The Alphabet of Vitamins – Common Vitamins Explained

They don’t teach this stuff at school.

We hear all the time how important it is to “get your vitamins”, our parents, and we as parents, encourage the eating of our fruit and vegetables. We know that they are full of vitamins and we know that vitamins are good for us.

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Unfortunately, some people just don’t like vegetables. And today there is discussion about the quality of the vitamins in our fruit and vegetables due to GMO, lack of nutrients in the soil and lack of freshness of the vegetables we do eat. Not forgetting that how a vegetable is cooked, will also have an effect on the amount of vitamins actually in the vegetable by the time you eat them.

No wonder that people are now reaching out to vitamin supplements to replace the missing vitamins in their diets. It’s big business.

But what exactly are vitamins and what are they specifically good for?

Why should we be eating them?

When my son asked me about specific vitamins, example “Mum, what is vitamin C?” I needed to do some research to understand them myself, so that I could explain it to him as well as explain why he needed them.

So this is what I found and I hope you find it useful in your own understanding, or if you ever need to explain it to your own children.

Vitamins are organic compounds that we need, a small amount of, to survive. Ideally you should get them from a healthy diet, however, many people are lacking in vitamins due to their unhealthy diets, especially in a western diet, full of saturated fat, red meat, high carbs and junk food.

Let me show you the alphabet of vitamins.

Vitamin A


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Vitamin A  is a generic term which covers a number of related compounds. It is a fat soluble compound found in animals (retinol) and fruit & vegetables (carotenoids). Vitamin A is considered good for your eyes, general growth and development, and helps to keep your teeth strong as well.

Deficiency in Vitamin A can lead to blindness in extreme cases, as well as increased susceptibility to infections and thyroid conditions.  A natural source of vitamin A is carrots. Other sources of vitamin A include sweet potatoes and cantaloupe melon. Most orange foods are a good source of vitamin A.

For more detailed information visit The Linus Pauling Institute’s Micronutrient Information Center (MIC) wesite.

Vitamin B complex


There are eight B vitamins which are grouped together and known as a B-complex. They have similar properties and functions. They include:

Vitamin B-1 known thiamine

Vitamin B-2 known as riboflavin

Vitamin B-3 known as niacin

 Vitamin B-5 known as pantothenic acid

Vitamin B-6 known as pyridoxine hydrochloride

Vitamin B9 -known as Folic acid or folate

Vitamin B-12 known as cyanocobalamin


For  detailed description of these B vitamins, check out The Linus Pauling Institute’s Micronutrient Information Center (MIC) wesite.

Here’s a summary:

The B complex vitamins are water-soluble. This means that, unlike many vitamins which can be stored in the body for future use, your body is not able to store most of the B vitamins, the exception to this is vitamin B-12. So you need to regularly ingest your  vitamin B’s.

Thiamine is needed for many enzyme functions in relation to the metabolism of carbohydrates, amino acids and fatty acids. Deficiency of Thiamine can result in a condition known as Beriberi which affects many organ systems in the body such as the cardiovascular, muscular and gastrointestinal systems.

Riboflavins are critical to the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and lipids. They also act as electron carriers in the process of energy production. Pre-clampsia in pregnant women and cataract in the eyes are conditions that have been associated with Riboflavin deficiency. Eating fortified wheat flour and bread as well as Salmon, milk, eggs and almonds will help increase your intake of Riboflavins.

Niacin, is used to make co-enzymes  and is needed for many enzyme functions in the body including gene activity in the cells. A deficiency of niacin will affect the skin the digestive system and the nervous system. Severe deficiency results in a condition known as Pellagia

Pantothenic acid is needed to make Co enzyme A , which is vital for many biological reactions in the body as well as making hormones. Deficiency is rare, however when needed it can be found in Liver and Kidney, fish, eggs milk avocado and mushrooms.

Vitamin B6 is essential for the function of many enzymes in the body and specifically for protein metabolism. It is also required for red blood cell function. Deficiency in B6 is uncommon, however severe deficiency shows as inflammation of the tongue, ulcers in the mouth, irritability and depression.

Vitamin B9, Folate, is essential for brain development and is often recommended during pregnancy

Vitamin B12 has the largest chemical structure and is the most complex of all the Vitamins. It is essential for Folate production and is needed to preserve the Myelin sheath which surrounds the neurons. The haem in our red blood cells require vitamin B12 in order to be produced. Deficiency in B12 is also associated with chronic stomach inflammation. Mostly found in animal food sources so vegetarians may find it more difficult to get their Vitamin B12

Biotin is a B complex vitamin also known as vitamin H. It is needed for enzyme function and is a key regulator in the process of converting information in the DNA (genes) into protein and other cell structures. It is a crucial nutrient during pregnancy and is good for our nails. Biotin deficiency is rare and is noticed by hair loss and scaly red rash. Dietary biotin can be found in many foods including egg yolk, organ meats, yeast, bananas, cauliflower and mushrooms.

As you can see, the B complex vitamins are needed for many biochemical activities in the body which are highly complex.  Overall, they are good for keeping your energy up, plus they increase your immune function, nervous system and your iron absorption.

Natural sources of vitamin B are mostly found in whole unprocessed foods, such as meats, fish, including shellfish, whole grains, potatoes, chilli peppers, bananas, lentils, beans, molasses, and yeast to name a few. Any of these things can be prepared in a variety of ways, so you should have no problem with getting any of your vitamin B’s, which are vital for sustaining life.

Vitamin C


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Vitamin C otherwise known as L-ascorbic acid is a water soluble vitamin that cannot be made in the body so we must ingest it regularly.

Everyone knows that vitamin C is one vitamin that you need. However, many people only consider it to be good for helping to avoid colds because of its high level of antioxidants. There is debate as to whether this is true, although it most likely helps relieve the symptoms rather than prevent you from catching one.

It is actually good for a few other things as well. Vitamin C works to strengthen your blood vessels, it is essential for collagen production to give your skin its elasticity, and it helps increases iron absorption. All of this, on top of helping treat that cold. Why would anyone not want to take vitamin C? Vitamin C can be found in many different sources, not just oranges.

Other sources of vitamin C include red and green peppers, guava and kiwi, grapefruits and strawberries, as well as Brussel sprouts and cantaloupe.

Vitamin D


Vitamin D refers to a group of fat-soluble secosteroids which are responsible for increasing intestinal absorption of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphate, and zinc.

It is known as the sunshine vitamin. Ideally you should get your vitamin D from the sun! It is made in your skin when the UVB rays in sunlight converts the precursor to vitamin D.

Vitamin D can also be found in some foods. The best food  sources of vitamin D are fish, like this beautiful piece of salmon, eggs, and mushrooms. Vitamin D is also good for strong healthy bones because it helps the body absorb the calcium that the bones need.

Bone pain and muscle weakness are symptomatic of low Vitamin D. Rickets and osteomalacia are conditions associated with low Vitamin D. Blood tests can help identity your levels if you think that you may be deficient.

Vitamin E

Almond Nuts

Vitamin E is a fat soluble antioxidant. Severe deficiency is rare and is usually due to malnutrition or genetic disorders such as fat malabsorption syndrome. Impaired balance and coordination as well as retina problems in the eye and muscle weakness are some symptoms of deficiency with vitamin E.

Not only is vitamin E great for your blood circulation, it also protects you from free radicals making it good for your skin your hair and for fighting ageing. Great sources include almonds, sunflower seeds, mangoes, avocado, broccoli and even tomatoes.

Vitamin K


Vitamin K is a vitamin that can be produced in the body, although it is actually the good bacteria in the gut that produces the vitamin K.

There are 2 forms of Vitamin K. K1 (phylloquinone) and K2 (menaquinone).

K1 (phylloquinone), is derived from the diet, in particular from leafy green vegetables such as Kale, Chard and Collard.

K2 (menaquinone), is produced by the good bacteria in the gut.

Vitamin K is very important in preventing blood clotting and excessive bleeding. It is a fat soluble vitamin which is essential for the functioning of several proteins. It is also important for healthy bones, optimising insulin levels and protecting your heart.

Because newborn babies do not have the good bacteria ready to convert to vitamin K and because breast milk is not a good source of vitamin K, in western societies, newborns are given a injection of vitamin K. at birth.

Many of the major benefits of Vitamin K are overlooked and as such the vitamin itself is sometimes referred to as the “forgotten Vitamin”.  Dr Mercola discusses them in more detail here.

The best sources of Vitamin K1 includes Green leafy vegetables such as Kale, Scallions, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, prunes, salad greens, and broccoli.

Always consult your doctor or health care professional before taking vitamins or increasing your dietary intake of vitamins to ensure that they are right for you.

Vitamin P


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Vitamin P is not an actual vitamin, it is a term used back in the 1930’s to the 1950’s for what we now refer to as Flavonoids,

Flavonoids are super healing plant substances which are crucial for the absorbing of vitamin C. There are thousands of different kinds of Flavonoids which are packed with nutrients and antioxidants that are essential for the functioning of nearly all our cells in the body.

Our blood vessels, bone, teeth, muscles and the collagen in the skin all require these flavonoids for tissue growth healing and repair.

Learn more about this often unknown and misunderstood vitamin P which has been shown to help in healing cancer

The three flavonoids which have been shown to pack a punch when it comes to cancer is:

1 Quercetin which can be found in apples, onions, berries and citrus fruits.

2. Rutin which works with Quercetin and can be found in buckwheat, amaranth leaves, elderflower tea unpeeled apples, unfermented rooibos tea and figs.

3. Curcumin which is the main substance found in Turmeric and works in combination with Piperine found in black pepper.

So there you have it, my research into the alphabet of vitamins that hopefully even my teenage son can understand.

I learnt a lot myself doing this research and I’m pleased to say that I do eat most, if not all of the suggested foods.

It seems quite clear to me that eating these healthy foods full of vitamins will not only keep me healthy now and into my old age, but also keep me feeling and looking younger too.

The option of taking vitamin supplements is there too if you feel the need. Although I highly recommend that you always consult your doctor or health care professional before taking vitamin supplements or increasing your dietary intake of vitamins to ensure that they are right for you, because some vitamins may react with some medications.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. As a Thank you for making it to the end, I would like to give yo a copy of my free e-book, “Discover Top Superfoods And Health Tips For Fast Weight Loss”

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To your success


Note: “Essential Nutrition Tips” does not offer medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you have medical concerns please consult your doctor. See Full Disclaimer.

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