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 What are VITAMINS?

The word Vitamin was coined in 1912 after the Latin word ‘Vit‘  which means life. In fact, Vitamins are essential for the functioning of the body, found in many food substances. They are of many kinds and each vitamin has a separate role in keeping our body healthy. Let’s discuss the 6 most important Vitamins. They are A, B, C, D E, and K.

Why are vitamins essential for us?

Carbohydrates, proteins, fats, water, and salts form an essential part of our food. Vitamins also belong to the same category. Lack of Vitamins can cause many diseases. Some complications like indigestion, weakening of eyesight, general weakness, tiredness, dryness of skin, inflammation of gums, weakening of bones, etc., appear in the body due to deficiency of Vitamins.


Vitamin A

Vitamin A is necessary to enable clear vision in dim light.

Redness and inflammation of the eye and gradual loss of vision may follow.

The central portion of the eye (cornea) may lose its transparency and become opaque and soft, and if not treated in time may lead to total blindness.

Good Sources of Vitamin A

  • It is present in some animal foods like butter and ghee, whole milk, curds, egg yolk, liver, etc.
  • The liver oils of certain fish like cod, halibut, and shark. Fish is a natural source of vitamin A.
  • Since most of the vitamin A  is met from leafy vegetables such as spinach, amaranth leaves, coriander leaves, drumstick leaves, curry leaves, mint, radish leaves, etc.,
  • Riped fruits such as mangoes, papaya, and tomatoes are rich in carotene.
  • Among other vegetables, carrots and yellow pumpkin are good sources.  It can be said that in general the greener the leafy vegetable, the higher would be the carotene content, and consequently, the outer dark green leaves of cabbage are richer in carotene.
  • Who cannot properly digest the fibrous leafy vegetables; it is advisable to take from foods such as butter, liver, egg, in which it is present. Vitamin A can also be given in the form of cod or shark liver oil.
  • Animal foods rich in vitamin A are more expensive, and therefore the easiest and cheapest way of ensuring the sufficiency of vitamin A is to increase the intake of green leafy vegetables.  About 50gm of the common leafy vegetables a day will furnish adequate amounts of this vitamin for adults as well as for children.
  • Cow ghee is richer in vitamin A than buffalo ghee. The yellow color of cow ghee is due to the presence of carotene Generally Yellow color fruits and vegetables are the rich source of this Vitamin.
  • It may be mentioned that the daily requirements of an adult are in the neighborhood of 750 Mg of vitamin A derived either from foods of animal or of vegetable origin.  The requirements are greater in pregnancy and lactation and during growth.

Vitamin B

There are many vitamins grouped under B – vitamins, but only those whose importance in human nutrition has been well established will be discussed below.

Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)

It is an important member of the B group of vitamins.

Prolonged deficiency of thiamine in the diet of humans is one of the main factors in the cause of the disease called beriberi.

In the dry beriberi, there is a loss of appetite, tingling and numbness in the legs and hands, and a dropping of the feet.

While in wet beriberi there is Edema, palpitation and breathlessness, and weakness of heart muscle leading to heart failure.

Good Sources of Thiamine

  • Yeast and the outer layers of rice, wheat, and other cereals have high thiamine content.
  • Unmilled cereals, pulses, and nuts are the rich source of thiamine. Removal of the outer bran layers of grains results in removal of thiamine and therefore diets largely composed of raw milled rice contain insufficient thiamine and hence may cause beriberi.
  • Diets based on whole wheat, any of the millets, raw hand – pounded rice or parboiled rice (hand-pounded or machine milled) usually supply thiamine in sufficient amounts
  • The deficiency of thiamine arises when highly milled raw rice is consumed as the main ingredient in the diet with practically negligible amounts of other thiamine – rich foods such as pulses.
  • Thus the deficiency of thiamine in the diet affects not only the adults but may have repercussions also in the nutrition of the breast-fed infant.
  • We may also lose this Vitamin by cooking our food with baking soda.

 B2 Complex Vitamins

Besides thiamine, there are several members of the B group of vitamins which are referred to as “B – complex”.

They include riboflavin, nicotinic acid (niacin), pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, folic acid, vitamin Biz choline, inositol, and biotin.


Some of the symptoms usually attributed to an inadequate supply of this vitamin in the diet are soreness of the tongue, cracking at the angles mouth, redness of the eyes, burning sensation in the eyes, and scaliness of the skin in the region between the nose and the angles of the lips.

Scrotal dermatitis can also be a result of riboflavin deficiency.

Good sources of Riboflavin

  • Milk and milk products including skimmed milk, buttermilk, curds, cheese and whey, eggs, liver, and green leafy vegetables.
  • Wheat, millets, and pulses are fair sources of riboflavin, but rice is a particularly poor source.
  • The requirement of the vitamin has not been determined with any certainty: but the figure usually reported is around 1.5 mg per day, and there is good evidence that poor Indian diets, which contain little milk or meat, are often very deficient in riboflavin. 

Vitamin B3  Nicotinic acid (also called niacin)

Lack of this vitamin in the diet causes the disease called pellagra.

Dermatitis appears over the skin that is exposed to the sun such as the back of the hands and feet, and generally, it is symmetrically distributed in the body.

In India, pellagra has been observed in areas where Jowar (Sorghum ) is the main cereal consumed

Good Sources of Vitamin B3

  • Whole cereals, pulses, nuts, and meat are good sources of nicotinic acid, and groundnut is particularly rich in this vitamin.  Although poor in nicotinic acid content, milk is also effective in preventing pellagra because of its richness in tryptophan.
  • The requirements for this vitamin is approximately 10mg per day. The requirement for an adult is about 16 mg.

Folic acid

Folic Acid helps in the multiplication and maturation of cells. Its deficiency of this vitamin results in certain types of anemia especially in infants and in pregnant women.

Fresh green vegetables, liver, pulses are good sources of this vitamin. The requirement of this vitamin to be about 100micro grams per day.

Vitamin B7 (Biotin)

This looks after the surface of the mouth, tongue, and gums. The deficiency of this vitamin adversely affects the inner lining of the stomach and intestines, thereby causing disorder indigestion.

Eggs, meat, milk, and green vegetables are the main source of this Vitamin.

Vitamin B12   

This vitamin helps with the proper functioning of the central nervous system. Also for the proper utilization of food for bodybuilding purposes.

Deficiencies of this vitamin can result in anemia, pains, toughness in arms, and partial paralysis.

Good sources of Vitamin B12

Only animal foods like milk, meat, and liver appear to contain vitamin B12, and hence people subsisting mainly on vegetable foods are prone to suffer from a deficiency of vitamin B12

Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)

Vitamin D

This vitamin prevents rickets and osteomalacia. Vitamin D plays an important role in the absorption of calcium from the intestine and in the deposition of lime salt in the bone.

Osteomalacia, manifesting itself in the first instance by pain in the bones. A good supply of vitamin D during pregnancy benefits the mother and helps in the satisfactory development of the infant.

Good sources of Vitamin D 

It founds in the liver, egg yolk, milk, obtained from animals fed on green pastures and exposed to sunlight.

Fish liver oil is its richest natural source.

Common foods of vegetable origin do not contain vitamin D.

Vitamin D is formed in the skin by the action of sunlight. Hence rickets generally does not occur among children exposed to sunlight but are apt to occur in infants living in dark houses.

The cheapest way of obtaining this vitamin is by exposure of the body to sunlight.

Medicinal preparations of vitamin D costs money, while the sun is free.

About 200 to 400 International Units of vitamin D are the daily requirements of a child.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E contains antioxidant properties and it also prevents the oxidation of carotene and Vitamin A. Deficiency of this vitamin badly affects the blood, brain, and liver.

It founds in grains and oils.

Vitamin K

Green leafy vegetables are a good source of Vitamin K. It helps in clotting of blood on wounds and for prevention of bleeding

If we take balanced food, we get all these vitamins.