What even are Vitamins?
You must have heard about vitamins. Your doctor must have advised you to take them in sufficient quantity for maintaining good health. But what are vitamins? Vitamins are chemical compounds that are required by your body for carrying out vital bodily functions and for good health. So far, we know about thirteen vitamins. The human body can’t make vitamins on its own so you must get them from your diet.
Two main types of Vitamins
Vitamins are of two types; fat-soluble vitamins and water-soluble vitamins. Fat-soluble vitamins get stored in your body fat so they remain available for future use and you are not required to take them frequently. Vitamin A, D, E, and K are examples of fat-soluble vitamins.
On the other hand, water-soluble vitamins are not stored in the body, and excess of these vitamins are flushed out from your body by your excretory system. So for staying healthy, you must replenish water-soluble vitamins from your diet constantly. Vitamin C and B vitamins family (B1, 2, 3, 6, 9, 12), and pantothenic acid are examples of water-soluble vitamins.
Vitamins are not known as essential nutrients, you can’t get energy from these versatile chemicals but still they play critical roles inside the human body.
Help your body maintain balance
They are helpful in the synthesis and maintenance of body tissues and organs like muscles, bones, and skin. They are required for extracting energy from the food and most importantly, vitamins help you stay healthy as they strengthen your immune system.
Almost all vitamins are required for good health but vitamin A, C, and E positively affects your immune response to a great extent. We will now discuss the role of each of these vitamins in strengthening immunity in detail.
Chemically, vitamin A is referred to a group of retinoids like retinol, retinal, and retinyl esters [1-3]. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin and once into the body, it remains available for future use. In the human diet, vitamin A is available in two forms, preformed vitamin A (retinol and retinyl esters) and provitamin A carotenoids. Preformed vitamin A is naturally present in animal-based sources like dairy products, meat, and fish while provitamin A carotenoids come from plant-based sources, and once into the body, it is converted into vitamin A.
Sources of vitamin A include fish, meat, dairy products, and vegetables especially colorful vegetables as they are rich in provitamin A beta-carotenes.
Vitamin A plays a very important role in maintaining human health. It helps in maintaining the healthy functioning of your respiratory and digestive systems by maintaining a healthy lining of respiratory and digestive tracts. The healthy lining acts as a barrier against microbial infections. Vitamin A also helps you to keep your skin healthy. A healthy skin not only keeps you healthy but it also gives you an attractive look.
Vitamin A is a powerful Antioxidant
Vitamin A has also strong antioxidant properties. It neutralizes the harmful free radicals and thus help against cell damage, reduce cancer-risks, and fights off infections.
Retinols are used by the human eye cells-rods and cones- so vitamin A is also helpful in maintaining eye health and it reduces the chances of night blindness. Another significant role of vitamin A includes its positive impact on bone and teeth growth.
Deficiency of vitamin A results in night blindness or an inability to see in dim light. Vitamin A deficiency also increases the risk of dying from measles and diarrhea and in pregnant women, its deficiency causes anemia and obstructs the normal growth of the fetus. Other deficiency symptoms may include skin problems like acne.
Ascorbic acid is the chemical name of vitamin C. It is a water-soluble vitamin and you need to replenish its supply regularly. Naturally, vitamin c is present in several fruits and vegetables. It is most abundantly present in citrus fruits as it is acid by nature. Besides citrus fruits, the following is a list of vitamin C rich fruits and vegetables.
- Brussel Sprouts
An immunity powerhose!
Of all the vitamins, vitamin C has the most profound effect on the human immune system. It exhibits strong antioxidant properties and neutralizes the harmful free radicals-by-products of cell metabolism. Vitamin C fights off infections and helps reduce the harm of inflammation and tissue damage. It also helps the wound to heal up quickly. It helps treat scurvy. Vitamin C was discovered in 1932, and even before its discovery, nutrition suspected the preventive role of citrus fruits in developing scurvy.
Vitamin C is also suspected of having cancer-protective properties and it helps treat the symptoms of the common cold. The vitamin also impacts eye health positively.
Vitamin C facilitates the production of collagen-a fibrous protein present in connective tissues like blood, cartilage. Therefore by facilitating the synthesis of collagen, it helps in the healthy functioning of several human organ systems like nervous, immune, skeletal, and respiratory systems. Vitamin c also helps in the synthesis of certain neurotransmitters-chemical messengers- and therefore contributes towards brain health.
How can you increase Vitamin C levels?
Other benefits of vitamin C include its contribution to heart health by lowering bad cholesterol levels, diabetes management, anemia treatment, and reducing seasickness.
Deficiency of vitamin C results in low production of collagen and in consequence connective tissues weaken and you feel symptoms like joint pains. Vitamin C deficiency also decreases the rate of wound healing and its deficiency also results in scurvy. Other deficiency symptoms may include skin problems like skin wrinkling.
Chemically, the vitamin E is tocopherol-based chemical compounds. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin and it remains available inside the body’s fatty tissues for future use. Vitamin E occurs naturally in a wide range of foods but however, it is predominantly present in plant oils, seeds, and nuts. Besides these sources, the following are the natural sources of vitamin E.
- Mamey Sapote
- Goose meat
- Atlantic salmon
- Kiwi fruit
Vitamin E exhibits strong antioxidant properties. Just like the other two vitamins discussed above, it also neutralizes the harmful free radicals and helps protect body cells and tissues from the damages of these hazardous chemicals. Vitamin E fights off the infection, reduces inflammation, and maintains your skin in sound health. Healthy skin is the first barrier against pathogens.
Vitamin E is also involved in other immune functions like regulation of gene expression and cell signaling. Although not proven scientifically but vitamin E is suspected for its positive impact on a wide range of human diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, menstrual cramps, glomerulosclerosis (hardening of blood vessels in the kidney), G6PD deficiency, intracranial hemorrhage, inflammation of the liver, Parkinson’s disease, premenstrual syndrome, sunburn, and rheumatoid arthritis.
The deficiency of vitamin E is rare. Deficiency of vitamin E results in symptoms like ataxia, skeletal myopathy, retinopathy, and impairment of the immune response.
Using plant based supplements to increase your immunity
Human health is a precious gift from the heavens. We all want to remain healthy all year long and for preserving our health, we need to make conscious efforts towards this end. While a balanced diet, regular exercise, and positive thinking are also mandatory for a good immune response. But the role of vitamins in strengthening our immune system is proven scientifically and we must add them in our daily diet. All of the vitamins are necessary for our immune system but it is heavily impacted by vitamins A, C, and E. So don’t miss on them.