The word “vitamin” is coined from two words; vital and amines. Vitamins are chemical substances essential for the regulation of chemical reactions taking place within the human body for the building and repair of body cells and general good health. They are micro nutrients because they are required in relatively smaller amounts compared to the macro nutrients such as carbohydrates, proteins and lipids. They are very essential in the diet, as inadequate intake can manifest in some ill health known as deficiency diseases.

Vitamins are classified into 2 major groups based on their interactions with fat and water. These groups are:

  • Water soluble vitamins: They include vitamin C and vitamins B-complex (i.e vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12)
  • Fat soluble vitamin: They include vitamins A,D,E and K.

Sources and functions of some essential vitamins are shown in the table below.

VITAMINSSOURCESFUNCTIONS
APalm oil, carrots, eggs, tomatoes, milk, liver1.      Helps to fight infections.

2.      Prevents night blindness.

3.      Essential for proper growth and development of young children.

B1Beef, pork, whole grains, liver, eggs, oranges, potatoes, brewer’s yeast.1.      Essential for glucose metabolism.

2.      Plays a key role in nerve, muscle, and heart function.

B2Cruciferous vegetables (such as spinach, broccoli, etc.), nuts, sweet potatoes, mushroom, avocados, eggs, fish, meat, fortified cereals, peas, low-fat milk.1.      Helps to breakdown proteins, fats and carbohydrates.

2.      Assists in maintaining the body’s energy supply.

3.      Helps to convert carbohydrates into adenosine triphosphate (ATP) which is essential for storing energy in muscles.

B3Milk, oily fish, eggs, red meat, chicken, fortified breakfast cereals, wheat flour, peanut, avocados, potatoes, maize flour.1.      Helps keep the skin and nervous system healthy.

2.      Plays a role in reducing tiredness and fatigue.

3.      Helps to break down fats and proteins, thereby, converting our food into energy.

B5Egg yolk, wheat germ, cabbage, liver, kidney, beef, chicken, turkey, peanut, soybeans, milk and milk products, whole grains.1.      It helps in maintaining a healthy digestive tract.

2.      Helps to break down fats and proteins, thereby, converting our food into energy.

B6Green leafy vegetables, bananas, beans, beef, poultry, pawpaw, oranges, yam, human breast milk, brown rice, avocado, corn, wheat.1.      It is important for brain and nervous system function.
B12Beef, pork, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, milk and milk products (such as yogurt, cheese, etc), salmon, sardine.1.      It is important for nerve function.

2.      It is also important for brain function and synthesis of red blood cells.

CFruits  (especially citrus fruits), potatoes, green peas.1.      Aids fast healing of wounds and cuts.

2.      Helps to fight infections.

3.      Boostsimmune function.

DFatty fish, eggs, milk, cheese.

Can also be synthesized by the skin in the presence of sunlight.

1.      Builds string bones and teeth.

2.      Assists the body in utilizing calcium more effectively.

EMilk, meat, cabbage, peas, wheat flour.Acts as antioxidant, thus protecting the body against damage by free radicals.
KGreen leafy  vegetables such as lettuce, cabbage, green peas.Useful in ensuring quick clotting of blood, thereby, preventing excessive bleeding from wounds and cuts.