All About Vitamins

Achieving an adequate vitamin intake reduces the risk of developing acute and chronic pathologies. This requires optimising certain aspects of the diet.
All About Vitamins
Saúl Sánchez

Written and verified by el nutricionista Saúl Sánchez.

Last update: 18 June, 2023

Vitamins are micronutrients that are necessary to guarantee a correct state of health. They participate in many different bodily reactions, Some of them can be synthesized endogenously, but others can’t, so there is a dietary dependence on them.

The daily intake of vitamins is one of the goals of healthy eating. It’s vital to cover the requirements to avoid the appearance of acute pathologies, and the creation of deficits that could mean inefficiencies in the functioning of the organs in the medium and long term.

Types of vitamins

A classification of vitamins can be established based on the media in which they’re dissolved and transported. It’s possible to find two large groups: water-soluble and fat-soluble.

The first of them is made up of nutrients capable of dissolving in water. There are hardly any reservoirs of them within the body and their intake is necessary on a daily basis. The vitamins of group B and C belong to this set, mainly.

For their part, fat-soluble vitamins need fat for their transport and accumulation. In the human body you can find reserves of them, which doesn’t mean that there’s no dietary requirement for them on a daily basis. In this group are vitamins A, D, E, and K.

Functions of vitamins

The functions that vitamins are capable of performing are diverse. Each of them is capable of influencing one or several physiological or metabolic pathways, thus conditioning daily processes that occur within the body. We’re going to review the most important functions of each of these nutrients.

B Group

Group B vitamins are fundamentally characterized by their importance in metabolic reactions that determine energy production. At the same time, some of them, such as B12, prevent the appearance of pathologies such as anemia, which cause chronic tiredness and fatigue derived from an inefficient supply of oxygen through the blood. This is evidenced by a study published in the journal Frontiers in Medicine .

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a nutrient characterized by having a significant antioxidant power, which reduces the formation of free radicals and prevents premature aging. In addition, it can enhance the assimilation of dietary iron.

We can’t forget either its role in stimulating the immune system. According to research published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, an adequate supply of vitamin C prevents the appearance of common colds and helps you deal with them better.

Finally, it’s worth noting the nutrient’s ability to increase the synthesis of collagen; this is the most abundant protein in the body, responsible for the elasticity of muscle tissue.

Some vitamins.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is the quintessential deficit nutrient. This fat-soluble vitamin plays a crucial role in bone metabolism by stimulating the absorption of dietary calcium. Maintaining adequate levels of it decreases the risk of osteoporosis.

In addition, vitamin D is capable of modulating inflammation in the body, helping to prevent different complex pathologies. A deficiency of it is associated with an increased risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Finally, it should be noted that it’s also related to muscle strength, according to the most current scientific literature. In athletes, an inefficient supply of the nutrient can cause a drop in performance and even an increased risk of injury.

Vitamin A

Another representative of the fat-soluble group. It stands out for its protective power on visual health, as well as having a certain antioxidant capacity. Its regular consumption prevents macular degeneration and, with it, loss of vision.

In addition, it also influences the function of the liver. It has been shown that an efficient intake of this nutrient reduces the risk of developing the most frequent pathologies that affect liver tissue, conditioning its efficiency. It’s a good way to protect said organ.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E stands out mainly for its antioxidant power and its ability to influence immune function. In fact, an article published in the journal Nutrients states that this nutrient is capable of influencing the differentiation of the body’s defense cells, thus reducing the risk of contracting infectious diseases.

It’s a vitamin that can be synthesized endogenously, in the body. However, its synthesis depends on the diversity of the intestinal microbiota. In cases of dysbiosis, production can be blocked, which has a negative impact on the body.

Vitamin K

Vitamin K is characterized by modulating blood coagulation. It’s a nutrient that can be found in some vegetables and whose contribution must be limited under certain pathological situations associated with pharmacological treatment.

As a general rule, this nutrient guarantees blood homeostasis and is located above all in green leafy vegetables. It can also be synthesized by means of certain bacteria that are part of the intestinal microbiota, so its dietary contribution isn’t always necessary.

Where to find the vitamins?

Vitamins can be found in all kinds of foods. The most common are those of group B, since they occur in both animal and plant-based products.

However, some of these nutrients are susceptible to being provided inadequately, either due to their poor assimilation or their scarce presence in the elements of habitual consumption. This is the case of vitamin D. This substance can be found in dairy products, eggs, and oily fish. However, it never occurs in large quantities.

In any case, this vitamin can be synthesized endogenously through exposure to sunlight, although taking into account certain considerations. The first and most important of these is that sun cream blocks ultraviolet rays that stimulate its synthesis.

Some fruits.

Can you have an excess of vitamins?

In the case of water-soluble vitamins, it’s rare to observe an overdose of them. There are cases reported in literature as such, although it isn’t common and the side effects experienced are usually mild.

However, those of a fat-soluble nature are more susceptible to generating an overdose, since they can be stored in adipose tissue. Despite this, it’s more common to experience a deficit than an over-intake of them.

However, maintaining the levels of these nutrients above what’s recommended doesn’t usually pose a serious danger to health. In some cases, intestinal discomfort is experienced and, in others, an increase in the presence of certain minerals in the blood.

The dangers of vitamin deficiency

Unfortunately, vitamin deficiencies are quite common, especially in the case of vitamin D. This is due to several factors, including an inadequate and unvaried diet, as well as poor exposure to sunlight.

Said situation of deficit usually generates a health problem that can manifest itself acutely or chronically, the second being the most dangerous of them. Complex pathologies such as some types of cancer are related to an inefficient supply of these nutrients. You can also experience processes of anemia or even osteoporosis, which is an incurable disease that conditions your lifestyle.

Guarantee a correct supply of vitamins

When it comes to covering the daily vitamin requirements, it’s necessary to take a series of dietary indications into account. The first of these is the need to carry out a varied diet. Restricting entire food groups will make us more likely to develop a nutritional deficit.

On the other hand, it’s worth noting the importance of ensuring a daily consumption of vegetables. These products must appear in the diet on a recurring basis, trying to ensure their variety both in gender and in the cooking methods applied. It’s recommended to consume raw vegetables regularly, since high temperatures sometimes cause nutrient losses.

In addition, in the case of cooking products of vegetable origin with water, it’s usually good to also ingest the cooking liquid. A good part of the water-soluble vitamins remain in these broth. Discarding them reduces the nutritional value of the food itself. To avoid such a situation, it can be a good method to prepare vegetable creams and purees, always trying to use different varieties of them.

Vitamins, essential and fundamental nutrients

As you have seen, vitamins are necessary micronutrients to ensure the body is functioning correctly. They must be introduced through the diet on a daily basis, otherwise the risk of getting ill in the short and long term increases.

Each of these nutrients has multiple functions within the human body. Guaranteeing that the requirements are covered ensures that inefficiencies don’t occur in the physiological and metabolic systems of the organism.

To reach this goal, it’s necessary to propose a varied and balanced diet, with a high content of foods of plant origin. It’s necessary to monitor the cooking methods applied and ensure the presence of products of different colors, as the different pigments can indicate the presence of vitamins.

We mustn’t forget either the need to be exposed to sunlight frequently. This is one of the best ways to ensure the production of vitamin D, as this is the nutrient most prone to deficits.

  • Hua Chan CQ., Low LL., Lee KH., Oral vitamin B12 replacement for the treatment of pernicious anemia. Front Med, 2016.
  • Bucher A., White N., Vitamin C in the prevention and treatment of the common cold. Am J Lifestyle Med, 2016. 10 (3): 181-183.
  • Chiang CM., Ismael A., Griffis RB., Weems S., Effects of vitamin D supplementation on muscle strength in athletes: a systematic review. J Strenght Cond Res, 2017. 31 (2): 566-574.
  • Lee GY., Han SN., The role of vitamina E in immunity. Nutrients, 2018.

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