What are vitamins?

We explain what vitamins are and the types of vitamins there are. In addition, its functions in the body and foods with vitamins.

  1. What are vitamins?

Vitamins are called different  substances that help the proper functioning of the organism  of living beings , but in general they are not synthesized by your body, that is, they must be obtained from the outside through food .

Therefore, these are essential nutrients for the organism, whose prolonged absence (avitaminosis) leads to diseases and weakens the organism, but whose excess (hypervitaminosis) can also be harmful.

However, the body’s need for vitamins is relatively small, since they are usually stored in the body and gradually consumed . Thus, vitamin needs can be met through a more or less balanced diet, especially including raw foods such as fruits or vegetables, as some vitamins break down easily in the cooking water.

Since ancient times humanity knew that eating certain foods benefited certain aspects of health . But  there was never talk of vitamins until the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries , when the health of European sailors was studied, whose diet was monotonous during the months that passed at sea, and became ill. This eventually led to the discovery that there were substances in foods that were particularly necessary for life .

Finally, in 1929, Frederick Hopkins and Christiaan Eijkman, winners of the Nobel Prize in Medicine, discovered the existence of several vitamins and confirmed the suspicions of yesteryear.

  1. Types of vitamins

Almost all the B vitamins and vitamin C are water soluble.

Vitamins are classified into two types, depending on their ability to dissolve in water (water soluble) or in oils (fat soluble), which says a lot about their chemical structure. The 13 vitamins necessary for the human body are classified into:

  • Water soluble . Almost all of the B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B8, B9, B12) and vitamin C. Excess of these vitamins is excreted in the urine (except B12), and therefore They should be consumed in the daily diet.
  • Liposoluble . Only vitamins A, D, E and K. These can be stored in body fat and thus do not require continued intake.
  1. Vitamin Function

Although there are different types of vitamins, with a different chemical constitution and functions in the body, almost all of them operate as precursors of coenzymes , that is, regulatory substances or catalysts of different body reactions.

That is, vitamins are the necessary raw material for the construction of certain types of regulatory proteins in our body.

In this way, vitamins are considered as essential amino acids, which must be more or less present in our daily diet, to prevent certain conditions . For example, vitamin C is closely linked to the immune system and thus its consumption is recommended when it comes to fighting flu and other transient diseases. The chronic absence of this substance in the body leads to a deadly disease known as  scurvy .

  1. Foods with vitamins

Vitamin B2 is present in red meat, dairy and eggs.

Many foods are rich in a specific type of vitamin or in several, and knowing them will allow us to drive our diet towards greater (or less) consumption of these substances. Some examples are:

  • Vitamin A : cod liver oil and vegetables or vegetables with beta carotene.
  • Vitamin C : citrus fruits and most fresh green foods.
  • Vitamin B 1 : very present in rice bran.
  • Vitamin D : oils: cod liver, olive and sunflower.
  • Vitamin B 2 : present in red meat, dairy and eggs.
  • Vitamin E : is found in wheat germ, unrefined vegetable oils and green vegetables.
  • Vitamin B 12 : typical of fatty animal foods: red meat, eggs, milk.
  • Vitamin K : in legumes and some tubers.
  • Vitamin B 5 : present in meat and whole grains.
  • Vitamin B 6 : also present in meat and dairy products, mainly.
  • Vitamin B 3 :  in numerous cereals and in red meat.
  • Vitamin B 9 : in almost all legumes for daily consumption.

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