Vitamins are fat soluble or water soluble. Water soluble vitamins dissolve in water and are found in the watery components of foods. The properties of these vitamins are stored in water filled compartments of the body like the fluid that surrounds the spine. Fat soluble vitamins dissolve in fat and are found in the fats and oils of foods. Vitamins are essential to good health and can be found in the five food groups.
Vitamin C helps produce and maintain collagen-a protein foundation for the body's connective tissues including bones, teeth, skin and all tendons. This vitamin boosts the body's ability to fight infection and may even reduce stress and prevent heart disease. Foods sources of vitamin C include papaya, cantaloupe and orange.
Still under close scientific research for its many health claims, Vitamin E is believed to protect the membranes of the lungs, heart and other organs against environmental pollutants. Fortunately this vitamin is abundant in the average diet and deficiencies are rare. The highest concentrations of E can be found in almonds, sunflower seeds and peanuts.
Vitamin A is versatile but best known for its role in vision. When vitamin A is supplied in adequate amounts, the paper thin layer of light sensitive cells lining the back of the inside of the eye-the retina-can be synthesized and vision is enhanced (See Reference #1). The main sources of this vitamin are found in almost all foods that are green, yellow, orange or red.
Synthesized with the help of sunlight, vitamin D assists the absorption of calcium and phosphorous available in the blood that bathes and hardens the bones. Deficiencies are most common in people who are housebound or those living in parts of the country where exposure to sunlight is limited. Vitamin D is found in salmon, shrimp and fat-free milk.
Vitamin K is necessary for the function of the blood clotting system of the body. If blood cannot clot, the body is susceptible to excessive bleeding upon injury. This vitamin is obtained from diet-cooked kale, cooked spinach and Brussels sprouts-and bacteria that live in the digestive tract, so deficiencies are rare.
Also known as folica acid or folacin, folate is a coenzyme that is particularly important in the synthesis of DNA and the creation of red blood cells. Lack of folate results in misshapen red blood cells that cannot carry enough oxygen to the body’s other cells. Folate occurs naturally in fresh and leafy vegetables but can be lost when they are dehydrated, canned or overcooked.
B12 maintains the sheath that surrounds and protects nerve fibers and works closely with folate to enable it to construct red blood cells. Long term B12 deficiencies may cause permanent nerve damage. Animal foods like meat, cheese and eggs or a diet that includes fortified beverages or cereals will supply sufficient levels of B12.
Aside from making hemoglobin-oxygen carrying protein-for red blood cells, B6 plays a role in protein metabolism. Low levels of Vitamin B6 may weaken the immune system and increase the risk for heart disease. Vitamin B6 is found in meats, vegetables and whole grain cereals.