Vitamins: understand the importance of including them in the diet

The word vitamin, registered by biochemist Casimir Funk in 1911, arose from the idea that they are essential for life (vital) and that, chemically, they would be amines (organic compounds).

Indeed, vitamins are indispensable for our lives, but it is known that, today, not all of them are necessarily amines.

Some are synthesized by our own organism, others need to be absorbed by food.

In excess or in need, they are not good for your health, which is why it is so important to consume them in a balanced way.

Read on to find out where to find them and what they are for!


What are vitamins?

Vitamins are organic substances essential for various processes in our body and, in general, are supplied through a balanced and healthy diet. They differ from each other by the activities and functions they perform in the organism, and also by the shape, that is, their chemical structures.

They can be compounds synthesized by the body or acquired through food, the latter being the most familiar type. In correct amounts – which are, in general, very small – they provide several health benefits.

Daily, we only need a few milligrams or micrograms.

In addition to being obtained through the diet, they can be acquired through exposure to the sun (vitamin D), from the intestinal bacterial flora ( vitamin K , riboflavin, biotin ) and by synthesis in the liver through the amino acid tryptophan (niacin).

Some of the vitamins can be synthesized by the body itself, but can also be found in food, as is the case with vitamin K, which is present in various foods (such as spinach), but is also synthesized by bacteria in the intestinal flora.

Various foods are sources of vitamins and with a varied diet, it is possible to guarantee the necessary quantities for everyday life. In special cases, however, the use of vitamin supplements may be indicated.

What are vitamins for?

Vitamins are essential nutrients that work in conjunction with enzymes to control cell activity. In our body, they are able to repair tissues, help to strengthen the immune system, collaborate for the health of mucous membranes and skin, and help in the treatment and prevention of diseases .

In addition, they are a source of energy for everyday life, favor some metabolic reactions and perform antioxidant and detoxifying action.

Generally, each vitamin plays a more specific role, but there are also some that are complementary and interact with other essential nutrients.

The intake of vitamins is important at any age, as they help in development and growth during childhood and in the balance of a healthy life in all stages of life.

The amount of vitamins needed can vary, too, according to various factors such as gender, age, health and fitness.

Water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins

Vitamins are divided into two types according to dissolution: fat-soluble, which dissolve in fat, and water-soluble, which are diluted in water.

Fat soluble, therefore, depend on the presence of lipids, but they can also be dissolved in pancreatic juice and bile (liquids that participate in digestion).

In this way, the body is able to absorb them through the intestine and transports them through the lymphatic system, where they can be stored in fat tissues and in the liver.

Vitamins are more difficult to be eliminated by the body, with some examples being vitamins D, K, A (stored in the liver) and E (stored in adipose tissue).

Water-soluble products, on the other hand, are easily diluted by the body, as our body is made up of a large amount of water. Therefore, they are absorbed and eliminated more easily, which requires daily replacement.

They are absorbed by the intestine and circulate through the bloodstream, being distributed among the tissues that need them.

Water-soluble vitamins are stored, to a certain extent, in organic tissues, but if there is a large intake, much of it is eliminated in the urine.

The B vitamins and vitamin C are part of this type of vitamin. With the exception of B12, which is stored in the liver, the others are easily eliminated, so it is necessary to have a diet rich in these nutrients.

What are vitamins?

Altogether, we need 14 vitamins to have a healthy life. Since our bodies cannot synthesize all of them, it is through a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, milk, meat and grains that we must acquire vitamins A, E, K, C, D and those of the B complex.

Know a little more about each one of them:

Vitamin A

Also known as retinol, retinal or retinoic acid, vitamin A is an important vitamin for the health of the eyes, bones, hair, skin, nails, immune system and reproductive organs .

It is fundamental for the healthy growth and development of our organism, presenting antioxidant action, which helps to fight free radicals and the early death of cells.

Some symptoms indicate when there is a lack or excess of this vitamin in the body. When absent, the person may have vision problems (such as night blindness), low immunity, dry hair, skin and mouth, brittle nails and headache , for example.

Too much is also bad for your health, as it can also cause dryness of the skin, in addition to joint pain, growth problems, malformation and other problems.

This vitamin can be acquired through foods such as eggs, milk, cheese, fish oil, liver, carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes , broccoli etc.

Read more: How to consume egg in the diet? Learn 4 ways to prepare

Vitamin K

Vitamin K, a fat-soluble vitamin, is important for blood circulation and bone calcification .

Because of this, a vitamin K deficient person may have problems such as bleeding, bone malformation or calcification of the body’s cartilage (a condition that causes cartilage stiffening).

But, fortunately, vitamin K deficiency is not so common, since it is a vitamin present in several vegetables, derived from milk, eggs, meat, fruits, cereals and, in addition, it is also synthesized by the body, through some bacteria present in the intestinal flora.

In excess, the vitamin can also cause damage, such as pain in the chest area and shortness of breath.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is one of the best known and consumed by people, especially those who are suffering from the flu or cold , as they find in this vitamin a booster for the immune system .

This is one of the most famous benefits of the vitamin, which really has this role in the body.

In addition to strengthening the body’s defenses, vitamin C is essential for the production of collagen, the formation of bones and teeth, combating free radicals, healing processes, iron absorption and metabolism of B-complex amino acids and vitamins.

To be able to absorb good amounts of vitamin C, it is possible to bet on several fruits rich in this nutrient, such as acerola, camu-camu, orange, tangerine, cashew, cranberry , guava and soursop.

Read more: What is Cranberry for?

However, it is necessary to be aware of the amounts ingested. Excessive consumption of vitamin C is related to an increased risk of developing kidney problems, irritation of the bladder (by making the urine more acidic) and gastrointestinal disorders.

The lack of the vitamin causes a disease called scurvy, which can cause bleeding and inflammation of the gums, loss of teeth, joint pain, hair loss , minor bleeding and anemia .

Pantothenic acid (B5)

Pantothenic acid or vitamin B5 converts nutrients such as proteins , fats and carbohydrates into energy for our body.

It provides benefits for the skin, as it helps to recover mild burns, irritations and acne , in addition to speeding up healing processes .

Because many foods contain this vitamin, deficiency of this nutrient is very unusual. But, when it does, some symptoms like insomnia , weakness, muscle tiredness and headache can arise.

To avoid this, foods such as eggs, poultry, sweet potatoes , dark green vegetables, milk and fish should be kept in the diet .

Vitamin E

The vitamin E (a-tocopherol) has an important antioxidant , is essential to the health of the reproductive organs, helps prevent the oxidation of other vitamins (like vitamin A and C) and is often used to retard rancidity in more food greasy (oxidation that causes food spoilage).

This vitamin is very present in soybean oil, rice, corn, sunflower, egg yolk, olive oil, peanuts, pistachios and Brazil nuts.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D (calciferol) is a type of vitamin absorbed by exposure to UVB rays. This exposure is capable of triggering a reaction in the body, which produces vitamin D from there.

This is possible because the skin has a substance similar to cholesterol (pro-vitamin D) that becomes the vitamin when we are exposed to the sun.

The recommended time of sunshine is small, being 15 to 20 minutes a day at a frequency of 3 times a week. The best time for this exposure is before 10 am, due to the solar intensity.

During these minutes, the ideal is to leave your arms and legs exposed to the sun, without the use of sunscreen. For those who want to take care of the skin, the protector can be applied on the face, preventing premature aging.

Sun protection factors above 8 can already interfere with the synthesis of the substance.

Most of the vitamin D that our bodies receive is that way, and a part is only ingested through food.

Read more:  Lack of vitamin D can cause disease and health risks

Some of the foods that have this vitamin are milk, egg yolk, tuna, sardines, salmon and chicken liver.

Consuming these foods and maintaining a healthy routine of exposure to the sun is essential because vitamin D is indispensable for the production of insulin and for cell maturation.

It is also important to prevent bone health-related diseases , as it helps in the absorption of other nutrients such as calcium and phosphorus.

Vitamin D2 and D3

Vitamin D is divided into two types: vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol). Both can be acquired through food, but it is D3 that is also synthesized through exposure to the sun.

There are not many differences between types in relation to chemical structures. As regards the origin of the vitamin in food, basically D3 is more common in foods of animal origin and D2 in foods of plant origin.

Niacin (B3)

Niacin, or vitamin B3, is one of several B vitamins. Its functions include helping the nervous system, the immune system and controlling cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar .

The consumption of this vitamin is also associated with the reduction of migraine headaches and the improvement of the health of the skin, eyes and joints, in addition to converting other nutrients into energy for our body.

Vitamin B3 is present in foods such as fish, poultry, milk, vegetables and meat.

Read more: Why should we eat fiber and what is the ideal daily amount?

Thiamine (B1)

Thiamine, or vitamin B1, in addition to converting nutrients into energy for the body, is essential for the health of the circulatory and nervous systems .

Therefore, it is essential for healthy aging, contributing to a good brain function, prevention of fatigue and depression .

The lack of this vitamin can cause complications such as beriberi, a disease caused by B1 deficiency, but also common in alcoholic people. The condition can cause weakness, body aches, swelling, decreased appetite and shortness of breath.

However, excess vitamin B1 is also harmful, as it can cause mental confusion, weight loss and cardiac complications in the most severe cases.

B1 is present in foods of animal and vegetable origin, such as poultry, beef, vegetables, leafy vegetables, eggplant , beans , tuna, nuts and cereals.

Riboflavin (B2)

B2, or riboflavin, is an important vitamin to help in the repair and maintenance of skin and eye health , being associated with the prevention of diseases such as cataracts .

This vitamin also helps in the production of adrenaline, in cardiovascular health, in healing processes, the formation of red cells and antibodies and in the functioning of the metabolism.

To have this vitamin, it is important to eat dark green leafy vegetables, milk, cheese, offal, lean meats and grains.

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) plays a regulatory role in the body, helping to control serotonin , an important neurotransmitter for the quality of our sleep.

It is also a vitamin that contributes to the strengthening of the immune system and that stimulates liver function.

Vitamin B6 also acts in the formation of red blood cells, in the production of some hormones, helps to reduce cholesterol, prevent diseases, improve eye health and helps in the metabolism of fats, proteins and carbohydrates.

It is present in foods such as liver steak, salmon, poultry, bananas , potatoes, spinach, hazelnuts and fruits.

B12 vitamin

Vitamin B12, or cobalamin, is an important vitamin for the maintenance and functioning of the body .

Its consumption helps to prevent diseases such as anemia, ensures greater energy for the body and the functioning of the nervous and cardiac system.

It is also a vitamin involved in processes such as the formation of red blood cells, hormonal balance and functioning of the bone marrow and digestive system.

In general, most of the foods that contain this nutrient are of animal origin, such as meat, fish, eggs and dairy products.

Therefore, those who follow a diet that excludes some or all of these items (vegetarians and vegans) need to be more careful, generally, replacing them with supplements.

Vitamin deficiency can cause anemia due to lack of B12 and neurological damage.


Choline, which is also part of the B vitamins, is essential for the functioning of the brain , as it participates in the synthesis and release of a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine, which is present in several brain activities.

These activities are related to memory and learning functions, but also to muscle contraction.

In addition, choline also plays an important role in reducing inflammation, preventing problems during pregnancy (malformation of the fetus) and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and breast cancer .

The main sources of this vitamin are chicken liver, offal, peanuts, legumes, eggs and salmon.

Read more: Peanuts in pregnancy is bad or not?

Biotin (B7)

Biotin, also known as vitamin B7 or vitamin H, helps in the conversion of nutrients in the body, transforming proteins, fats and carbohydrates into energy .

In addition, it is also present in the synthesis of glucose and the breakdown of fatty acids.

Provides benefits for skin, hair and nails, and the deficiency of this vitamin can cause hair loss, dry skin and brittle nails.

For adequate consumption of this vitamin, it is important to keep milk, fruit, seeds and red meat in the diet. Tomatoes, onions, egg yolks, cauliflowers, carrots, nuts and peanuts are also good sources of biotin.

Read more: Biotin fattening or losing weight? What are the side effects?

Folic acid (B9)

The folic acid , or vitamin B9, it is important to health for several reasons.

This vitamin is present in the production of red blood cells, in the synthesis of proteins, in the process of cell division, in the regulation of appetite, fetal formation and tissue growth .

It can also promote benefits for the skin and hair, in addition to protecting the digestive tract by fighting parasites and helping with food poisoning processes.

It is also a fundamental vitamin in the DNA synthesis process, being a nutrient that helps maintain the functioning of the circulatory, nervous and immune systems.

The main sources of folic acid are green leaves and vegetables, liver, kidney, fish, whole grains and legumes.

Benefits of vitamins

All vitamins are essential for the proper functioning of the body, in a balanced and appropriate way. Although they play different roles, in general, all are essential as a source of energy, improvement of metabolism, strengthening of the immune system, formation and maintenance of tissues, in addition to helping in the prevention of diseases and other activities.

Know a little about the main benefits of each vitamin:

Good for skin health

Some types of vitamins help in the synthesis of collagen and are antioxidants, which helps in preventing skin aging, providing more firmness and elasticity.

The vitamin A , for example, takes action against sagging, it minimizes the appearance of acne and acts against photoaging.

Some vitamins and vitamin C also have health and beauty benefits for the skin.

Helps in hair health and strengthens nails

Vitamins such as niacin and biotin , which are part of the B complex, are important nutrients for the health of hair and nails. Anyone who suffers from falling hair or has very brittle nails should check if the cause is not due to a lack of vitamins.

Do well for memory

Because they interact with processes in the central nervous system and in the synthesis of neurotransmitters, some vitamins are essential for memory. Some of these vitamins are B6, choline and thiamine.

Strengthen the immune system

Certain vitamins work as a reinforcement for the immune system and, therefore, its consumption is essential to preserve the action of our body’s defenses.

Read more: Benefits of quinoa: grain prevents disease and improves immunity

In addition to vitamin C, vitamin E and A are also good sources for this benefit.

Improve bone health

Vitamins are essential for bone growth and strengthening. Vitamin D, for example, helps in the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, so it is indispensable for bone health.

They are a source of energy and prevent diseases

Some vitamins convert fats, carbohydrates and proteins into daily energy, such as riboflavin, B12 and biotin. In general, they all help to prevent diseases.

Some are more specific, such as the action of vitamin E in preventing diseases such as cataracts, cardiovascular and skin diseases. Vitamin K, for example, is also essential for blood clotting, which helps to prevent bleeding.

What foods are sources of vitamins?

Foods of plant and animal origin, in general, are always good sources of vitamins, but there are some in particular that are very rich in these nutrients and, certainly, should be part of our daily diet.

One of the richest is the liver, be it beef or chicken. It contains the main vitamins, with the exception of C and E. Therefore, it is considered a champion food in vitamins.

The egg is also not far behind, being one of the most complete foods, as it contains 7 different vitamin types.

But to have complete health, it is not enough to just eat these foods in abundance.

As rich as they are, they do not have all the necessary nutrients. The ideal is to diversify the dish and bet on a variety of food groups.

It is good to maintain a balance, eating fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, meats, dairy products and fish in a diversified way.

In order to know if you are consuming the correct amounts, it is interesting to maintain a routine of consultations with the doctor or talk to a nutritionist.

Read more: Pitaya: what are the benefits of “dragon fruit” and how to eat

Vitamin supplements: when to take?

A balanced meal is able to meet the body’s need for vitamins, knowing that large quantities are not needed. However, the supply of vitamin supplements is vast and promises several benefits.

But the irresponsible use of these products must also be alerted. Healthy people are not advised to take supplements, especially without medical guidance and monitoring.

Some special cases that may require use involve the following conditions:


During pregnancy, the obstetrician can understand that it is necessary to introduce vitamin supplements, such as folic acid, as this vitamin, together with iron, helps to reduce the risk of anemia and malformation in the baby.

Patients with gastrointestinal problems and restricted diet

Some gastrointestinal illnesses can interfere with the absorption of vitamins, which leads to a loss of health. In the case of diets, the deficiency happens due to the low intake of nutrients through food.

In such cases, supplements can be indicated as a form of nutritional replacement.

Old people

Age is considered a factor in the use of vitamin supplements due to the increased occurrence of health problems and the use of medications that can interfere with the absorption of vitamins.

What is hypovitaminosis and hypervitaminosis?

To have good health you need to have balance. In the case of the consumption of vitamins, this also applies. In excess or in scarcity they can do harm. Know more:

Hypovitaminosis or vitamin deficiency

Vitamin deficiency is a condition known as hypovitaminosis (partial deficiency) or avitaminosis (total deficiency).

This deficiency of vitamins in the body can occur for different causes, such as changes in the functioning of the intestinal flora, malabsorption of the body, variations in metabolism or a reduction in consumption through food.

Read more:  Lack of vitamin B12 causes physical and psychological symptoms

Hypervitaminosis or excess vitamin

Already hypervitaminosis or vitamin poisoning is the opposite condition. In such cases, the person consumes excessive amounts of vitamins, which also causes damage to health.

It is not a very common condition and, when it occurs, it is usually as a consequence of the use of supplements in high doses or changes in the body.

Hypervitaminosis can cause intoxication, generating several side effects, depending on the vitamin ingested.

Symptoms such as nausea, headaches, joint pain, hair loss, rougher and scaly skin, liver damage, fissures on the lips, fatigue and changes in appetite can occur.

What is the daily amount needed?

The ideal amount of vitamins can vary a lot according to each organism and for different factors, such as age, sex, physical conditioning and health conditions in general. But what is known is that it is not necessary to ingest large amounts on a daily basis.

To make sure that you are consuming the right amounts (no less and no more) it is important to talk to a nutritionist, who will know how to evaluate it more appropriately.

Anyway, there are some quantities already established as an average to be followed. For adults, according to Anvisa, the daily recommendation is as follows:

  • Vitamin A : 600µ;
  • Vitamin D : 5µ;
  • Vitamin C: 45mg;
  • Vitamin E : 10mg;
  • Thiamine: 1.2mg;
  • Riboflavin : 1.3mg;
  • Niacin : 16mg;
  • Vitamin B6 : 1.3mg;
  • Folic acid : 400µ;
  • Vitamin B12 : 2.4µ;
  • Biotin : 25µ;
  • Pantothenic acid : 5mg;
  • Vitamin K : 65µ;
  • Hill : 550mg.

Vitamin for children

The best source of vitamins for children is a balanced diet. For this, a good dietary education is necessary.

The use of vitamin supplements should not be the first option, as healthy and well-fed children do not need this type of resource.

Supplements are used when the pediatrician understands that there is a need, which occurs in specific cases.

For example, the lack of sun exposure may cause the child to need to replace the vitamin D that his body needs. This is something that the doctor can assess through exams.

To prevent the use of supplements, it is important to encourage your child to play or do activities in the sun during the recommended time. In addition to being healthy it is a form of leisure and entertainment.

Premature children may also need some type of replacement, but healthy ones should not take supplements, unless recommended by the pediatrician.

Vitamin for pregnant women

During pregnancy, the woman may need to replace some vitamins to preserve her health and that of the baby.

The lack of vitamins in this period is very harmful, which can cause anemia, malformation of the fetus, impaired growth and the formation of the baby’s DNA.

During pregnancy monitoring, the doctor should assess the need for supplements and what vitamins need to be ingested in larger doses.

It is important that the pregnant woman correctly follow the obstetrician’s instructions and never take the supplements on her own initiative, but always looking for a balanced diet as well.

Vitamin for dog

Like us, pets may also need a nutritional boost. Although it is an unusual discussion, you need to know that our pets, like dogs, also need to ingest nutrients.

It is through the rations that they are able to obtain these properties, but there are also synthetic vitamins, which should be given only after the veterinarian’s evaluation.

Without vitamins, the health of these animals is compromised and the chances of developing a disease are much greater.

Therefore, it is important to pay attention to the food packaging and the signs that the animal shows. When you notice any behavior or symptom, seek help from a veterinarian.