Vitamin Boost For Health: 8 Types, Role And Best Food Sources
Image Credit: Unsplash

Anybody who gets a basic health education knows that getting a balanced diet daily is essential for good health and well-being. Whether you are in good health and want to stay that way or are managing ailments and lifestyle disorders, including weight gain and obesity, a balanced diet matters because it is the only way to get the critical vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, proteins and antioxidants your body needs to function at its best. But have you ever stopped to wonder what these nutrients are and why they matter?  

The role that nutrients play in our overall health cannot be underestimated, and one of the most important ones we need are vitamins. And while it is quite easy to use the generic term “vitamins” for good health, understanding what the types of essential vitamins are and the exact role they play in our health is very important. This is because vitamin deficiencies can cause a plethora of health issues which can add to your disease burden. 

According to a 2021 study published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Nutritional Science, vitamin deficiencies are a part of nutritional deficiencies the Indian population is grappling with apart from deficiencies for iron, iodine and other micronutrients. Vitamin A, B12 and D deficiencies are particularly acute among Indians, especially women. So, understanding what these vitamins are, the role they play in your health and their best food sources is critical. Here is everything you need to know. 

Video Credit: YouTube/The Cooking Fellows

First, it is important to understand what exactly vitamins are. According to the US National Institutes for Health (NIH), vitamins are vital micronutrients and organic compounds that play a crucial role in health. While our bodies create or synthesize a number of vitamins, these are usually in insufficient amounts—which is why we need vitamin boosts predominantly from our diets and through supplements in extreme cases. Broadly classified as water-soluble and fat-soluble, the following are the key vitamins you need for good health through your diet. 

Vitamin A 

Also known as retinol, vitamin A is critical in maintaining the immune system, vision and skin at their best. A fat-soluble vitamin, vitamin A also plays a huge role in the proper function of the reproductive system and cell function—so getting it in plenty is vital. The best food sources for vitamin A are carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, kale, squash, pumpkin, liver and eggs.  

Vitamin B Complex 

Vitamin B complex refers to not one but a myriad of vitamins that are water-soluble and essential for various metabolic processes that your body undertakes. The primary functions of vitamin B complex are energy production and the synthesis of red blood cells. Here’s a list of B vitamins and their best sources. 

a. Vitamin B1 (Thiamine), found in whole grains, nuts, pork, and beans. 

b. Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), found in dairy products, green leafy vegetables and lean meats. 

c. Vitamin B3 (Niacin), found in meat, fish, peanuts and whole grains. 

d. Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid), found in avocado, mushrooms and broccoli. 

e. Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine), found in bananas, poultry and fortified cereals. 

f. Vitamin B7 (Biotin), found in egg yolks, nuts and soy beans. 

g. Vitamin B9 (Folate), found in leafy greens, legumes and fortified grains. 

h. Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin), found in animal products like meat, dairy and seafood. 

Vitamin C 

Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C is one of the most well-known vitamins primarily because its symptoms highlight major health issues. This is because vitamin C’s role is to not only help blood vessels and bones function properly but also helps the body fight infections and heal wounds. In fact, vitamin C is also essential for skin health and can be found in food sources like citrus fruits, strawberries (and berries of all sorts), kiwi, bell peppers, broccoli and tomatoes. 

Vitamin D 

Another vitamin type that is now popular because of the essential role it plays—and how impactful vitamin D deficiency can be, especially in the Indian context. From keeping our energy levels up to maintaining strong bones and teeth by aiding calcium absorption, vitamin D does it all. Our bodies can synthesize vitamin D with adequate exposure to sunlight, but it can also be obtained from food sources like fatty fish, cod liver oil, dairy products, other animal products and some grains. 

Vitamin E 

Did you know that many vitamins also double as antioxidants and that vitamin E is one of them? This powerful antioxidant, like all antioxidants, protects the body from cell damage caused by harmful free radicals. Critical for a healthy immune system, vitamin E is found in nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, spinach, avocado and kiwi. 

Vitamin F 

Also known as fatty acids, vitamin F is not a single vitamin—in fact, the Cleveland Clinic says it doesn’t even count as a vitamin, technically—but is rather a group of essential fatty acids. This includes the well-known omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids which play crucial roles in brain health, heart health, and in reducing inflammation. Vitamin F, as you may already know, may be found in fatty fish and all sorts of nuts and seeds.  

Vitamin H  

More commonly and simply known as biotin, vitamin H is essential for healthy hair, skin and nails along with many essential metabolic processes. Sometimes clubbed together within vitamin B complex, vitamin H also helps the body synthesize macronutrients like carbohydrates and fats. Biotin is found in food sources like egg yolks, nuts, sweet potatoes and spinach. 

Vitamin K 

Considered to be one of the most elusive vitamins, vitamin K is critical for blood clotting and bone health. There are basically two kins of vitamin K that can be sourced from certain food items, but this nutrient isn’t as easily available as vitamin C for example. Vitamin K1 is found in green leafy vegetables while vitamin K2 is found in fermented foods like yoghurt, cheese and sauerkraut.