Vitamin Functions, Deficiency Symptoms & Natural Sources
What Are Vitamins?
A vitamin is an organic compound, found in food and other natural sources, that our body needs for basic function and health. Many vitamins are available to us in food. For example, citrus fruits are an abundant source of Vitamin C. Other vitamins are present in food but also in other sources. We get Vitamin D by eating fish, eggs, and mushrooms, for example, but exposure to sunlight is also an important source of that vitamin.
There are 13 essential vitamins:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
- Vitamin B3 (niacin)
- Pantothenic acid (B5)
- Vitamin B6
- Biotin (B7)
- Folate (folic acid and B9)
- Vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin)
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
Here is a brief overview of the roles that these vitamins play in our health, how we can know when we are deficient, and where vitamins can be found in food.
How Do You Get Your Vitamins?
How do you get your vitamins?
Essential Vitamin Functions and Sources
1. Vitamin A
Form and maintain teeth, bones, tissue, and skin.
Ripe yellow fruits, carrots, oranges, paprika, squash, red peppers, leafy green vegetables, cayenne, pumpkin, chili powder, spinach, soy milk, and sweet potatoes.
2. Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
Essential to help cells turn carbohydrates into energy.
Whole grains, enriched cereals, brown rice, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, dried herbs and spices, pine nuts, pistachios, macadamia nuts, pecans, legumes, wheat germ, bran, brewer’s yeast, and blackstrap molasses.
3. Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
Maintains red blood cells and body growth.
Bananas, dried herbs, asparagus, almonds, wheat bran, dried spices, green beans, sesame seeds, dried roasted soybeans, sun-dried tomatoes, dried peppers, and popcorn.
4. Vitamin B3 (niacin)
Maintains healthy skin and nerves.
Rice bran, wheat bran, paprika, peanuts, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, and tree nuts.
5. Pantothenic acid (B5)
Essential for metabolism of food.
Broccoli, wheat bran, avocado, rice bran, sunflower seeds, whey powder, mushrooms, cheese, corn, broccoli, caviar, sun-dried tomatoes, squash, and fish.
6. Vitamin B6
Form and maintain red blood cells and brain function.
Tree nuts, dried spices, wheat bran, sesame seeds, bananas, rice bran, dried herbs, pistachios, raw garlic, sunflower seeds, molasses, sorghum syrup, filberts, and hazelnuts.
7. Biotin (B7)
Essential for metabolism of protein and carbohydrates.
Oil-roasted peanuts, oil-roasted sunflower seeds, soy beans, dried yeast, oatmeal, walnuts, baker’s yeast, mustard powder, salted peanut, salted sunflower seeds, salted hazelnuts, dried peanuts, instant coffee, oil-roasted hazel nuts, and green laver.
8. Folate (folic acid or B9)
Forms red blood cells and essential to production of DNA.
Leafy green vegetables, pasta, bread, cereal, spinach, dark leafy greens, asparagus, turnip, beets, mustard greens, Brussels sprouts, lima beans, soybeans, brewer’s yeast, root vegetables, whole grains, wheat germ, bulgur wheat, kidney beans, white beans, mung beans, orange juice, and avocado.
9. Vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin)
Forms red blood cells and maintains central nervous system.
Clams, oysters, mussels, liver, caviar, octopus, fish, crab, lobster, beef, beef, mutton (especially shoulder), cheese (especially Swiss), and eggs.
10. Vitamin C
An antioxidant that promotes healthy teeth and gums.
Red chili peppers, guava, green chili peppers, bell peppers, fresh herbs (thyme and parsley), dark leafy greens (garden cress, kale, and mustard), broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kiwi, papaya, strawberries, oranges, and clementines.
11. Vitamin D
Essential for development of healthy teeth and bones.
Fish, eggs, liver, mushrooms, and sunshine.
12. Vitamin E
Helps form red blood cells and process Vitamin K.
Corn oil, sunflower seeds, paprika, soybean oil, margarine, safflower oil, wheat germ oil, sunflower oil, red chili powder, cooked taro root, almonds, pine nuts, peanuts, dried herbs (basil and oregano), dried apricots, pickled green olives, and cooked spinach.
13. Vitamin K
Essential for blood coagulation and bone health.
Dried herbs, prunes, pickled cucumber, dark leafy herbs, spring onion, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, chili powder, curry, paprika, cayenne, asparagus, and cabbage.
Signs of Vitamin Deficiency
Vitamin A Deficiency
- Vitamin A deficiency causes impaired vision, particularly in reduced light. This condition is commonly known as night blindness.
- Deficiency can also lead to hyperkeratosis, which is a thickening of the stratum corneum, or the outermost layer of skin. This appears as white lumps at the hair follicles.
- Deficiency of Vitamin A also causes keratomalacia, an eye disorder.
Signs of Vitamin B1 Defiency
- Vitamin B1 deficiency can cause beriberi, a condition that produces symptoms including loss of appetite, weakness, pain in the limbs, shortness of breath, and swollen feet or legs.
- B1, or thiamine, deficiency can also lead to Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, which manifests as vision disturbances, mental confusion, and unsteady walking.
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Heart failure
- Excessive consumption of alcohol can lead to B1 deficiency, as alcohol flushes the vitamin out of the body.
Signs of Vitamin B2 Deficiency
- Digestive problems
- Frequent dizziness
- Hair loss
- Skin rashes
- Eye problems
- Slow mental response
- Ariboflavinosis, which manifests with lesions around the mouth, weakness, weight loss, and anemia
Signs of Vitamin B3 Deficiency
- Pellagra (diarrhea, dermatitis, dementia, aggression, red skin lesions, insomnia, weakness, and confusion)
Signs of Vitamin B5 Deficiency
- Paresthesia (a burning sensation in the hands and feet, muscle cramps, numbness, tingling sensations, irritability, fatigue, diarrhea, vomiting, sleep disturbances, and restlessness).
Vitamin B6 Deficiency
Anemia and peripheral neuropathy are caused by a deficiency in Vitamin B6. Inflammation of the skin, sore tongue, depression, cognitive problems, and convulsions are some symptoms associated with these conditions.
Signs of Vitamin B7 Deficiency
- Enteritis (inflammation of the intestine)
- Hair loss
- Muscle pains
Signs of Folate, or Vitamin B9, Deficiency
- Magaloblastic anemia
- Heart problems
- Age-related hearing loss
- Age related macular degeneration
- Neural tube defects and other birth defects
Vitamin B12 Deficiency
- Megaloblastic anemia
- Heart problems
- Rapid breathing
- Rapid heartbeat
- Pale skin
- Sore tongue
- Weight loss
Vitamin C Deficiency
Vitamin C deficiency causes scurvy. Symptoms include fatigue, mood swings, joint pain, dry skin, weight loss, bruising, muscle pain, dental problems, dry hair, and infection.
Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency causes rickets and osteomalacia. People with this deficiencyare more likely to be affected by cardiovascular diseases and possibly even cancer. Older adults may suffer from cognitive impairment. Children with Vitamin D deficiency may experience severe asthma.
Vitamin E Deficiency
Vitamin E deficiency is very rare. It may cause mild hemolytic anemia in newborn infants. Spinocerebellar ataxia, myopathies, peripheral neuropathy, ataxia, skeletal myopathy, and retinopathy are other conditions caused by vitamin E deficiency.
Vitamin K Deficiency
Deficiency in Vitamin K causes bleeding diathesis. Newborn infants are more likely to be affected by Vitamin K deficiency.
Many vitamin supplements are available in the market. However, it is always advisable to obtain vitamins from their natural sources by eating foods rich in vitamins daily.
Quick Vitamin Facts
- Vitamins are organic compounds.
- An otherwise healthy person can get all the vitamins they need from a healthy diet.
- There is debate about whether supplements are beneficial. Some supplements can lead to complications when combined with certain medications or when taken before surgery.
- Some vitamins are water-soluble while others are fat-soluble.
- Vitamin A deficiency can cause night blindness.
- Vitamin B1, or thiamin, deficiency can cause beriberi. This condition is most common in regions where polished rice (where the husk is removed) is a staple food.
- Dark, leafy, green vegetables are excellent sources of many vitamins, including A, C, E, and K.
- Vitamin C deficiency can lead to scurvy.
- Sunlight is an excellent source of Vitamin D.
Recommended Daily Dosages of Essential Vitamins
Men: 1.2 mg; Women: 1 mg
Vitamin Quizview quiz statistics
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Questions & Answers
Which vitamin gives more strength?
Vitamin B and Vitamin D are strong, but we need all of them.Helpful 29
Is there a vitamin that acts as an enzyme?
Members of the vitamin B complex serve as coenzymes that assist every cell in the human body.
Why there a need of vitamins in our daily life?
Because they are essential nutrients.Helpful 20
What are vitamins useful for?
Vitamins are essential nutrients. They perform hundreds of roles in your body. They heal wounds, bolster your immune system, convert food into energy and repair cellular damage.Helpful 1
What are vitamins?
Vitamins are organic molecules.Helpful 18
© 2013 Srikanth R