The vitamins, also known as micronutrients, are necessary/vital substances found in very small quantities in our food. A normally balanced diet provides the exact amount of microelements that our body requires, without the need for any kind of dietary supplements. The vitamins are antioxidants, fighting against the effects of those substances that damage the cells in our body (the free radicals). The vitamins are also playing an important role in disease prevention.
Here is a list of some of the most important vitamins.
Vitamin A, also called retinol, contributes to bone development, maintains the good health of our eyes, hair and skin, and protects the digestive, urinary and respiratory systems. Taken excessively, it can lead to intoxication. It is mostly available in cod-liver oil, animal liver, butter, eggs, cheese, salmon, sardines, whole milk, raw carrots, spinach, tomatoes or fresh apricots. The provitamin A (a provitamin is a substance that is converted to a vitamin in our body), also known as beta-carotene, is a powerful antioxidant that can be found broadly in butter, cream, spinach, carrots, cress, broccoli, tomatoes, mango, apricots, peaches, melon, oranges and in all other yellow, orange or green fruits and vegetables.
Vitamin B1 or thiamine, prevents heart rhythm disorders, helps the proper functioning of the nerves, the muscles, the cardiovascular system and the carbohydrates metabolism. Examples of food rich in B1 vitamin: whole grains, eggs, animal organs, lean red meats, nuts, dried vegetables such as beans or peas.
Vitamin B2 or riboflavin, maintains healthy skin and eyes, takes part in hormone synthesis, protein, lipid and carbohydrate metabolisms. Examples of food rich in vitamin B2 include: dried vegetables, almonds, bread and cereals, meat, eggs, dairy, animal organs, fish, dark green vegetables.
Vitamin B3 or niacin, decreases cholesterol and triglycerides levels (the fat/lipid levels), maintains a healthy skin and the proper functioning of the digestive system, and also plays a role in the lipid and carbohydrate metabolisms. Food rich in vitamin B3: dried vegetables, green leafy vegetables, whole grains, fish, dairy, eggs, animal organs, meat.
Vitamin B5 or the panthotenic acid, participates in hormone synthesis and maintains the strength of the immune system. Food rich in vitamin B5: raw vegetables, dairy, eggs, animal organs, yeast.
Vitamin B6 or pyridoxine, maintains a healthy cardiovascular, digestive and nervous system, keeps the skin in good shape, and plays a role in hormone synthesis and protein metabolism. Food rich in vitamin B6: soy, wheat germ, whole grains, whole bread, yeast, avocado, dried vegetables, nuts, whole rice and the vast majority of fruits and vegetables, animal liver, animal kidney, fish, meat, eggs, dairy.
Vitamin B9 or the folic acid, participates in the synthesis of the proteins and of the genetic material, prevents heart disease and cancer, and it is very important in pregnant women’s diet because it prevents genetic/birth defects. Food rich in vitamin B9: dried vegetables, fresh green vegetables, mushrooms, spinach, cress, whole grains, whole bread, yeast, wheat germ, soy, oysters, dairy, animal organs.
Vitamin B12 or cyanocobalamin, maintains a healthy nervous system and has a role in the formation of genetic material and blood cells, in particular red blood cells. Food rich in vitamin B12: lean meat, eggs, dairy, fish, animal organs.
Vitamin C or the ascorbic acid, is an important antioxidant, maintains the good health of the bones, teeth, gums, ligaments and blood vessels, decreases blood pressure, helps iron absorption, helps wound healing, intervenes in infection healing and in growth processes, protects against myocardial infarction (heart attack). Smokers should have an increased intake of C vitamin, both because they lose the vitamin from their tissues and blood, and because the vitamin helps reducing the damage caused by smoking. Vitamin C is mostly found in fruits and vegetables: rose hip, black currant, parsley, kiwi, broccoli, watercress, raw peppers, tarragon, raw white and red cabbage, cress, lemon juice, citrus, strawberry, chervil, fig buttercup, fresh salad, apples, pears, peaches, grapes, tomatoes, melon, and in small amounts in breast milk and animal organs. Vitamin C in excess (over 500mg/day) can be harmful because it becomes prooxidant, accelerating the oxidation and thus harming the body. It can be destroyed by boiling the food and by oxidation (the phenomenon that happens when the surface of a piece of previously cut fruit/vegetable turns brown under the action of oxygen/air).
Vitamin D is in fact a group of several vitamins, the D3 or cholecalciferol being the most widely known. They maintain the good health of the nervous system, the bones and the teeth. Food rich in vitamin D: eggs, fish oil, fat fishes (herring, salmon, mackerel), vitamin D fortified dairy products. For the vast majority of people, the main vitamin D source is the sun exposure, especially during the summer.
Vitamin E or tocopherol, is a very important antioxidant, protecting the nervous and cardiovascular systems, the lungs, muscles and retina, against free radicals. It also protects against atherosclerosis and angina (chest pain due to ischemia of the heart muscle). Food rich in vitamin E: wheat germ oil, corn oil, soy oil, sunflower oil, peanuts oil, rape oil, olive oil and all other vegetal oils, wheat germ, hazelnuts, almonds, sprouted grains, nuts, peanuts, wild rice, egg yolk, green leafy vegetables.
Vitamin H or biotin, plays a role in the carbohydrate, protein and lipid metabolism. Food rich in vitamin H: tomatoes, oatmeal, yeast, eggs, fish, dairy products, animal organs.
Vitamin K is also a group of vitamins, K3 or menadione being the one most commonly known. The K group has a very important role in blood coagulation. Food rich in K vitamin: green leafy vegetables, animal liver, pork, cheese, eggs.