The Vital Life Force behind a Balanced Meal: Vitamins
Have you ever wondered why vitamins are important to us? Why do health nuts go gaga over them? These micronutrients are catalysts for so many important functions in the human body. Without adequate vitamin intake, we can develop serious health conditions. Let's discuss the importance of vitamins and eating a balanced meal with your personalized Ombre food suggestions.
What Do Vitamins Do?
The word "vitamin" is a short version of Vital Amine. Amines, or amino acids, are the building blocks of proteins.
Vitamins are organic compounds that are essential in minute quantities. They support the body's various physiological functions.
These organic compounds cannot be synthesized by the body. Their influence on our bodily functions is precisely why vitamins need to be supplemented through our foods regularly to meet our needs.
What Is A Vitamin?
Vitamins have three main characteristics:
- They are naturally available in the foods we eat, usually present in very small quantities.
- They are essential for normal physiological functions of the body – digestion, growth, and reproduction.
- When we do not consume vitamins in sufficient quantities, the body exhibits deficiency symptoms.
Based on their solubility, vitamins are divided into two types:
- Lipid-Soluble - Vitamins that dissolve in fats or lipids. Fat-soluble vitamins are absorbed passively into the body and must be transported along with dietary fat. These are usually found in cells that contain fat such as membranes, lipid droplets, or oils within seeds. In the body, these vitamins are stored in the fatty tissues.
- Water-Soluble - Vitamins that dissolve in water/liquids. They absorb into our bloodstream, and their metabolites exit our bodies through urine.
Each of these awesome vitamins serves multiple functions in the human body. The most crucial among them is the role they play with enzymes.
Vitamins are essential as cofactors for enzymes to catalyze reactions. And every process in the body depends on these enzymes.
When the body does not receive vitamins in the right quantities regularly, there are deficiencies. These can create or worsen chronic health conditions.
Types of Vitamins
Consuming a robust spectrum of vitamins is crucial for a healthy lifestyle. Make sure your diet is getting plenty of these nutrients to live your best life.
The functions of some of the vitamins are very similar to one another and are found in similar foods. One such group of vitamins is referred to as the B complex. These include 8 B vitamins – B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, and B12).
B-vitamins, as a group, play an important role in keeping our bodies functioning like well-oiled machines. While each of these vitamins works in tandem, they also have their own unique roles and functions within the body.
They are usually found together in different food groups. Each of them plays a vital role and ensures that the body operates efficiently, as it should!
Referred to as vitamin B complex, the eight B vitamins — B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, B12 — play an important role in keeping our bodies running like well-oiled machines.
These essential nutrients help convert our food into fuel, allowing us to stay energized throughout the day. While many of the following vitamins work in tandem, each has its own specific benefits.
Vitamin B1 is often referred to as the anti-stress vitamin. It has a strong ability to protect the immune system.
This vitamin helps break down simple carbohydrates for energy production (1). It also helps the body make new cells. These benefits make Vitamin B1 crucial for metabolic wellness.
Sources: Sunflower seeds, asparagus, lettuce, mushrooms, black beans, navy beans, lentils, spinach, peas, pinto beans, lima beans, eggplant, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, tuna, whole wheat, and soybeans.
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
Vitamin B2 works much like an antioxidant, fighting free radicals that damage cells. This action is also believed to prevent early aging and the development of cardio-related ailments.
Riboflavin is known to stave off migraines and play a role in the body's red blood cell production (2). Exposure to sunlight is known to reduce the riboflavin content in foods.
Sources: Almonds, unpolished wild rice, milk, yogurt, spinach, mushrooms, and eggs.
Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
Vitamin B3, which is also known as niacin, boosts HDL cholesterol. That's the "good" cholesterol that balances out LDL cholesterol, which is linked to heart disease.
Alcohol consumption has been shown to lower B3 levels in some individuals.
Sources: Beans, green vegetables, peanuts, sweet potato, peaches, tuna, and salmon.
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)
Vitamin B5 or Pantothenic Acid is found in almost all food groups in small quantities. This comes from the Greek word Pantothen which means "from everywhere".
B5 plays a crucial role in the body in the breakdown of fats, and production of sex and stress hormones.
Pantothenic acid is also known to promote healthy glowing skin and is used to prevent redness/skin spots (3).
Sources: Avocados, eggs, strawberries, lentils, cauliflower, squash, sunflower seeds, and broccoli.
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
Vitamin B6 or Pyridoxine, along with fellow B-vitamins such as 12-and 9, helps regulate the amount of homocysteine in the body and is important for keeping the immune system and nervous system healthy. Elevated homocysteine levels are known to be associated with heart disease.
Pyridoxine plays a vital role in mood and sleep patterns. The body needs pyridoxine to produce serotonin, melatonin, and norepinephrine. These hormones modulate our sleep-wake cycles.
Also, Vitamin B6 helps reduce inflammation in the body, particularly with rheumatoid arthritis.
Sources: Chicken, brown rice, carrots, tuna, salmon, and bell peppers.
Vitamin H or B7 (Biotin)
Mainly because of its association with healthy hair, skin, and nails this is known as 'the beauty vitamin.' Biotin also is one of the saviors to those suffering from high blood sugar. That makes it a champion for metabolic health.
Amongst all B vitamins, Vitamin B7 or Biotin is believed to play a crucial role during pregnancy. It is needed for normal growth during the embryo stage (4).
Sources: Barley, potatoes, fish, eggs, nuts, chicken, and fish.
Vitamin B9 (Folate)
You may have heard the word Folic acid being mentioned alongside other food supplements. Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate which is commonly used in supplements and fortified foods such as rice, pasta, bread, and many cereals.
Folate is known to stave off depression and prevent memory loss (5). This is one of the other vitamins that play a key role in pregnancy particularly to prevent nerve-related birth defects in the child.
Sources: Dark leafy greens, beetroots, and other root vegetables, beans, salmon, and milk.
Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)
Vitamin B12 combines with a protein called intrinsic factor and then is absorbed into the bloodstream. We can store a year's worth of this vitamin – but it should still be consumed regularly. B12 is a product of microbial fermentation, which is why it's not present in higher-order plant foods.
Unlike other vitamins, Vitamin B12 is a total team player. B12 combines with B9 to help the iron-protein complex (aka hemoglobin) do its job, like carrying oxygen.
Since B12 is naturally found in foods of animal origin, non-meat eaters, such as vegetarians and vegans, are seen to be more prone to deficiencies with regard to the vitamin (6).
Sources: Fish, shellfish liver, trout, salmon, tuna, and eggs.
Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)
Here's a fact for you. The true potential of this vitamin was first seen at sea. Sailors who consumed lemons and other citrus fruits did not develop scurvy like the others. From then on, this vitamin was closely studied. Research shows that Vitamin C does wonders in treating a whole range of ailments.
This water-soluble vitamin easily gets destroyed when fresh foods are processed. In the body, Vitamin C acts as a strong antioxidant (7). It stimulates the production of hormones and enzymes.
Also, Vitamin C helps in the synthesis of collagen. Collagen is essential for repairing our gut lining and skin cells, amongst other functions. The presence of Vitamin C is strongly correlated with reduced incidences of cancer, blood pressure, immune-related disorders (8).
Sources: All citrus fruits such as limes, oranges, tangerines, grapefruits, pineapples, guavas, and kale.
Vitamin A (Retinoids)
Vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant that is most well known for the role it plays in maintaining healthy vision and neurological function (9).
This Vitamin is found in two primary forms:
- Activate Vitamin A or
- Retinol or Beta-Carotene
We get active Vitamin A from animal-derived foods and this can be directly utilized by the body. Beta-carotene is primarily found in plants and needs to be converted to Vitamin A before the body puts it to use.
Sources: Carrots, papayas,, green leafy vegetables, squash, bell peppers, peaches, beef liver, and eggs.
Vitamin D (Calciferol)
The Sunshine Vitamin! This fat-soluble vitamin is most well-known for the crucial role it plays to build and maintain strong bones (10). This vitamin boosts immunity and improves resistance to certain diseases.
Vitamin D is known to play an important role in regulating mood and is one way you could kick out the blues (11). And guess what, the body naturally produces this vitamin when exposed to sunlight. Now you have more reason to go into your birthday suit on a bright sunny day.
Sources: Sunlight is the best source but it could also be supplemented with salmon, mackerel, tuna, and mushrooms.
Vitamin E (Tocopherol)
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant, preventing free radical damage to specific fats in the body and, in effect, reducing aging.
This vitamin plays an essential role in the functions of various organ systems, enzymes, and neurological processes (12). And believe it or not, this Vitamin E is only found in plant sources!
Sources: Broccoli, green leafy vegetables, almonds, olives, blueberries, tomatoes, most nuts, and seeds.
Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin that is one of the prerequisites for blood coagulation (13). This vitamin controls the binding of calcium in bones and in other cells within the body. Without this vitamin, blood clotting is seriously impaired. The absence of Vitamin K from the diet is seen as one of the causes of osteoporosis and calcification of arteries (13).
Sources: Green beans, green peas, carrots, watercress, parsley, and asparagus.
Ensuring that your meal is power-packed with these Vitamins is one of the safest sure shot ways to steer clear of various ailments. Try your hand at this balancing act! Learn which nutrient-rich foods are best for your unique gut microbiome. Get your gut tested and received personalized food recommendations from Ombre.
- 1. Thiamin: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/165502232. Riboflavin: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/189848403. Niacin B3: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/200617264. Biotin: https://www.umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/vitamin-h-biotin5. Folate: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/155344346. B12: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/78/1/131.long7. Vitamin C : https://www.researchgate.net/publication/10916278_Vitamin_C_as_an_Antioxidant_ Evaluation_of_Its_Role_in_Disease_Prevention8. Vitamin C: http://functionalfoodscenter.net/files/101646709.pdf9. Vitamin A: http://www.scielo.br/pdf/abo/v79n1/0004-2749-abo-79-01-0056.pdf10. VitaminD: https://www.omicsonline.org/open-access/role-of-vitamin-d-in-various-illnesses-a-review-2376-0419-1000176.pdf11. Vitamin D: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2796.2008.02008.x/abstract12. Vitamin E: http://www.moh.gov.my/images/gallery/rni/13_chat.pdf13. Vitamin K: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/vitamin-K