The first thing to know is that vitamins (along with minerals and amino acids) are considered “essential” nutrients, that is — you need them. So whether you get your vitamins from food or from supplement manufacturers like Kirkman®, knowing about these nutrients that make your body run is a good idea.
What Are Vitamins?
Vitamins are important contributors to normal metabolism or the chemical processes that must occur in your body to maintain life. Scientists have said that to be considered a “vitamin” the nutrient must be organic, that is, it contains one carbon atom in its molecular structure.
Only two vitamins can be produced by the body.
These are Vitamin D-3, produced by the intake of sun on the skin and vitamin K, made in small amounts by friendly bacteria in the gut. Most of our vitamins come from plants and even vitamins from animal products, such as eggs, come from plants that were ingested by an animal or created by bacteria.
Vitamins are also associated with specific health conditions caused by a deficit of a vitamin nutrient. Vitamins are either fat-soluble or water-soluble. Fat soluble vitamins are absorbed through the intestinal tract and are stored in the fatty tissues of the body and the liver. They can stay in the body as reserves for days, some of them for months. Water soluble vitamins do not get stored in the body for long and are excreted in urine. They need to be continually replenished.
How Many Vitamins Are There? What Do They Do? What are Sources?
There are currently 13 recognized vitamins. Below is a list of vitamins and some of their key characteristics:
(Retinol, Retinal) 0366-001: Promotes eye health.
Liver, cod liver oil, carrots, broccoli, sweet potato, kale, spinach, pumpkin, egg, apricot, cantaloupe and melon
(Thiamine) 0095-200: Promotes immune, heart and brain health.
Yeast, pork, cereal grains, sunflower seeds, brown rice, kale, asparagus, cauliflower, potatoes, oranges, liver and eggs
(Riboflavin) 0095-200: Produces energy and provides antioxidant activity to fight damaging free radicals; also, needed for vitamin B-6 and folate utilization.
Cottage cheese, milk, yogurt, meat, eggs, fish, green beans, bananas, asparagus, okra and persimmons
(Niacin, Niacinamide) 0095-200: Promotes heart and metabolic health.
Mushrooms, asparagus, nuts, dates, tomatoes, fish, milk, eggs, whole-grains, brewer’s yeast, legumes and leafy vegetables
(Pantothenic Acid) 0095-200: Enables the use of fats, carbohydrates or protein as energy sources; aids in hormone production and promotes immune system health.
Root vegetables, leafy vegetables, mushrooms, turnip greens, fruit, legumes, meat, eggs and dairy
(Pyridoxine, Pyridoxal, Pyridoxamine) 0268-100, 0291-120: Promotes glucose and protein metabolism and the manufacture of hemoglobin for lymph nodes, thymus and spleen health; also, benefits the central nervous system.
Salmon, carrots, meat, avocados, banana, leafy greens, legumes and nuts
(Biotin, Vitamin H) 0382-120: Supports the health of the skin, nerves, digestive tract, metabolism and cells.
Egg yolk and liver
(Folic Acid, Folinic Acid, 5MTHF) 0275-200, 0293-180, 0425-180, 0477-120, 0478-060: Promotes healthy pregnancies and births; supports adrenal function and a healthy nervous system; also, necessary for key metabolic processes.
Green vegetables, beans, asparagus, bananas, melons, legumes, yeast and mushrooms
(Methylcobalamin, Cyanocobalamin, Hydroxocobalamin) 0292-002: Promotes proper red blood cell formation, neurological function and DNA synthesis.
Fish, shellfish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, dairy products, some fortified cereals and soy products
(Ascorbic Acid) 0024-100/250, 0393-007, 0438-007, 0479-100/250: Helps form and maintain bones, skin and blood vessels and produces collagen, L-carnitine and neurotransmitters; also, metabolizes proteins and provides antioxidant activity.
Fruits and vegetables
(Ergocalciferol [vitamin D-2], cholecalciferol [vitamin D-3]) 0378-120, 0380-120, 0434-120: Supports the immune system, brain and nervous system; also supports healthy bones and teeth.
Fatty fish, beef liver, cheese, egg yolk and foods fortified with vitamin D, such as dairy products, orange juice and cereals
(tocopherol, tocotrienol) 0030-100/250: Supports heart, brain and nervous system health.
Avocado, eggs, milk, nuts, leafy vegetables, kiwi fruit, green vegetables, wheat germ and whole grains
(phylloquinone, menaquinone): Supports proper blood clotting, bone metabolism and the regulation of calcium levels.
Leafy vegetables like kale and swiss chard, parsley, kiwi fruit and avocado
Food vs Supplements for Vitamins
In 2016, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that the majority of American adults used dietary supplements. The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) that has tracked the use of dietary supplements in the U.S. for more than 15 years, reported in 2016 that 71% of U.S. adults, or more than 170 million Americans, reported taking dietary supplements.
The popularity of dietary supplements as a source of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients reflects the public’s opinion that they can’t get enough of the nutrients they need from food. There is world-wide concern that our modern farming and food processing practices are adulterating and robbing the nutrients in our food supply. Additionally, busier lifestyles take many individuals in the direction of fast-food restaurants with their convenient staples of foods that are calorie-rich and nutrition poor.
Let’s not lose sight of the important issue, which is getting the nutrients you need. Dietary supplements provide a convenient and safe alternative to food to get those needs met.