Why do we need to eat vitamins? In one sentence: Our bodies can t produce all of the nutrients that we need to function properly, so we have to eat them. To understand why we need vitamins, it s best to first understand what vitamins are. P Vitamins are compounds which are necessary for our normal growth and function, which we cannot make within our bodies, and so we must obtain them from our foods. Most of the compounds needed for our body cells to function for our health, can be made by our cells from other nutrients. P For some reason, we evolved without the ability to make the small number that we call vitamins. P They were present in ample amounts in ordinary foods throughout evolution, so we did not need to make them. P We only need tiny amounts of vitamins, and they are still present in ample amounts in many foods, but it is possible to become deficient in vitamins, and that damages health. Did you know? P Other species do not all need the same vitamins. P For example: birds and guinea-pigs, can make their own Vitamin C. Contrary to common understanding, there is actually no value in consuming extra vitamins, above what is necessary, in supplements which is a huge industry. P It has been shown that these supplements can actually damage your health! P Vitamin supplements are however recommended in certain specific situations defined by scientific research.
A healthy balanced diet containing a variety of foods should provide all the vitamins your body needs to work properly. There are 2 types of vitamins, fat-soluble and water-soluble.
Fat-soluble vitamins are mainly found in foods that are high in natural fat – such as dairy, eggs and oily fish. You don\’t need to eat these types of food every day to get enough of these vitamins. Every time you eat these foods your body stores them in your liver and body fat for future use. Vitamin A (also known as retinol) has several important functions, including: Vitamin D helps to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body, important for bone, teeth and muscle health. Vitamin D is made by our skin from sunlight and is also found in small amounts in some foods. oily fish в such as salmon, herring and mackerel fortified cereals, soya products and spreads Since vitamin D is found in only a small number of foods, it can be difficult to get enough from foods alone. Therefore, everyone aged over one year – including pregnant and breastfeeding women – should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D. Between April and September, the majority of people aged 5 years and above will probably get enough vitamin D from sunlight when they are outdoors. They might choose not to take a vitamin D supplement during these months. Some population groups (with very little or no sunshine exposure) will not obtain enough vitamin D from sunlight and are at greater risk of vitamin D deficiency. This includes: people who are seldom outdoors such as frail or housebound individuals and those who are confined indoors e. g. in institutions such as care homes people from minority ethnic groups with dark skin such as those of African, African-Caribbean and South Asian origin These people should take a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms vitamin D throughout the year.
Given the uncertainty of consistent sunshine in Scotland and the risks of exposing infants 0-6 months to the sun, it may be advisable for pregnant and lactating women to take a daily supplement throughout the year. In Scotland, 10 to 15 minutes of unprotected sun exposure is safe for all. After sunscreen is correctly applied, vitamin D synthesis is blocked. Staying in the sun for prolonged periods without the protection of sunscreen increases the risk of skin cancer. Vitamin K is important for healthy bones and blood clotting, an essential part of healing. Unlike fat-soluble vitamins, you need to consume water-soluble vitamins more often. Your body can\’t store these for future use and gets rid of any excess when you pass urine. Being water soluble, these vitamins can be lost or destroyed through heating, dissolving or exposure to air. To keep as many of these as possible, choose to steam or grill these foods instead of boiling (unless you\’re making soups or stews with the liquid). Vitamin C is found in a wide variety of fruit and vegetables. Good sources include: strawberries, blueberries and blackberries Thiamin is also known as vitamin B1. It helps the other B vitamins to break down and release energy from food and keep your nervous system healthy. Thiamin is found in most types of food.
Good sources include: vegetables в such as peas, asparagus and squash Riboflavin is also known as vitamin B2. ItВ helps to keep your skin, eyes and nervous system healthy and release energy from the food you eat. Niacin is also known as vitamin B3. It helps to release energy from the foods you eat and keep your skin and nervous system healthy. There are 2В forms of niacin в nicotinic acid and nicotinamide в both of which are found in food. Pantothenic acid helps to release energy from the food we eat. It\’s found naturally in most meats, vegetables and wholegrains, including: Pyridoxine is also known as vitamin B6. It helps the body to: whole cereals в such as oatmeal, brown rice and wholegrain bread Biotin is also known as vitamin B7 and is only needed in small amounts. It helps your body process (metabolise) fat. As the bacteria in your bowel make biotin, you may not need any additional biotin from your diet. However, it\’s still important to eat a healthy and varied diet. Vitamin B12 is not found naturally in plants and grains. If you\’re vegan, you should consider taking a B vitamin supplement to reduce the risk of developing vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia. Folic acid (also known as folate) works with vitamin B12 to form healthy red blood cells. It can also help to reduce the risk of central nervous system defects – such as spina bifida – in unborn babies. If you don\’t have enough folic acid in your diet you\’re at risk of developing folate deficiency anaemia. More about