Vitamins Your Body Needs and Where to Find Them

6 mins
February 4, 2019

Hello! I am Bezalel Adainoo, the author of Stay Well Now. My friends call me Bez. As a professional food scientist, I have been asked many questions by people from different walks of life seeking the right information on what food to eat and how that will affect their health.

There are 13 vitamins; some are water-soluble (they dissolve in water) while others are fat-soluble(they dissolve in fat). The water-soluble vitamins are the B vitamins and vitamin C and the fat-soluble vitamins are vitamins A, D, E and K.

All these vitamins play important roles in promoting good health by performing various functions in the body. It is well known that a balanced diet must contain a good proportion of foods that provide adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals in addition to the carbohydrates, protein and fats and oils. However, without a good knowledge of what these vitamins are, the function they perform in the body and the foods from which you can get them, you might always deprive yourself of these essential components of a healthy diet. This article provides a clear explanation of the role each vitamin and also gives you a list of foods that are rich in each of the vitamins.

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Vitamin A
Vitamin A is essential for maintaining good eyesight. It  also acts as an antioxidant to help protect against cell damage, improve skin health, and maintain a healthy immune system. In human diet, vitamin A occurs in two primary forms: retinol, which is derived from animal sources, and carotenoids, which come from plant sources. When retinol is consumed, the body absorbs it directly, but when it is consumed in the form of carotenoids, the body must first converts it into retinol in order to absorb it. In either case, the body is able to utilize the vitamin A to perform its activities. Good food sources of vitamin A include fish, beef liver, salmon, eggs, spinach, maize, cocoyam leaves (kontomire), carrots, oranges, and tangerines.

Cooked Salmon
Cooked Salmon

Vitamin B1

Commonly called thiamine or thiamine, vitamin B1forms part of important enzymes (enzymes are proteins that speed up processes in the body) that help the body to break down sugars and proteins. Vitamin B1helps the body to withstand stress, so it is sometimes referred to as the“anti-stress vitamin.” It protects against memory loss and may assist in depression prevention. Studies have shown that people who have depression have low levels of vitamin B1,B2, B3, B6, B9 and B12. Hence, eating foods that provide a good amount these vitamins might reduce depressive symptoms.  Examples of foods with high amounts of vitaminB1 include beans, bambara groundnuts, oats, millet, powdered milk, oranges, sorghum and fonio.

Yellow Millet
Yellow Millet

Related: Fonio: Nutritional and Health Benefits of a Hidden Cereal

Vitamin B2

Vitamin B2, also known as riboflavin, helps the body convert carbohydrates into energy and transforms vitamin B6 and folic acid into forms that the body can easily utilize. This vitamin also performs some antioxidant functions, which can slow the ageing process. Vitamin B2 can be found in foods like milk, tomatoes, soybeans, maize, brown rice, green leafy vegetables like cocoyam leaves and spinach, and mushrooms.

Oyster Mushorooms

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Vitamin B3

Vitamin B3, also known as niacin, is fundamental to the health of the nerve system. Niacin also helps to prevent dementia and improves blood circulation. It helps to reduce tiredness as well. Common foods with high levels of vitamin B3 include chicken, tuna, red fish, groundnuts, salmon, brown rice, maize and fonio.

Grilled Tuna

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Vitamin B5

Vitamin B5, also known as pantothenic acid, helps the body to generate energy from food. Moreover, it helps the body to use cholesterol to make vitamin D. Vitamin B5 is also critical in the manufacturing of red blood cells. It can be commonly found in foods like avocado, sorghum, millet, maize, green leafy vegetables, and eggs.


Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 enables the body to convert sugars into energy, and is a key part of the formation of red blood cells. Vitamin B6 is essential for proper brain development in children. Further, it helps the body to make hormones, which control moods (serotonin) and also hormones, which help to manage stress (norepinephrine). Foods such as turkey, chicken, bread, wheat, oats, pork, eggs, soybeans and vegetables are good sources of vitamin B6.


Vitamin B7

Vitamin B7, also called biotin or vitamin H, plays an important role in maintaining good hair and nail health. Some studies have shown that vitamin B7 intake helps to strengthen brittle nails and also helps with uncombable hair syndrome. Biotin also helps the body generate energy from food. It is a nutrient needed for healthy digestive and cardiovascular functions. Good food sources include liver, sweet potato, groundnuts, egg yolk, salmon, meat and milk.


Vitamin B9

Vitamin B9, also known as folic acid, is very popular among pregnant women. This is because it prevents neural tube defects(a deformity in unborn babies), a defect with the brain, spine or spinal cord. Folic acid is needed for proper brain development and plays a crucial role in mental and emotional health. Foods that are rich in folic acid include green leafy vegetables, eggs, beef liver, cowpea, soybeans, oranges, lemons, pawpaw, banana and avocado.


Vitamin B12

Like vitamin B9, vitamin B12 plays an important role in the function of the brain. It also helps in the formation of red blood cells. Vitamin B12 plays a role in the production of energy in the body, thus, all activities of all cells in the body depend on vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is naturally available in only animal products. Foods from which you can obtain vitamin B12 are fish, meat, chicken, turkey, eggs, milk and milk products.


Vitamin C

Vitamin C helps the body to form collagen, one of most common proteins in skin and blood vessels, which helps to heal wounds, and supports growth and repair of cell tissues. It is also functions as an antioxidant, which helps to slow down ageing, and reduces the risk for heart diseases and cancer. Vitamin C also plays a role in fighting colds and protect against gum bleeding. Additionally, vitamin C helps the body to absorb iron from plant sources. Major sources of vitamin C include oranges, lemons, bell peppers, pineapple, mango, pawpaw, kiwi fruit, star fruit and African starfruit (alasa).

Sliced orange fruit

Vitamin D

While the human body produces some vitamin D, it is primarily found in animal foods like milk and eggs. Vitamin D is an important nutrient that works with calcium and phosphorus to form strong bones and teeth. Recent studies suggest that vitamin D also helps in preventing common colds. Foods rich in vitamin D include mackerel, salmon, tuna, cheese, egg yolk, beef liver and herrings.


Vitamin E

Vitamin E protects the body against the harmful effects of chemical substances called free radicals. By this function, it protects cardiovascular diseases, cancers, cataracts and Alzheimer’s disease. Vitamin E also enhances the functions of the body’s immune system. Good sources of vitamin E include coconut, palm fruit, groundnuts, soybeans, maize, sunflower, almonds, vegetable oils and green leafy vegetables.

Coconut oil

Vitamin K

Vitamin K plays a role in blood clotting. This is important because it helps to prevent excessive bleeding. For instance, when you get a wound, vitamin K plays an important role in ensuring blood clots over the wound quickly so that you don’t bleed out. Foods that provide good amounts of vitamin K include cucumber, kontomire, spinach, cauliflower and cabbage.


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In summary, vitamins are very important; not only do they perform individual functions; some help in the formation of other vitamins and some need others to be able to perform their functions. This is why it is important to eat a variety of foods in order for you to get all the various vitamins to maintain good health.

You can get vitamins from other sources aside fruits and vegetables. However, fruits and vegetables are often encouraged for vitamins (especially the water-soluble vitamins) because they are mostly eaten raw, hence, the nutritional value of the vitamins they contain are not lost through cooking. So while you are enjoying your meals, make it a habit to eat fruits and vegetables regularly to enjoy the full benefits of all the vitamins.

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