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Essential Vitamins – Why Are They Good For You?

This is a guest post by Tarun Reddy from 16best.com. They made a nice infographic on vitamins that I liked and shared and then Tarun offered to write a blog post for me on this subject. Since we didn’t have anything on vitamins, this is surely useful!

So here’s the post. I hope you enjoy it.
Radu


Eating is a critical part of the human existence and its importance cannot be overemphasized. The body needs it to grow and remain functional in every way. But eating the right foods is a completely different thing, especially when it comes to knowing what your body needs at any given time.

For example, a diabetic cannot eat just about anything, same as someone with hepatitis. Someone with allergies has to consider carefully what she eats so as not to stir up an episode. In a nutshell, eating ensures you remain alive and functional, but eating right means that you stay in good health. This is why every class of food is important; none should be neglected for any reason, especially for those with fragile health. Proteins, carbohydrates, fats and oils, vitamins and minerals, are all needed by the body.

It’s also important to mention that, even with generally “unhealthy” eating habits (that we are all guilty of), there’s always a healthy alternative. Craving sweets? Eat some fruit instead. Drink a lot of coffee? Order some fresh beans instead of having unhealthy instant coffee, etc.

Having established that eating generally and eating right are very important parts of existence, it is time to look at roles vitamins play in general well being, and how you can get enough of them.

But, before that, we must mention one rather counterintuitive fact: people who do sports a lot are exposed to a greater risk of vitamin deficiency. Simply because putting the body through a greater stress effectively means that it needs more resources to keep going.

Fixing this is not that difficult because many vitamins can be found sufficiently in common foods and fruits, while others do exist but not in abundance. This is one of the reasons why food supplements and dietary snacks are often necessary for exercise fans and athletes. Just as a healthy supply of vitamins to your body keeps it running smoothly like butter on glass, deficiency of vitamins can be detrimental.

Being healthy and keeping in shape does not have to be expensive. For vitamins that cannot be easily found through natural sources, there are trusted and very affordable healthy snacks rich in vitamins and other nutrients. Getting them does not have to be a huge task.

The main point is this: vitamins are important and they are available. Below, you will find the different types of vitamins, their uses, and signs of their deficiency.

Types of vitamins, their uses, and signs of their deficiency

The essential vitamins are vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K. The non-essential ones are vitamins F, G, H, I, and J. However, they are no longer in existence because of being either renamed or declared unimportant/harmful.

Vitamin F is now called Essential Fatty Acid, Vitamins G and J are now B2, Vitamin H is Biotin (B7), and Vitamin I is now non-existent.

The essential vitamins are divided into two categories: those that are soluble in water and those that are soluble in fat. Under the water soluble vitamins, there are B and C, and under the fat soluble vitamins, there are A, D, E, and K.

Vitamin D, Calcium, Iron, Potassium, and Fiber are among the things that athletes need the most, but vitamin B, C, and E also play crucial role in proper body functioning and endurance under stress.

Before we delve deeper into the different classes of vitamins,  it is necessary to pinpoint the vitamins essential for an athlete. Sportsmen and athletes need to always be on top of their games. As an athlete, your body needs to be correctly conditioned to strain and stress without giving out. The few vitamins that aid athletes in performing at the peak include:

  • Vitamin B: There are different variants of vitamin B as will be highlighted below. However, vitamins B6, B12, B1, and B2 are vital to the performance of an athlete. The body utilizes them in converting protein and sugar into energy. Red blood cells are also produced while the body harnesses these vitamins. Athletes with low red blood cells often perform poorly during high intensity exercises.

  • Vitamin C: Most people assume that vitamin C is only used by the body to fight the common cold. However, it does so much more for athletes. Shortness of breath, wheezing, and exercise induced asthma are all combated by adequate vitamin C in the body. Of course, the absence of the ailments mentioned above will increase the chances of a top sporting performance from an athlete.

  • Vitamin D: It turns out that the Sunshine vitamin is also crucial for an athlete. This is because it helps the mitochondria in muscle fibers to adequately recoup energy after muscle contraction. Athletes with enough vitamin D get fatigued less. Incidentally, athletes can get vitamin D deficiencies by wearing too many clothes or not spending enough time outside.

  • Vitamin E: Being an athlete takes quite a toll on the body. The chances of you falling sick and your body giving out increases drastically. Consuming more vitamin E reduces the chances of you falling ill by half. Of course, only a healthy person can work out and compete.

All vitamins are crucial for the body to function perfectly. As an athlete, you just have to pay extra attention to the ones listed above.

Classes, Names And Sources of Vitamins

Water Soluble Vitamins

Vitamin B has 8 types which are good for human consumption (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, and B12) and each has a unique role to play in the proper functioning of the body. But when they are all put together, they have a collective name: B complex.

  • Vitamin B1: It is also called Thiamine. It occurs in abundance naturally and can be found in trout, soy beans, marmite, macadamia nuts, and sunflower seeds. It is an essential daily nutrient for everyone but more so for athletes and those who constantly workout because it supplies a steady stream of energy and boosts muscle and nerve functions.When it is lacking in the body, the symptoms are quick to show in the form of poor coordination, tiredness, and even mood swings. The minimum daily requirement for men is 1,000 micrograms and 800 micrograms for women.
  • Vitamin B2: This is also called Riboflavin and can be found naturally in foods like liver, eggs, salmon, and almonds. It is another essential body nutrient that cannot be overlooked because its presence ensures that the muscles get a steady and sufficient supply of energy so that you are not easily fatigued or flagged. It also helps with the production and reproduction of red blood cells.When the body lacks vitamin B2, you become sensitive to light, susceptible to sore throats, and you may have to always go around with dry lips, no matter how much you wet them. The minimum a man should take per day is 1,300 micrograms while a woman should take 1,100 micrograms.
  • Vitamin B3: Wherever you see the name Niacin, be sure that you are looking at B3. It is especially abundant in mushrooms, green peas, and peanuts.Niacin helps to quickly break down glucose, alcohol, and fats. It also helps to reduce the amount of bad cholesterol in the blood. With this, you do not have to worry too much about having excess fats and sugar due to a slow metabolic process.As long as you eat the right amount, Niacin boosts metabolism. The same goes for the cholesterol in the blood. Lack of it, however, leads to tiredness, indigestion, and even sores that are difficult to get rid of. The minimum amount of daily micrograms for men is 17,000 and 13,000 for women.
  • Vitamin B5: Widely known as pantothenic acid, it can be gotten naturally from foods such as eggs, avocado, sunflower seeds, and trout. Its presence in the body helps the adrenal glands to function properly by cleaning them out. It also brings about the oxidation of carbohydrates and fatty acids while boosting the production of red blood cells.The absence of it leads to pains in the stomach, poor sleeping routine, and tiredness. If you ever begin to experience undue weakness or tiredness, especially if you work out a lot, then you may need to top up on vitamin B5. The minimum daily requirement is 17,000 micrograms for men and 13,000 micrograms for women.
  • Vitamin B6: Also called Pyridoxine, it helps with the detoxification of the liver, production and formation of red blood cells, and the functioning of both the nervous system and the brain. Everyone needs a steady supply of B6 everyday, beyond athletes and pregnant women.You can detect its lack if you begin to have dermatitis (more popularly known as eczema), cheilosis, a swollen tongue, or even inadequate red blood cells. It can easily be gotten from dried prunes, tuna, bananas, and pistachios. The recommended minimum daily intake is 1,400 micrograms for men and 1,200 micrograms for women.
  • Vitamin B7: Another name for this vitamin is Biotin. For those who are very conscious of carbs intake and break down, a healthy supply of this vitamin sees to it that proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids are quickly metabolized. It also supports the growth of hair and healthy skin.Without it, you may begin to notice abnormalities like hallucinations, rashes on the body, and hair loss. These, though, do not have to get to an alarming stage before you do something, since the vitamin can easily be gotten naturally from strawberries, broccoli, sweet potato, and eggs. The recommended daily intake for adults is between 30 and 50 micrograms.
  • Vitamin B9: This is a basic essential vitamin for everyone, especially pregnant women and nursing mothers. Popularly known as Folic Acid, it helps with the formation and development of the central nervous system of fetus, as well as the production of red blood cells.In its absence, the signs you may notice are anemia, improper digestion, immune deterioration, and constant weakness. These are the reasons why it is usually prescribed for athletes and women with babies. It is commonly found in many healthy snacks and food supplements, but it can be gotten naturally from asparagus, black-eyed peas, and spinach, to mention a few. The minimum amount an adult should take per day is 200 micrograms, no less.
  • Vitamin B12: It is also called Cobalamin. It plays a huge role in metabolizing proteins, lipids, and carbohydrates, while also supporting the production of blood cells.Deficiency of vitamin B12 is symptomized by a numb feeling or an uncomfortable tingling of the feet, legs, and hands. You could have some difficulty in walking, and you could even get unfamiliar sensations in your body. However, it is not difficult to come by as it naturally occurs in some everyday foods like eggs and mackerel. Other foods it can be gotten from are trout, silken tofu, and clams. The recommended minimum dosage per day is between 1.5 and 2.4 micrograms.There are a whole lot of other B vitamins such as B4, B8, B10, B11, B13, B14, B15, B16, B17, B20, B22, Bm, Bp, Bh, Bt, and so on. Some are just plain poisonous for human consumption and are used mainly for plants, while others are not considered to be vitamins at all.
  • Vitamin C: This is one of the most important vitamins that a person needs to function every day. It is also one of the most common vitamins because it can be found in so many fruits and vegetables like kale, broccoli, bell peppers, oranges, grapes, guavas, pineapples and kiwis, to mention a few.

    Not only does it help eliminate scurvy, it also lessens the chances of cancerous growths and heart diseases. Without it, you get swollen and bleeding gums, unusually dry and breaking hair, sores that do not heal easily, and much more. Doctors advise that the minimum intake for men  should be 90,000 micrograms and 70,000 for women. So, vitamin C should be everybody’s friend, especially if you work out a lot.

Fat Soluble Vitamins

  • Vitamin A: This vitamin contributes to perfect eyesight, strong teeth and gums, as well as healthy tissues. Apart from extraneous pressure on the eyes and teeth, a proper supply of vitamin A keeps them going even into old age.

    The symptoms of the lack of vitamin A include various types of skin diseases, partial or total blindness, and a deep dryness of the cornea and conjunctiva.

    It is plenteous in foods like beef, fish, liver, sweet potato, cod liver oil, broccoli, and carrots. The recommended daily intake for men is 900 micrograms and 700 micrograms for women.

  • Vitamin D: Those first rays of Sunshine in the morning should not go to waste; you should know that they are filled with vitamin D. The most prominent use of this vitamin is that it makes the bones strong. It could reduce the risk of osteoporosis or even inhibit its progress, if it is already there. With it, bones do not easily fracture. This should be good news to people who engage in extreme sports.

    People who constantly work out should also have an adequate supply of vitamin D. Its lack can show up in different ways such as getting easily worn out, pains in the bones, or becoming sick frequently. You can get it from foods like breakfast cereals, salmon, eggs, and tofu. The recommended minimum daily intake for adults is 15 micrograms.

  • Vitamin E: When it is adequately supplied to the body, it slows the development of different types of diseases by combating toxins. It also helps balance cholesterol in the body.

    When it is lacking, some of the expected signs are the quick development of Crohn’s disease and cystic fibrosis. But to avoid that, you can make sure you get it in sufficient levels through supplements or eating healthy amounts of almonds, mamey sapote, and sunflower seeds.

    For recommended daily intake, babies from 0 to 12 months should have between 4,000 to 5,000 micrograms; children from 1 to 13 years should have 7,500 micrograms, and people 14 years and older should have 15,000 micrograms.

  • Vitamin K: It keeps the clotting of blood normal and regular and helps to build strong bones. Without a good supply, you can be sure of excessive menstrual flow, bruising easily, and slow healing of wounds.

    When blood is difficult to clot, surgery is ruled out and wounds would take a long time to heal properly. Meals that contain broccoli, kale, mustard greens, or even spinach are sure to keep the body sufficiently supplied. A daily minimum of 120 micrograms should be taken by men while 90 micrograms should be taken by women.

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