There are 13 essential vitamins, meaning that these vitamins are required for the body to work properly. Below is a list of the essential vitamins and their functions.
Vitamin A helps form and maintain healthy teeth, bones, soft tissue, mucous membranes, and skin.
Vitamin B6, also called pyridoxine, helps form red blood cells and maintain brain function. This vitamin also plays an important role in the proteins that are part of many chemical reactions in the body. The more protein you eat the more pyridoxine your body requires.
Vitamin B12, like the other B vitamins, is important for metabolism. It also helps form red blood cells and maintain the central nervous system.
Vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, is an antioxidant that promotes healthy teeth and gums. It helps the body absorb iron and maintain healthy tissue. It is also essential for wound healing.
Vitamin D is also known as the "sunshine vitamin," since it is made by the body after being in the sun. 10 to 15 minutes of sunshine 3 times a week is enough to produce the body's requirement of vitamin D for most people at most latitudes. People who do not live in sunny places may not make enough vitamin D. It is very hard to get enough vitamin D from food sources alone. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. You need calcium for the normal development and maintenance of healthy teeth and bones. It also helps maintain proper blood levels of calcium and phosphorus.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant also known as tocopherol. It helps the body form red blood cells and uses vitamin K.
Vitamin K is needed because without it, blood would not stick together (coagulate). Some studies suggest that it is important for bone health.
Biotin is essential for the metabolism of proteins and carbohydrates, and in the production of hormones and cholesterol.
Niacin is a B vitamin that helps maintain healthy skin and nerves. It also has cholesterol-lowering effects at higher doses.
Folate works with vitamin B12 to help form red blood cells. It is needed for the production of DNA, which controls tissue growth and cell function. Any woman who is pregnant should be sure to get enough folate. Low levels of folate are linked to birth defects such as spina bifida.
Pantothenic acid is essential for the metabolism of food. It also plays a role in the production of hormones and cholesterol.
Riboflavin (vitamin B2) works with the other B vitamins. It is important for body growth and the production of red blood cells.
Thiamine (vitamin B1) helps the body cells change carbohydrates into energy. It is essential for heart function and healthy nerve cells.
Choline helps in the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system. Lack of choline can cause swelling in the liver.
Carnitine helps the body to change fatty acids into energy.
Vitamins are grouped into two categories: Fat-soluble and Water-soluble. There are four fat-soluble vitamins that are stored in the body's fatty tissue, vitamins A, D, E, and K. These vitamins are absorbed more easily by the body in the presence of dietary fat.
There are nine water-soluble vitamins that are not stored in the body and any leftover water-soluble vitamins leave the body through the urine. Although the body keeps a small reserve of these vitamins, they have to be taken on a regular basis to prevent shortages in the body. Vitamin B12 is the only water-soluble vitamin that can be stored in the liver for many years. Some “vitamin-like factors” are also needed by the body such as Choline and Carnitine. A vitamin deficiency occurs when you do not get enough of a certain vitamin. Vitamin deficiency can cause health problems.