Vitamins are organic compounds and they are part, as the minerals, of the group of micronutrients. In contrast to the macro nutrients they supply no energy. The word vitamin is composed of “vita” (lat. life) and “amine” (derivatives of ammonia). The majority of the vitamins cannot be formed by the body itself. Therefore, vitamins are classified as essential nutrients in general.
Vitamins are sensitive to air, heat and light. If foods which are rich in vitamins are exposed to these factors over a longer period, the nutrients are lost. Therefore, plant-based foods should be eaten as fresh as possible, so the vitamins arrive also in the body.
What Vitamins Are There?
In total there are currently 13 known vitamins that are needed by the body. Depending on solubility, they are split into two groups: Fat-soluble and water soluble vitamins.An overview of the fat-soluble vitamins that are absorbed in the digestive tract with the help of fats:
- vitamin A (retinol; vitamin A foods list)
- vitamin D (calciferol; foods containing vitamin D)
- vitamin E (tocopherol; list of foods with vitamin E)
- vitamin K (phylloquinone; foods with vitamin K)
Below a list of water-soluble vitamins:
- folate (folic acid is the synthetic form) (folate and folic acid foods list)
- vitamin B1 (thiamine; foods rich in vitamin B1)
- vitamin B2 (riboflavin; vitamin B2 foods list)
- vitamin B3 (niacin; foods with niacin list)
- vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid; foods with vitamin B5 list)
- vitamin B6 (pyridoxine, pyridoxal, pyridoxamine; vitamin B6 foods list)
- vitamin B7 (biotin)
- vitamin B12 (cobalamin; foods with vitamin B12)
- vitamin C (ascorbic acid; vitamin C foods list)
Water-soluble vitamins are readily soluble in water and be excreted rapidly from the body via the urine. Therefore it is important to supply these vitamins regularly.
Vitamin D And Vitamin B3 Can Be Formed By The Body
All the vitamins must be supplied through diet except for vitamin D and vitamin B3. Vitamin D can be produced by the body by the ultraviolet rays of sunlight on the skin. Vitamin B3 is synthesized with the help of vitamin B6 from the essential amino acid tryptophan.
Vitamin B12 is formed by the intestinal bacteria in the colon, but cannot be absorbed, since the absorption of B12 takes place mainly in the lower small intestine area. The small intestine is anatomically before the colon. So the Vitamin B12 is excreted unused. A small part of unbound vitamin B12 can also be absorbed by passive diffusion under the tongue (sublingual) 1.
Vitamin B7 is also formed in the intestinal flora. Whether it is distributed and absorbed in the digestive tract is still unknown 2.
Whether and how vitamin K is also synthesized in the intestinal flora, remains also undetermined. Moreover, there are the so-called provitamins (precursors of vitamins), which can be converted in vitamins by our body. A known representative is the provitamin A (inter alia ß-carotene), from which Vitamin A is formed.
Functions And Effects Of Vitamins
Vitamins are required for various vital processes. They have varied, but mainly regulatory functions and effects. They are involved in important body functions such as growth, contribute to the preservation of cells and neural pathways, support the immune system and are essential for the formation of skin, skeletal tissue and red blood cells. Some vitamins such as vitamin C and E act as antioxidants, protecting the cells from free radicals and reduce cell damage.
To release of energy from carbohydrates, fats and proteins, vitamins are also essential. The large group of B vitamins acts as precursor of coenzymes and supports the energy metabolism. In addition, some vitamins have hormone-like effects, as for example vitamin D participates in the regulation of the mineral metabolism.
Particularly important are the vitamins for the muscle formation. They are required, inter alia for the metabolism of proteins, the cell renewal and regeneration. In addition, some amino acids can only be built with their help.
What Do Vegans Have To Consider?
With a balanced plant-based diet, there are, apart from vitamin B12, usually no major difficulties with taking in all the vitamins in sufficient quantities. The need of vitamin B12 can be very difficult to cover without dietary supplements because usable vitamin B12 can be found only on a few plant foods. Natural vitamin B12 is exclusively formed by bacteria. Some plant foods such as shiitake mushrooms, mushrooms or nori have usable B12 on them. Moreover, vegan products as yofu (soy yogurt) and vegetable drinks are often fortified with vitamin B12.
Vegans should also throw an eye on vitamin B2 and D (see also vegan diet a malnutrition?). Incorrect food storage is mainly the reason why the vitamin B2 shares decrease in the relevant foods. Vitamin B2 is very sensitive to light. Therefore, Vitamin B2 should be stored dark. Vitamin D should be taken especially during the winter months. The low angle of the sun has the effect that the UVB rays (290-315 nm) are no longer able to reach us 3. During the winter months, a vitamin D deficiency is concluded quickly. The vitamin D reserves should be filled during the summer months. They are nearly high enough over the winter months. In addition vitamin D-containing foods should be consumed.