Most of us have this general idea that a cocktail of antioxidants and vitamins constitutes a healthy diet. Taking vitamins or their supplements as per dosage is normal but too much of anything can definitely cause a lot of trouble.
A formal definition
Vitamins are organic compounds (synthesized by plants and animals) that are taken in limited amount through our diet or various supplements since they cannot be synthesized in the human body.
There are two types of vitamins and one needs to be careful about the dosage of each type.
Fat soluble vitamins : These are generally found in fatty foods like animal fat (butter and lard for example), dairy products, vegetable oils, etc. Although they are really important for your health, it is not necessary to eat such foods regularly. What’s interesting is since fat does not dissolve in water, they are stored in our fatty tissues and liver like a reserve.
They enter the bloodstream through lymph vessels in the intestinal tract, and many of them are carried by proteins (carriers). Since they meet our needs when they are required from the reserve, they can also be called as micro-nutrients.
The 4 main types:
1. Vitamin A : For those of us with our middle school biology text books, this vitamin does more than give you vision in the dark.
Regulating cell division and growth.
Production, regulation of white blood cells.
Healthy endothelial cells.
Sources -> most dairy foods(cheese,yoghurt), eggs, vegetables(carrots,spinach), liver.
Excess risk: affecting bone density, interferes with vitamin D actions.
2. Vitamin D : helps us maintain the amount of calcium and phosphate in our body, along with healthy bones and muscles.
Sources -> eggs and oily fish.
Excess risk: excess calcium deposition thereby damaging kidneys and excess leeching of calcium from bones.
3. Vitamin E : Works like an antioxidants, scavenging “free-radicals” which causes damage to cells. It also protects cell membranes. Vitamin E has also been linked in preventing cancer.
Sources -> nuts and seeds, cereal products.
Excess : Not enough evidence though researchers have debated on the increasing risk of dying.
4. Vitamin K : This helps in making 4 out of 13 proteins needed for clotting of blood and is needed for strong bones.
Sources -> green leafy vegetables and cereals.
Excess : Not enough evidence.
Water soluble vitamins : We need these frequently since they are not stored in our body. We get rid of the excess vitamins through micturition, so our kidneys are responsible in regulating proper levels. They are absorbed directly into the bloodstream when food breaks down in digestion.
Mainly classified into Vitamin B group and Vitamin C, the following provides proper understanding of each.
Vitamin B : The few major types are -
a) Thiamin(B1) -> breaking down and releasing energy from food and maintaining healthy muscle and nerve tissue .
Source : vegetables, eggs, dried fruits.
Dosage : not enough evidence.
b) Riboflavin(B2) -> coping the body in releasing energy from carbohydrate and maintaining a healthy nervous system.
Sources : milk, eggs, cereals.
Excess : not enough evidence.
c) Niacin(B3) -> maintains the digestive and nervous system and helps in the release of energy from foods.
Sources : meat, fish, eggs, flour(maize and wheat), milk.
Excess : a form of Niacin(nicotinic acid) can cause the skin to flush and damage the liver
d) Pyridoxine(B6) -> formation of haemoglobin and releasing energy from proteins and carbohydrates.
Sources : poultry, fish, eggs, vegetables.
Excess : peripheral neuropathy(can be irreversible)
e) Folic Acid(B9) -> working with B12 for red blood cell production and reduction of CNS(Central Nervous System) defects such as spina bifida.
Sources : brussels sprouts, liver, brown rice.
Excess : hides the B12 deficiency, whose symptoms include anaemia and damage to the nervous system.
f) Vitamin B12 -> processing B9 and releasing energy from foods
Sources : meat, cod, milk.
Excess : not enough evidence.
Vitamin C(ascprbic acid) : This vitamin helps in Control of diseases.
Maintains healthy connective tissue
Gum formation and the deficiency leads to scurvy.
Sources : Citrus fruits.
Excess : diarrhoea and flatulence.