Vitamins are essential organic compounds that are needed in small quantities to sustain life. Our bodies need 13 essential vitamins to function, and these vitamins come primarily from the foods we eat. There are two main categories of vitamins: water-soluble and fat-soluble. Water-soluble vitamins, such as C vitamins and B-complex vitamins, dissolve in water and are excreted through the urine if there is an excess.
On the other hand, fat-soluble vitamins, such as A, D, E and K, are stored in the liver and adipose tissue. Vitamin C is a key player in wound healing, bone and tooth formation, strengthening blood vessel walls, and keeping cells together through collagen synthesis. It also works as an antioxidant in the body and is crucial for the immune system. Fruits and vegetables with the densest concentrations of vitamin C include citrus fruits, melons, peppers, strawberries, vegetables from the cabbage family, papayas, kiwi, potatoes, mangoes, lettuce and tomatoes.
Vitamin E is found in vegetable oil, fruits and vegetables, cereals, nuts (almonds and hazelnuts), seeds (sunflower), and fortified cereals. This vitamin is important for keeping body tissues such as gums, bones and blood vessels in good condition. Having too little of any particular vitamin can increase the risk of developing certain health problems. Therefore, it is important to have a varied and balanced diet containing lots of fruits and vegetables as the main source of vitamins.
Older people may lack vitamin C and B so it is important to pay attention to their diet. Additionally, because excess amounts of fat-soluble vitamins go to the liver to store them, potential health risks are related to excess of these vitamins in the body. Vitamin D is best synthesized when exposed to sunlight.