Vitamins are essential nutrients that execute hundreds of roles throughout the body. Vitamins and minerals are nutrients your body needs in small amounts to work properly and stay healthy.
You should be able to get all the vitamins and minerals you need from a healthy balanced diet, but why exactly are they important and which vitamins are needed for what functions?
Essential nutrients for your body
Each day, your body renews skin, muscle, and bone. To do this, we need the right number of vitamins, and minerals.
Vitamins are considered essential nutrients, they help perform functions like strengthen bones, heal cuts and support your immune system and convert food into energy and repair cellular damage.
Why do we need water-soluble vitamins?
Water-soluble vitamins are found in the liquid found in the foods we eat. They are absorbed straight into the bloodstream as your food is digested or as a supplement dissolves.
It’s pretty impressive that a whopping 60% of the human body consists of water allowing the majority of water-soluble vitamins to easily circulate around the body. Our kidneys consistently regulate the number of water-soluble vitamins, releasing excesses through urine.
Some examples of water-soluble vitamins are:
- B vitamins
- Biotin (vitamin B7)
- Folic acid (folate, vitamin B9)
- Niacin (vitamin B3)
- Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5)
- Riboflavin (vitamin B2)
- Thiamine (vitamin B1)
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin C
These vitamins play a crucial role in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. We've listed a few examples for you below:
Release energy: various B vitamins are main components of certain coenzymes (molecules that aid enzymes) that help release energy from food.
Produce energy: Thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, and biotin engage in energy creation.
Build proteins and cells: vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid absorb amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) and help cells reproduce.
Make collagen: one of several roles played by vitamin C is to assist in collagen production, which binds together wounds, supports blood vessel walls, and creates a base for teeth and bones.
What happens if we don’t get enough vitamins?
If you are deprived of vitamins, it increases the risk of developing a deficiency. This can happen for several reasons, including lifestyle, health conditions, poor nutrition, a lack of physical activity or in extreme circumstances, severe lack of sunlight.
Although rare, it is worth knowing that if you are on a vegan diet you are at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency. A deficiency in vitamin B12 can cause fatigue, depression and potential nervous system issues.
Vitamin B12 is found almost exclusively in animal-based foods and is therefore a nutrient of potential concern for those following a vegetarian or vegan diet, however, you should be able to get all vitamins you need from a healthy and balanced diet.
Smokers tend to have low levels of vitamin C, heavy drinkers can lack B vitamins, and if you are overweight or obese it is possible you may have low levels of vitamins C, D, B12.
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is important for the health of your eyes, your immune system, skin, lungs, digestive and urinary system. It is also important in wound healing and cell reproduction. In general, not getting enough vitamins can lead to fatigue and low immunity.
What happens if we take too many vitamins?
Although vitamins are extremely beneficial to general health it is still possible to have too much of a good thing. There is a fine line between having enough nutrients and having too much, which (in extreme circumstances) has the potential to cause harm.
If you are considering consuming supplements, avoid doubling up on your vitamin intake and choose either a multivitamin or single supplements. For example, a multivitamin that contains vitamin A taken alongside cod liver oil, should be avoided as both are rich in vitamin A, which when taken in excess every day over several years can become harmful to liver and bone function.
Eating a balanced, healthy diet remains the best way to provide your body with the vitamins it needs*, supplements can help you to ‘top-up’ your vitamin intake, if you struggle to get enough.
If you are interested in introducing vitamins into your daily routine, check out our wide range of effervescent vitamin and mineral tablets online or find them in-store at Boots, Superdrug, Tesco and Ocado in the UK.
*Supplements should not replace a balanced diet and an active lifestyle.