Vitamin – Essential Nutrients for Health

Vitamins are the stars of the nutrition scene. Nutrition,

the science of food, is the study of the nutrients and

substances in foods. Scientists examine how the balances

of food compounds relate to health and disease, and explore

how they interact during the process of ingestion,

absorption, utilization, and excretion.

There are six essential nutrients for health and body

maintenance: vitamins, minerals, water, fats, proteins, and

carbohydrates. They are the building blocks of life, and we

obtain them through our diet. Our bodies don’t make them.

At this time, it is known that there are fourteen vitamins

required by humans. Vitamins, first discovered in the

late 1800s, are organic compounds found in foods. Since

they are organic – containing carbon – they can be

destroyed by heat, unlike their companion essential

nutrient group, the incombustible minerals.

In the early 1900s, when scientists were continuing to

discover new vitamins, they named newly found compounds by

alphabet: A, B, C, D, E~. K. Note: The compounds that had

been named F, G, H, I, J were later disqualified as

vitamins, not fitting the definition: organic compounds

needed in small quantities for life growth and maintenance.

Compounds that have been given letters with numbers, B-1, B-

2~ were originally thought to be one compound, but later

determined to be several different compounds with specific

functions for each.

Vitamins are in one of two classes: fat soluble or water

soluble. Vitamin C and the B vitamins (such as niacin and

riboflavin) are water soluble. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are

fat soluble. Which type of solubility each vitamin has

will indicate which foods contain them. Basically, non-fat

food has no fat soluble vitamins. However, highly colored

vegetables like carrots do contain beta-carotene – a proto-

vitamin which can be converted to active vitamin A.

Water soluble vitamins are easily shed by the body and

lost from foods during preparation. Since they aren’t

stored by the body, we need to ingest them every day.

Nevertheless it is best to avoid taking them excessively.

On the other hand, fat soluble vitamins are readily stored

by the body. Thus caution is necessary to avoid excessive

quantities; it is possible to build up toxic levels of the

fat soluble vitamins.

People commonly wonder if they need to take vitamin

supplements, and which vitamins should be taken for good

health. The situation today is that our foods are coming

to us from conditions that previously were never the case

for humans. Modern food is highly processed, and is

frequently grown in depleted soils. Our foods are picked

unripe and therefore incomplete from the standpoint of

nutrition. Then they are shipped and handled more than the

ideal. Therefore, it seems unlikely that the average

person’s diet provides sufficient amounts of necessary

nutrients – vitamins and minerals in particular. Instead,

we are consuming excessive amounts of harmful compounds

like preservatives and refined sugars.

A suggestion. Do your own research project. Keep track

of what you eat for a week or two. Eat normally, and just

write down what you ate and how much of it. Then either

buy or check out from your library a book on vitamins that

will tell you approximately what you got from each food

source. Add it up and compare to the recommended daily

allowances. See how you’re doing, and if you think it’s a

good idea to make some improvements, consult with a

professional nutritionist, naturopathic physician, or other

healthcare professional to come up with a good plan of diet

and nutritional supplements. You’ll see what a profound

difference good nutrition can make in your health.