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Know Your Vitamins

Know Your Vitamins

Every day we're inundated with articles stressing the importance of proper nutrition, and specifically getting enough vitamins. But many of these articles don't do much in helping us understand what each vitamin actually does. Although some of them have overlapping functions, each one has unique roles in your body's health, and we've made the list below to help you understand all of them.

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The Fat-Soluble Vitamins

These are the vitamins that are stored in our liver and fatty tissue. They dissolve slowly and in the presence of dietary fats.

Vitamin A: This comes in multiple formats. Preformed Vitamin A (retinyl acetate or retinyl palmitate) is derived from animal products. Provitamin A (beta-carotene) is found in plant-based foods.

  • Helps form and maintain healthy teeth, skin, mucus membranes, and skeletal and soft tissue.
  • Produces the pigments of the eye's retina; helps improve vision, especially low-light vision.
  • The beta-carotene form is an antioxidant, which protects cells from damage caused by free radicals.

Vitamin D

  • Helps the body absorb calcium, which produces bone tissue.

Vitamin E

  • Is an antioxidant, which protects cells from damage caused by free radicals.
  • Strengthens the immune system.
  • Involved in interaction between cells.
  • Involved in the formation of red blood cells.
  • Helps widen blood vessels and prevents clotting.
  • Allows the body to use vitamin K.

Vitamin K

  • Known as the "clotting vitamin," as blood would not be able to clot without it.


The Water-Soluble Vitamins

These vitamins dissolve in water and are carried to our bodily tissue. Our bodies cannot store them, and excess amounts are passed through the body with waste.

Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)

  • Assists the metabolism of carbohydrates into energy.
  • Essential to the metabolism of pyruvate, a component of glucose.
  • Involved in muscle contraction and the conduction of nerve signals.

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)

  • Needed for the metabolism of carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins.
  • Part of red blood cell production.

Vitamin B3 (Niacin)

  • Assists the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
  • Helps to remove harmful chemicals from the liver.
  • Involved in hormone production in the adrenal glands.

Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid)

  • Necessary for the creation of Coenzyme A, which is involved in nearly all the body's metabolic reactions.

Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)

  • Helps make antibodies, proteins that are used to fight disease.
  • Assists in breaking down proteins.
  • Involved in maintaining proper levels of glucose (blood sugar).
  • Helps produce hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in red blood cells to tissues.
  • Involved in maintaining regular nerve function.

Vitamin B7 (Biotin)

  • Necessary for the function of carboxylases, enzymes that assist in the production of glucose and fatty acids.

Vitamin B9 (Folate, or folic acid)

  • Helps the body break down, use, and create new proteins.
  • Involved in the production if new red blood cells.
  • Involved in the production and repairing of DNA and RNA.
  • Necessary for the production of new cells.

Vitamin B12

  • Part of protein metabolism, the processes by which protein is broken down and absorbed by the body.
  • Required for DNA synthesis.
  • Helps to form red blood cells.
  • Required for the creation of myelin, which insulates cells in the nervous system and allows them to travel more efficiently.

Vitamin C

  • Is an antioxidant, which protects cells from damage caused by free radicals.
  • Required for the growth and repair of bodily tissues.
  • Vital for forming proteins that make skin, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels.
  • Involved in the repair and maintenance of cartilage, bones, and teeth.
  • Assists in healing wounds and forming scar tissue.
  • Helps the body absorb iron.


Be sure to consult your doctor or other qualified health care professional before taking any medication, supplement, or beginning any health regimen. 

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