We know we need vitamins to maintain a healthy body, but why do we take vitamin supplements?
Do you know what each of the vitamins do for your body, how they interact and why it's important to ensure you are getting your Optimum Daily Allowance?
Vitamins are natural, organic substances that are required in small amounts by our bodies in order regulate many of our essential processes.
Unfortunately, most vitamins are not manufactured by the body, and therefore have to be obtained through diet, or through vitamin supplements.
At the time of their discovery, vitamins were given letter names like A, B and C, but now they are more frequently called by their chemical names:
A, or Retinol, which is vital in the formation of skin and membranes, and is also important in vision, and the immune system. Retinol can be found in liver, milk, cheese and butter, carrots, dark green vegetables and orange fruits.
D, or Cholecalciferol, helps to control the absorption of certain minerals and is fundamental in cell division and bone development. Cholecalciferol is created chemically in the body through a reaction of sunlight on the skin. We are dependant on this process as little D can be found in foods.
E, otherwise known as a group of compounds called tocopherols, acts principally as an antioxidant and protects cells from the damaging effects of free radicals. E may reduce some incidences of cancer and heart disease. Vegetable oils are a valuable source of tocophemerols.
K is vital for blood clotting in wounds and in the creation of normal bone structure. It's found in both animal and plant products, and is also manufactured by bacteria in the gut.
C, or Ascorbic Acid, is instrumental in normal structure and functions of connective tissue, as well as in the production of collagen. It's most commonly associated with healing. It also helps the body to absorb iron. It can be found in plant sources and also in milk and liver.
B1, or Thiamin, helps to release energy from carbohydrates. Thiamin is found in whole grains, nuts and pork.
B2, or Riboflavin, is important in the release of energy from protein, carbohydrates and fat. It also helps in the metabolising of iron. It can be found in milk, eggs, fortified breakfast cereal, green vegetables and liver.
Niacin is required to release energy from foods, and for the functioning of the nervous system. It's found most commonly in meat.
B6 is vital to the metabolism of protein. It can be found most commonly in beef, fish and poultry.
B12 is also called Cyanocobalamin, and is useful in blood and nerve formation and function. Dietary sources include meat, milk and eggs. Fortified breakfast cereals are also a good source.
Folate in supplement form is commonly called Folic Acid. Folate is important in cell division and the formation of blood cells. It is found in both animal and plant foods.
Most people are able to meet their daily intake requirements through dietary means, however, for young children or those with especially active lives, supplements are recommended.
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