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Inside Our Food

Vitamins in Food | Why do we need vitamins?

“Contains vitamin B & C” is often mentioned on food packaging. But what are vitamins, and why do we need them?

What are vitamins?

Vitamins are protective substances that are essential for your bodily functions.1 Vitamins build up your immune system and protect you from diseases. Except for vitamins D and K, our body doesn’t naturally produce all the necessary vitamins. To get your daily dose of most nutrients, you need to eat certain foods.

There are 13 kinds of vitamins, and they can be divided into two categories – fat-soluble vitamins and water-soluble vitamins.2 Fat-soluble vitamins (like vitamins A, D, E and K) are found in foods high in fats, such as meat, fish, milk and eggs. Vitamins A, E and K are also present in leafy and green vegetables like spinach, broccoli and cabbage. Water-soluble vitamins include different kinds of B- and C-vitamins.

Fun Fact: Vitamin B1-12 is also known as B-complex.

Why do we need vitamins?

Vitamins are crucial for many processes in our body, from boosting the immune system, to aiding a healthy metabolism. Each vitamin has its own benefits:

  • Vitamins B2 and A are important vitamins for healthy skin and eyes. You can find these in leafy vegetables, bread and cereals (not only carrots like most of us think!)2
  • B vitamins are part of enzymes that ensure a good metabolism and energy metabolism. They are also important for the development of red blood cells.1
  • Vitamin B11 supplements are often advised for pregnant women because B11 plays an important role in the development of unborn children. After birth, children and teenagers are still encouraged to continue the consumption of B11 to support their growth. This vitamin is present in foods like green vegetables and citrus fruits.3
  • Vitamin C is a key antioxidant that supports your immune system functions. That’s why it is often advised to eat a lot of fruit and veggies because those are the only foods that naturally contain vitamin C. Citrus fruit, kale, and red peppers are high in vitamin C, but many other kinds of fruit and vegetables will also help to increase your energy and immunity.2
  • Vitamin B12 is important for the good functioning of the nervous system. It is present in meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, and milk products. You can also find it in seaweed, but seeing as B12 is not commonly found in plant-based foods, vegans are often advised to take supplements to make sure they also get the recommended amount of B12.2

How many vitamins does a human need?

To prevent yourself from getting a vitamin deficiency, you should eat a balanced diet with many different nutrients. Varying between meat, fish, and different fruits and vegetables is the best way to get most of the necessary vitamins. As mentioned before, some people may need extra vitamins, for example, children, people on a special diet, or pregnant women.

Vitamin intake needs can also depend on the season. For example, it’s often advised to eat more green vegetables high in vitamins A and C during winter. And as there’s less sunlight in the winter, we absorb less vitamin D, so you might also need to focus on getting this vitamin elsewhere.2 Luckily, you can also ‘eat’ vitamin D if there is no sun, food rich in vitamin D like fish or eggs.

Be careful with vitamin supplements

Don’t go overboard with vitamin supplements, though! Consuming too many vitamins could cause health disorders and even be harmful.4 It’s unlikely that overconsumption of vitamins occurs with food intake, but it can happen if you take too many supplements. That’s why it is important to always check with your doctor before taking vitamin supplements.4 Eating varied, nutrient-dense meals is the best way to get all the vitamins you need to thrive.5

Fat-soluble vitaminsWater-soluble vitamins
Vitamin AVitamin C
Vitamin DVitamin B1
Vitamin EVitamin B2
Vitamin KVitamin B3
Vitamin B5
Vitamin B6
Vitamin B7
Vitamin B9
Vitamin B12
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