The subject of vitamins often invites scorn from skeptical members of the medical establishment and the general public. Seemingly inevitably, scoffers will make caustic comments about “health nuts” or “food faddists” and then let the matter rest there. On the other hand, widespread vitamin deficiencies have caused health problems throughout human history (obvious examples include scurvy and beri-beri, eek!) and continue to do so today; due to declining nutrient content in food due to industrial farming practices, as well inadequately varied diets, many people simply don’t get the vitamins they need to stave off serious dysfunction – let alone function at an optimal level.
Before going any further, let’s define the key term. Merriam-Webster states that a vitamin is “any of various organic substances that are essential in minute quantities to the nutrition of most animals and some plants, act especially as coenzymes and precursors of coenzymes in the regulation of metabolic processes but do not provide energy or serve as building units, and are present in natural foodstuffs or sometimes produced within the body.” With that in mind, let’s look at thirteen essential vitamins.
The Thirteen Vitamins Required by Humans
In humans, the following vitamins are considered to be crucial for the proper functioning of the body:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
- B Vitamins (folate, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12)
As we implied above, vitamin requirements vary across species. For example, most animals do not require supplemental vitamin C. Vitamins perform a number of different functions in the body – some are necessary for proper neurological function, others are involved in metabolic regulation, and et cetera. The essential similarity between vitamins is that their presence in the body is a necessary prerequisite for health.
It is important to stress that with vitamins, more is not always better. For instance, excessive consumption of vitamin A by pregnant women can lead to fetal abnormalities. Overdoses of niacin can lead to severe liver damage, and overdoses of other B vitamins can cause neurological issues. When looking into increasing your dietary vitamin intake, you need to make sure that you are consuming safe amounts of your chosen vitamins.
Here’s a list of foods that are rich sources of certain vitamins. As you can see by perusing this list, consuming antioxidant fruits such as cantaloupes provides a significant quantity of vitamin C, which is the powerhouse responsible for much of the antioxidant effect of these foodstuffs. It is our sincere hope that you will take this information to heart and use it to make dietary changes that will improve your overall well-being. Here’s to your health!