What are vitamins all about?
What are vitamins all about?
The importance of eating a healthy diet is always being talked about. So is the importance of eating five to eight portions of fruit and vegetables a day. However, who actually does eat a healthy diet and understands why it is important?
What we eat every day - our diet - is vital for our overall wellbeing. Within our diet vitamins are important and have their part to play in keeping us healthy. It is important to eat a variety of different foods so that a range of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants are consumed.
All vitamins perform different roles, but overall they mainly support cellular function and enable the food that has been eaten to be converted into energy for the body to use. The importance of consuming vitamins starts at the beginning of life when a foetus grows in a pregnant woman, and continues being vital into old age.
Each vitamin has a different role to play in the metabolism of the body and though some of these roles may seem very small it is amazing how important there are. In a nutshell:
- Vitamin A for sight and the immune system.
- Vitamin B in all its varieties, including Folic Acid, is essential for the metabolism and how the body provides us energy. Folic acid helps to make DNA and red blood cells.
- Vitamin C is essential for the immune system and the absorption of iron
- Vitamin D is needed for a host of purposes including the absorption of calcium and strong bones
- Vitamin E as an anti-oxidant
- Vitamin K helps with blood clotting
Some are easier to consume than others and some may be affected by other elements which enables or restricts their function. For instance vitamin D is obtained by sunlight and needs calcium in order to be utilised. Vitamin B12 is often not absorbed as there may be issues in old age or with coeliac disease which makes this difficult.
Some vitamins are fat soluble and some are water soluble. The water soluble vitamins need to be taken on a more regular basis as they are flushed from the body every day and cannot be stored. Vitamins that are water soluble are vitamin C and the B vitamins. Fat soluble vitamins, on the other hand, are stored in the liver. Fat soluble vitamins are: Vitamin A, D, E and K.
When cooking vegetables it is important to be aware of the best cooking methods to utilise these vitamins. Water that has been used to cook the vegetables should be used to make a sauce or gravy. Steaming vegetables is a good way to try and preserve their vitamins. Vitamin C is very volatile and is lost very quickly. It is best only to cut vegetables up when you are ready to cook or eat them as they will oxidise and lose their vitamins.
Overall, if a healthy and varied diet is eaten there should be no need for vitamin supplementation. Indeed supplementation should be viewed with caution, especially around vitamin A, which can be taken in quantities that are too high. For this reason liver which is rich in Vitamin A should not be eaten more than once a week.