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What Are Vitamins? - Definition, Types, Purpose & Examples

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  • 0:00 Vitamins Defined
  • 0:30 Types and Examples of Food
  • 2:25 Purpose of Vitamins
  • 4:35 Healthy Diet
  • 5:35 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Donna Ricketts

Donna Ricketts is a health educator with 15 years of professional experience designing health and wellness programs for adults and children.

In this lesson, you will learn about vitamins and the different types your body needs. You will also learn how vitamins function in your body, by the use of specific examples.

Vitamins Defined

If you are like most people, you've probably heard at least one of these sayings: 'Don't forget to take your vitamins!' or 'Eat your veggies -- they are packed with vitamins!' or maybe 'Need more energy? Take your vitamins!' But what exactly are vitamins?

Vitamins are nutrients your body needs to function and fight off disease. Your body cannot produce vitamins itself, so you must get them through food you eat or in some cases supplements. There are 13 vitamins that are essential to your body working well. Knowledge of the different types and understanding the purpose of these vitamins are important for good health.

Types and Examples of Foods

There are two types of vitamins: fat-soluble and water-soluble. Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in your fat cells, consequently requiring fat in order to be absorbed. Water-soluble vitamins are not stored in your body; therefore, they need to be replenished daily. Your body takes what it needs from the food you eat and then excretes what is not needed as waste. Here is a list of some vitamin types and common food sources:

Fat-Soluble Vitamins

  • Vitamin A - comes from orange colored fruits and vegetables; dark leafy greens, like kale
  • Vitamin D - can be found in fortified milk and dairy products; cereals; (and of course, sunshine!)
  • Vitamin E - is found in fortified cereals; leafy green vegetables; seeds; nuts
  • Vitamin K - can be found in dark green leafy vegetables; turnip/beet greens

Water-Soluble Vitamins

  • Vitamin B1, or Thiamin - come from whole grains; enriched grains; liver; nuts; seeds
  • Vitamin B2, or Riboflavin - comes from whole grains; enriched grains; dairy products
  • Vitamin B3, or Niacin - comes from meat; fish; poultry; whole grains
  • Vitamin B5, or Pantothenic Acid - comes from meat; poultry; whole grains
  • Vitamin B6, or Pyridoxine - comes from fortified cereals; soy products
  • Vitamin B7, or Biotin - is found in fruits; meats
  • Vitamin B9, or Folic Acid (Folate) - comes from leafy vegetables
  • Vitamin B12 - comes from fish; poultry; meat; dairy products
  • Vitamin C - comes from citrus fruits and juices, such as oranges and grapefruits; red, yellow, and green peppers

Purpose of Vitamins

Vitamins are used in many different ways inside your body. While vitamins do not directly serve as a source of energy, they do help the enzymes that generate energy from nutrients such as carbohydrates and fats. Here are some more ways vitamins function in your body:

Vitamin A

One of vitamin A's main roles is in the production of retinal. Your body uses retinal in the rods and cones of your eyes to sense light and help prevent night blindness. Vitamin A is also important for your teeth, bones, skin, reproduction, and a healthy immune system.

B Complex Vitamins

The B complex vitamins include thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), biotin (B7), folic acid (B9), and B12. They serve many purposes in your body, including aiding in energy production, making red blood cells, and making new DNA so cells can multiply. They are also required for healthy nerve and brain function, intestinal health, and cardiovascular health.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C, an antioxidant, may help prevent cell damage and reduce risk for certain cancers, heart disease, and other diseases. Vitamin C is vital to the formation of collagen, which keeps your blood vessels strong and holds your teeth in their sockets. In addition, vitamin C is important to wound healing and helping your body absorb iron.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium and phosphorus from the foods you eat. It deposits calcium and phosphorus in bones and teeth, making them stronger and healthier. Vitamin D also helps protect you against infections by keeping your immune system healthy.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is an antioxidant that keeps the blood clean and protects cells from damage. It also helps your body use vitamin K.

Vitamin K

Vitamin K helps make protein that allows your blood to clot properly.

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