Vitamins are molecules that are needed in small amounts by the body for health and growth, and they must be obtained by the diet daily. The exceptions to this rule are vitamin D, which is made in the skin when exposed to sunlight and vitamin K, which can be synthesised by gut bacteria in small amounts. Vitamins play an essential role in releasing energy from food and in speeding up many chemical reactions that occur in the body every second. They also play important roles in the formation of body components, such as blood and bone as well as being antioxidants.
Vitamin A is essential for a variety of functions including vision, skin health and new cell growth. Good sources include tomatoes and dark green and orange vegetables and orange fruits, such as broccoli, spinach, carrots, pumpkin and apricots.
Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)
Vitamin B1 is needed for energy metabolism and the proper functioning of the nervous system. Good sources include wholegrains, soybeans, peas, beans, pistachio nuts.
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
Vitamin B2 is needed for energy metabolism, tissue growth, and maintaining good vision. Good sources include dairy products (milk, cheese, yoghurts), broccoli, spinach, mushrooms and eggs.
Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
Vitamin B3 is needed for energy metabolism, proper digestion, and a healthy nervous system. Good sources include kidney beans, peanuts, mushrooms, milk, cheese, chicken and salmon.
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
Vitamin B6 is needed for amino acid metabolism, cognitive function and immune function. Good sources include wholegrains, spinach, broccoli, carrots banana and yoghurt.
Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin required by the body to make red blood cells and DNA. It is also needed to make a protective layer around nerve cells. This vitamin is found naturally in animal products, such as meat, dairy products and eggs. There are some plant sources of vitamin B12, however the form of the vitamin found in these foods is inactive and not useful to the body. People who only eat plant foods (i.e. vegans) should include adequate amounts of plant foods that contain added vitamin B12 (e.g. fortified soy drinks and soy-based meat-alternative products), or take a B12 supplement.
Folate (Folic acid)
Folate is a B vitamin, essential for all the family, as it has an important role in the development of all body cells. It is especially important during periods of rapid growth. All women planning pregnancy or who might become pregnant should increase their intake of folate. This is because an adequate folate intake in the month before and the first three months of pregnancy may reduce the risk of babies being born with certain birth defects, such as Spina Bifida. Good sources of folate include fortified breakfast cereals and breads, dark green leafy vegetables, some fruits and juices (e.g. bananas, oranges and rockmelon), legumes (e.g. chickpeas) and nuts (such as peanuts).
Vitamin C is an antioxidant vitamin needed for the formation of collagen to hold the cells together and for healthy teeth, gums and blood vessels. It also improves iron absorption and resistance to infection. Fruit and vegetables are good sources of vitamin C.
Vitamin D promotes absorption and use of calcium and phosphate for healthy bones and teeth. The body synthesises vitamin D when our skin is exposed to at least 10-15 minutes sunshine per day. Longer time is required in winter months and in those with darker skin tones. Food sources include fortified milk, cheese, whole eggs, liver, salmon, and fortified margarine.
Vitamin E is a strong antioxidant that can help protect the bodys cells against damage. Food sources of vitamin E include wholegrain products, nuts and seeds, wheatgerm and vegetable oils.
Vitamin K is necessary for normal blood clotting and synthesis of proteins found in the bone and kidneys. About half of an individuals vitamin K requirements come from bacteria that reside in the gastrointestinal tract. The other half can be obtained from foods such as leafy green vegetables and cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage.