dom pedro dessert, South African

Vitamins, an overview

Vitamins are vital for our every day life and the prevention of serious diseases like beriberi, scurvy, rickets and night blindness. Different organisms need different trace organic substances in their diet. Most mammals need the same vitamins as human, with only a few exceptions. One difference is the production of ascorbic acid. Animals synthesise this themselves, but humans can not do so. Plants can synthesise all the organic substances they need.

Vitamins are essential to life as well as good health and it assists in the formation of hormones, blood cells and our nervous systems. It releases energy from food that has been digested and regulates our metabolism. Nothing happens without the assistance of vitamins in our bodies. If we do not have enough vitamins in our bodies, it can lead to a deficiency.

Although organisms can survive for some time without vitamins, prolonged deficiency in any of the vitamins can lead to serious illness and can be potentially deadly. Sometimes the symptoms will not be seen until about a year later (deficiency in vitamin B12 for example), but with vitamins like B1, you will see the symptoms within a couple of weeks.

There are 13 well-identified vitamins that our bodies need and they are divided into 2 groups. Vitamin A, D, E and K are all fat-soluble and can be stored in body fat. You do not need to take these vitamins every single day. Vitamin B complex (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9 and B12) and vitamin C are all water-soluble. They are not stored in the body, with the exception of vitamin B12 that is stored in the liver. These vitamins need to be taken every single day, because they are lost through urine. Vitamin D is the only vitamin that can be produced by our bodies, the rest need to be taken in through our diet.

Something important you have to remember when eating foods that contain these vitamins we need, is that light, heat and processing of the food, are all enemies of vitamins and can destroy them. People that smoke and drink alcohol will need to take a vitamin supplement. When you consume a lot of alcohol, it dehydrates your body, preventing absorption of vitamins.

Remember, all the water-soluble vitamins are lost through urine. Smokers have a deficiency specifically in vitamin C, but also others. Remember when you take a supplement, to take the fat-soluble vitamins before meals and the water-soluble vitamins after meals. Most importantly, always ask your doctor or pharmacist before you use any vitamin supplements.

 

About the Author Lizel Salter

I was born in Vanderbijlpark, South Africa and grew up in Vereeniging. The first time I left home was in 2002 to go to England on a working holiday. Met my husband halfway around the world, got married in South Africa and now have 2 beautiful children. One boy and one girl... Started writing down recipes I grew up with when I was living in England and love sharing them with others.