You probably already know that you need to eat a varied and healthy diet to get all the vitamins you need but have you ever questioned how vitamins actually work and why our bodies need them?
Vitamins come in two forms - fat-soluble and water-soluble. We get the fat-soluble ones mostly from fatty foods such as butter and oily fish and our bodies are able to store these vitamins for future use. The other type - water-soluble vitamins (including all the B vitamins) are found in fruits, vegetables and grains and we need to get a ready supply of these because any excess gets passed out in our water.
A shortage of any one vitamin is likely to cause ill-health. Old-fashioned-sounding disorders such as beriberi, rickets and scurvy were all the result of vitamin deficiencies. These days, a lack of vital vitamins can still make you unwell so it's important to know your vitamin A-Z.
Vitamins are needed for normal cell function, growth, and development which is why they are so important. The 13 essential vitamins needed for the body to function properly are:
Vitamin A (also known as retinol) is important for healthy vision and will improve the way you see in low-light (although it won't, contrary to belief, give you actual ?night vision'). It is also needed for bone growth, skin health and good immunity.
Vitamin C is essential as it helps to keep our cells healthy and is known to be a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants block some of the damage caused by free radicals.
Vitamin D is dubbed the 'sunshine vitamin' because unlike other vitamins we get most of our intake from sunlight rather than from our diets. Vitamin D is essential for keeping bones strong and healthy.
Vitamin E plays many different roles in helping us stay healthy and is known for its powerful antioxidant properties.
Vitamin K is sometimes dubbed the ?clotting vitamin' because without it our blood cannot clot. Blood clotting is essential for wound healing. Without vitamin K we would carry on bleeding even if after a minor injury.
Vitamin B1 (also called Thiamin) works with the other B-group vitamins to help us obtain energy from the food we eat.
Vitamin B2 (also called riboflavin) is one of eight ?B' vitamins. Vitamin B2 plays a role in helping our bodies convert food into fuel to meet our energy needs.
Vitamin B3 Vitamin B3 (also called niacin) is one of eight ?B' vitamins. Like all B vitamins it plays a role in helping the body to convert food into fuel to be used for energy. It also contributes to keeping the nervous and the digestive systems healthy.
Pantothenic acid is used by the body to convert food into fuel for energy. Vitamin B5 also has some additional functions such as helping with the manufacture of red blood cells and some hormones.
Biotin assists the body in converting carbohydrates into fuel and helps to metabolise fats and proteins.
Vitamin B6 (also known as pyridoxine) is one of the 8 B vitamins. Like all the B vitamins it has lots of important functions including helping the body meet its energy needs.
Vitamin B12 is important as it helps keep the body's nerves and blood cells healthy.
Folate (folic acid) is often associated with pregnancy as expectant mums will be advised to take folic acid supplements during pregnancy. But folic acid is not just for new mums. It is essential in helping all of us to keep healthy by supporting our growth, development, nerve and brain function.