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Vitamin - Essential Nutrients for Health

Vitamins are the stars of the nutrition scene. Nutrition, the science of food, is the study of the nutrients and substances in foods. Scientists examine how the balances of food compounds relate to health and disease, and explore how they interact during the process of ingestion, absorption, utilization, and excretion.

There are six essential nutrients for health and body maintenance: vitamins, minerals, water, fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. They are the building blocks of life, and we obtain them through our diet. Our bodies don't make them.

At this time, it is known that there are fourteen vitamins required by humans. Vitamins, first discovered in the late 1800s, are organic compounds found in foods. Since they are organic - containing carbon - they can be destroyed by heat, unlike their companion essential nutrient group, the incombustible minerals.

In the early 1900s, when scientists were continuing to discover new vitamins, they named newly found compounds by alphabet: A, B, C, D, E~. K. Note: The compounds that had been named F, G, H, I, J were later disqualified as vitamins, not fitting the definition: organic compounds needed in small quantities for life growth and maintenance. Compounds that have been given letters with numbers, B-1, B- 2~ were originally thought to be one compound, but later determined to be several different compounds with specific functions for each.

Vitamins are in one of two classes: fat soluble or water soluble. Vitamin C and the B vitamins (such as niacin and riboflavin) are water soluble. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat soluble. Which type of solubility each vitamin has will indicate which foods contain them. Basically, non-fat food has no fat soluble vitamins. However, highly colored vegetables like carrots do contain beta-carotene - a proto- vitamin which can be converted to active vitamin A.

Water soluble vitamins are easily shed by the body and lost from foods during preparation. Since they aren't stored by the body, we need to ingest them every day. Nevertheless it is best to avoid taking them excessively. On the other hand, fat soluble vitamins are readily stored by the body. Thus caution is necessary to avoid excessive quantities; it is possible to build up toxic levels of the fat soluble vitamins.

People commonly wonder if they need to take vitamin supplements, and which vitamins should be taken for good health. The situation today is that our foods are coming to us from conditions that previously were never the case for humans. Modern food is highly processed, and is frequently grown in depleted soils. Our foods are picked unripe and therefore incomplete from the standpoint of nutrition. Then they are shipped and handled more than the ideal. Therefore, it seems unlikely that the average person's diet provides sufficient amounts of necessary nutrients - vitamins and minerals in particular. Instead, we are consuming excessive amounts of harmful compounds like preservatives and refined sugars.

A suggestion. Do your own research project. Keep track of what you eat for a week or two. Eat normally, and just write down what you ate and how much of it. Then either buy or check out from your library a book on vitamins that will tell you approximately what you got from each food source. Add it up and compare to the recommended daily allowances. See how you're doing, and if you think it's a good idea to make some improvements, consult with a professional nutritionist, naturopathic physician, or other healthcare professional to come up with a good plan of diet and nutritional supplements. You'll see what a profound difference good nutrition can make in your health.

Carina Snowden writes on topics related to vitamins. Her articles are published in The News at Alta Vitamin the single on-line resource for a world of news about vitamins. Be sure to refer to all Carina's articles at

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