body can convert vitamers to the active form of the vitamin, and sometimes to other vitamers, as well.

Vitamins have many functions. Some have hormone-like functions as regulators of mineral metabolism (e.g., vitamin D), or regulators of cell and tissue growth and differentiation (e.g., some forms of vitamin A). Others function as antioxidants (e.g., vitamin E and vitamin C). The largest number of vitamins (e.g., B complex vitamins) help enzymes in their work in metabolism.

The value of eating a certain food to maintain health was recognized long before vitamins were identified, and the discovery of vitamins was a slow and fairly recent process. Vitamin deficiencies can cause diseases such as goiter, scurvy, osteoporosis, immune deficiencies, metabolic disorders, cancer, premature aging, and eating disorders, among many others. Excess of some vitamins, especially fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin A, can be toxic.

Vitamins are classified as either water-soluble or fat-soluble. In humans there are 13 vitamins: 4 fat-soluble (A, D, E, and K) and 9 water-soluble (8 B vitamins and vitamin C). Your body can use most vitamins for multiple functions.

Dr. T. Colin Campbell argues that vitamin A as retinol isn’t a true vitamin, because the human body can manufacture retinoids out of the true essential vitamin, the carotenoids. He also asserts that vitamin D isn’t a true vitamin, because the human body can synthesize it from the action of sunshine on the skin.

Water-soluble vitamins dissolve easily in water and, in general, your body can readily excrete them in urine. Because you can’t readily store them, you need to consume them more consistently. Bacteria synthesize many types of water-soluble vitamins.

Fat-soluble vitamins are absorbed through your intestinal tract with the help of lipids (fats). Because they are more likely to accumulate in the body, they are more likely to lead to overdose diseases than are water-soluble vitamins.

*You can estimate your requirements here.

A well-rounded diet based on unrefined plant foods provides an abundance of most vitamins. The only exception may be vitamin B12 for most of us who wash away dirt and bacteria from food, and vitamin D for most of us in temperate climates in winter months. A daily multivitamin/multi-mineral supplement usually ensures adequate levels of these nutrients. You can have your blood levels of vitamin D and vitamin B12 checked when you have your cholesterol checked to ensure that you are absorbing adequate levels and know whether you need to supplement further.

Stay healthy!

This blog uses the latest nutritional data available from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), and the FDA (United States Food and Drug Administration), as well as nutritional data provided by food growers and manufacturers about their products. We believe the information on this blog to be accurate. However, we are not responsible for typographical or other errors. Nutrition information for recipes is calculated by Living Cookbook based on the ingredients in each recipe based on statistical averages. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients, and other factors.

This blog is not a substitute for the services of a trained health professional. Although we provide nutritional information, the information on this blog is for informational purposes only. No information offered by or through this blog shall be construed as or understood to be medical advice or care. None of the information on this blog should be used to diagnose or treat any health problem or disease. Consult with a health care provider before taking any product or using any information on this blog. Please discuss any concerns with your health care provider.

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