Vitamins are essential for life. The body requires only small quantities of vitamins compared to carbohydrates, proteins and fats. However, they are essential for many metabolic processes in the body; such as building muscle, skin, bones and nerves, also hormones and enzymes, as well as for nutrient conversion into energy.
Today, 13 different vitamins are known to us. Since the body cannot make its own vitamins – with the exception of vitamin D – vitamins must be taken through food. Vitamins are contained in foodstuffs of plant and animal origin.
Some vitamins are a group of different chemical compounds. However, such a grouping is often only cited by one vitamin name for simplicity’s sake.
Vitamins are divided into fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins. Fat-soluble vitamins can be stored in the body’s fatty tissues and are used as necessary. Water-soluble vitamins must be immediately used by the body. When taking large amounts of vitamins, the surplus is excreted in the urine.
There is considerable evidence that vitamins are more effective if they are obtained through a balanced diet and not as a single active ingredient from multivitamin tablets. Their protective effect is due to the complex interaction of substances as they naturally occur. This includes not only vitamins, but also minerals, trace minerals and phytochemicals. Therefore, it is especially important to eat a variety of foods so that a broad range of active substances can be included in the diet.
Vitamin supplements should only be taken when a deficiency has been diagnosed in consultation with a physician or a health care professional.
What Can I Do to Preserve and Optimize Vitamin Content in Food?
Many vitamins are sensitive to oxygen, light and heat. Storage conditions and processing methods such as cutting or cooking cause loss of vitamins. Therefore:
- Only store food for a short amount of time
- Store food in a cool and dark place
- Cook food just before eating
- First, wash fruit and vegetables and then chop them
«5 a Day» shows how vegetables and fruits can help you meet your daily vitamin requirements. For some vitamins, small amounts of foodstuffs of animal origin are required daily. Learn more about this under Sources of Vitamins.