The Benefit of Vitamin Supplements
Vitamins are organic compounds required in small quantities in the body for maintaining normal physiological functioning which is crucial for the body to grow and develop. Vitamins support growth and reproduction and are naturally found in small amounts in food. The body relies greatly on diet for fulfilling its daily vitamin requirements. However, in the absence of a sufficient supply of vitamins from the diet, the deficiency of the vitamins occur in the body.
Types of Vitamins
There are 13 vitamins in total. However, there are only two broad categories namely: Fat-soluble (A, D, E, K) and Water-soluble (C, B). The key difference between the two is that fat-soluble vitamins require fat/oil for its absorption in the body and are stored for longer in the body, while water-soluble vitamins do not require fat for its absorption and are excreted from the body on a regular basis. The best way to get enough vitamins is through the consumption of a balanced diet. If deficiency persists, it is recommended to take vitamin supplements.
Key benefits of Vitamins
Both categories of the vitamins i.e. water and fat-soluble have a distinct role to play in the body, some of the key health benefits of which are:
- Vitamin B1 or Thiamine helps in release of energy from carbohydrates and helps to transmit nerve impulses. Commonly found in whole grains, nuts, fruits and pork. Deficiency of Vitamin B1 affects nervous system resulting in difficulty in walking.
- Vitamin B2 or Riboflavin promotes healthy growth and tissue repair and helps release energy from carbohydrates/ macro-nutrients. Its common sources include – milk, dairy, dark leafy vegetables, meat, poultry, legumes and mushrooms. Vit B2 deficiency results in inflammation of the mouth, nose and tongue, dry scaling lips.
- Vitamin B3 or niacin extracts energy from macro-nutrients, important for normal structure and functioning of skin and body linings and nervous system. Meat, poultry, fish, legumes, eggs are a good source of niacin. Deficiency of vitamin b3 results in pellagra (diarrhea, dermatitis, dementia and death)
- Vitamin B5 or pantothenic acid acts as a co-enzyme and helps in energy release from macro-nutrients. It is found in both plant and animal food sources. Insomnia, headache, nausea can be seen if deficiency of vitamin b5 exists.
- Vitamin B6 or pyridoxamine helps in macro-nutrient metabolism. It converts tryptophan to niacin and helps in red blood cells and antibodies formation. Commonly found in beans, legumes, nuts, egg, meat, fish and cereals. Its deficiency results in anemia and decreased antibody production.
- Vitamin B7 or biotin acts as a coenzyme in carbohydrate and fat metabolism. Found in both animal and plant food sources, its deficiency results in dermatitis, tongue soreness and hair loss.
- Vitamin B9 or folic acid or folate is necessary for RBC’s development, DNA formation and neural tube formation in the fetus. Found in green leafy vegetables, liver, legumes, milk, nuts, cereals and dairy products. Folic acid deficiency results in anemia, spina bifida and neural tube defects.
- Vitamin B12 or cobalamine is essential in folic acid metabolism, formation of new cells and RBC’s. Exclusively found in animal food sources like eggs, meat, poultry, fish, milk and dairy. Its deficiency anemia, fatigue, loss of appetite, dementia, loss of bowel and bladder control.
- Vitamin C also called ascorbic acid helps in formation of collagen, aids in iron absorption, build new tissues to heal wounds and increased resistance to wounds. It is abundant in citrus fruits, guava, strawberries, gooseberries, capsicum, tomatoes, potatoes and raw cabbage. Vit C deficiency results in scurvy, anemia and weakness.
- Vitamin A or retinol (precursor: - Beta carotene) promotes normal vision, growth, resistance to infection and maintains healthy skin. It is found in dark green leafy vegetables, yellow and orange colored vegetables. Its deficiency results in xeropthalmia, night blindness. If taken in excess amounts results in toxicity called hypervitaminosis A. excess intake in pregnancy might cause birth defects.
- Vitamin D or cholecalciferol promotes absorption of calcium and phosphorus, maintains healthy strong bones and teeth and optimal calcification of bones. It had to be absorbed from sunlight. It can be stored in he body. Deficiency of vitamin d leads to rickets, osteomalacia and excess of Vit D results in excess levels of calcium in blood.
- Vitamin E (tocopherols) acts as antioxidants that neutralizes the damage of free radicals and blocks carcinogens. It prevents breakdown of Vitamin A and unsaturated fatty acids. It is known to be beneficial for skin and hair. Vegetable oils, whole grains, nuts and seeds, whet germ and dairy products are rich in vitamin E. Its deficiency leads to hemolysis of RBCs and nerve destruction.
- Vitamin K (phylloquinone) is known for blood clotting. It helps in production of prothrombin and some clotting factors. Found in dark green leafy vegetables, tomato, soybeans, liver and milk; its deficiency causes hemorrhage, prolonged blood clotting.
Are Vitamins Safe?
It is absolutely safe to consume vitamin supplements provided that your diet lack sufficient supply of vitamins or you require an extra dose of vitamins to heal a medical condition/ injury. It is strictly advised to never self-supplement and get the dosage customized from a nutritionist/health-care provider to avoid any possibility of vitamin toxicity which in indeed very rare.
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