Where does the word “vitamin” come from?
The words is derived from the Latin word vita (life) and the biochemical term amine (nitrogen-containing) because vitamins are required for life and were originally thought to be amines. Vitamins are organic compounds required by humans in small amounts from the diet.
What are vitamins?
A vitamin is an organic (carbon-containing) substances derived from plants and animals that human body must have in very small amounts. Without vitamins the human body would not survive, vitamins are required for normal growth, metabolism (creating energy in your cells), and health. Vitamins are needed to make enzymes and hormones, which are important substances human body uses to make all the chemical reactions needed to live. Most of us get enough of vitamins from our food, but it may be necessary for some people to take a vitamin supplement, because an ongoing shortage of vitamins will lead to failed health, weakness, susceptibility to disease.
The body needs at least 13 different vitamins to function properly: Vitamin A – Retinol; Vitamin B complex (B1 – Thiamine; B2 – Riboflavin; B3 – Niacin; B6 – Pyridoxine; B12 – Cyanocobalamin; B9 – Folic acid; B5 – Pantothenic acid; H – Biotin); Vitamin C – Ascorbic acid; Vitamin D – Calciferol (can be obtained through sunlight); Vitamin E – Tocopherol; Vitamin K – Menaquinone.
There are two types of vitamins: fat soluble and water-soluble.
Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat-soluble, they dissolve in fat but not water. Once these vitamins are absorbed by the body, they are stored mostly in the fatty tissues and in the liver. The liver provides the primary storage tissue for vitamins A and D. Vitamin E is stored mainly in body fat and to a lesser extent in reproductive organs. Relatively little vitamin K is stored.
Because you can store these vitamins, you don’t have to get a supply of them every day. However, eating fats or oils that are not digested can cause shortages of fat-soluble vitamins. On the other hand, getting too much of these vitamins, particularly vitamins A and D, can lead to toxic levels in the body and cause problems.
The water-soluble vitamins – vitamin C and all the B vitamins – need to dissolve in water before your body can absorb them. Because of this, your body can’t store these vitamins in any significant amounts. The water-soluble vitamins your body doesn’t use are removed by your kidneys and come out in your urine, so you need a fresh supply of these vitamins every day. You can’t really overdose on water-soluble vitamins, unless you take truly massive doses.
Water-soluble vitamins are easily destroyed or washed out during food storage or preparation. Proper storage and preparation of food can minimize vitamin loss. To reduce vitamin loss, refrigerate fresh produce, keep milk and grains away from strong light, and use the cooking water from vegetables to prepare soups.
How to get vitamins?
It is best to get the vitamins and minerals your body needs through the food you eat. A daily diet of varied foods can provide you with needed vitamins and minerals for maintaining a healthy body. To get the most vitamins possible from your food, refrigerate fresh produce and keep milk and grains away from strong light. Vitamins are easily destroyed and washed out during food preparation and storage.
There are also a number of other factors that deplete our bodies of important vitamins:
* Smoking – strips 25mg of vitamin C for each cigarette smoked.
* Stress – utilizes a lot of B-complex vitamins and minerals.
* Eating sugar and other refined products – will strip chromium, zinc, vitamin B3 and other minerals from the body.
Too little of just one vitamin may disturb the body’s balance and lead vitamin deficiency. Some deficiencies can be cured simply by eating foods that contains the vitamin that you need. Other deficiencies lead to diseases and conditions that are more difficult to treat.
However, taking too many vitamins can also be dangerous. This is especially true of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K: it is harder to get rid of excess of these vitamins in the body. You should never take extra vitamins and minerals without talking to your doctor first. Your doctor may also suggest taking extra vitamins or minerals if you have certain health problems.