There are two categories of vitamins: Fat-Soluble and Water-Soluble. Fat soluble vitamins are Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, and Vitamin K. Water soluble vitamins are Vitamin C and Vitamin B-complex.
Fat soluble vitamins dissolve in organic solvents whereas water soluble vitamins dissolve in water. Fat soluble vitamins can be stored for longer periods of time than water soluble vitamins. A deficiency of fat soluble water happens gradually over time while deficiency of water soluble vitamins can happen rapidly.
Vitamin A (Retinol)
Vitamin A is found in animals as retinol and in plants as carotenoids. The RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) is 5000 International Units (UI). Good sources of retinol are beef liver, egg and butter. Good sources of carotenes are carrots, sweet potato, spinach, and apricots. Heating and processing the plant carotenes increases the contents of Vitamin A because the breaking of the plant crystals frees up more of Vitamin A for consumption. Vitamin A is important for low light vision, immune system, epithelial cell growth, and healthy bones. Deficiency in Vitamin A can cause dryness and itching of the eyes, poor night vision and dry skin, hair and nails.
Vitamin D (Cholecalciferol)
Vitamin D is important for bone and cell growth, calcium metabolism, and immune function. The RDA for vitamin D is 400 UI. Deficiency of vitamin D can cause rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults. There is also increased risk of osteoporosis and fractures. Great sources for vitamin D is milk, salmon, tuna, and eggs.
Vitamin E (Tocopherol)
Vitamin E is very important as an antioxidant and as an antithrombotic, which slows clotting action. The RDA for this vitamin is 12-15 IU. Wheat germ, sunflower seeds and sweet potatoes are excellent sources of vitamin E. Neurological disorders, skeletal muscle weakness and anemia are signs of vitamin E deficiency. It is important to note that Vitamin E is not recommended when taking anticoagulant medication because there is an increase in demand for vitamin K.
Vitamin K (Phylloquinone)
Vitamin K is needed in clotting blood and for bone metabolism. Longer bleeding times and bruising easily are some signs of vitamin K deficiency. Green tea, spinach, broccoli, beef liver, and eggs are good sources. It is interesting to note that vitamin K is not included in most vitamin supplements.
Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)
Vitamin C is very soluble in water and is stable in an acidic pH environment. The RDA is 60mg. Vitamin C is important as an antioxidant, for collagen synthesis, neurotransmitter synthesis, and helpful in increased iron absorption. Scurvy, which is the swelling and bleeding of the gums, bruising easily, slow wound healing, and weak and soft bones are some of the effects of Vitamin C deficiency. Good sources for Vitamin C are oranges, papayas, broccoli, apples, spinach and tomatoes.
B1-Thiamin is important in the transmission of nerve impulses, energy metabolism, and protein synthesis. Deficiency of B1 can cause muscle tenderness, mental confusion, slowed reflexes and movement of the extremities. Sources of B1 are Brewer’s yeast, pork chops, legumes, oatmeal and cereal.
B2-Riboflavin is important as an antioxidant and for energy metabolism. Cracks around the mouth, dermatitis, depression and personality changes are some of the symptoms of B2 deficiency. B2 is found in livers, milk, broccoli, and mushrooms.
B3-Niacin is important for energy and cell metabolism, DNA replication and in regulating blood sugar level. Pellagra: dermatitis, diarrhea, depression and eventually death are all signs of B3 deficiency. Sources of B3 are peanuts, tuna, chicken breast, liver, milk, eggs, and mushrooms.
B5-Pantothenic Acid is needed for biochemical synthesis and energy metabolism. Deficiency of this can lead to fatigue, depression, burning in lower legs and feet, insomnia and muscle and joint aches. Sources of B5 are organ meats, eggs, fish, and whole grains.
B6-Pyridoxine is important in protein and lipid metabolism, production of antibodies, and neurotransmitter synthesis. Poor growth, anemia, depression, immune suppression, and peripheral nerve dysfunction are symptoms of B6 deficiency. Sources for B6 are meats, potatoes, eggs, and bananas.
B9-Folic Acid is needed for fetal development, red blood cell synthesis, cell growth and protein synthesis. Deficiency in this vitamin can lead to glossitis, birth defects, anemia, and irritability. Eggs, liver, Brewer’s yeast, kidney beans, spinach and broccoli are good sources.
B12-Cobalamin is important for nervous tissue synthesis and folate metabolism. Pernicious anemia, weight loss, and impairments of the sensory, motor and cognitive functions are some of the symptoms of B12 deficiency. Good sources of B12 is found in liver, meats, egg, salmon and milk.
Biotin is important for amino acid and cell metabolism and is especially found in liver, eggs, milk and yeast. Inositol is important for liver and bone marrow growth and is found in fruits, cereal, nuts and vegetables. Choline is needed to mobilize fats and is found in egg yolks, chicken, beef and liver.