13 Essential Vitamins Your Body Needs: Functions, Sources, Deficiency

A vitamin is an ‘organic compound’ that is required in small amounts. Most vitamins must come through food because the body does not make or produces very little.

Vitamin requirements vary from person to person. Humans must obtain vitamin C through food, but dogs produce all the vitamin C they need.

The human body cannot produce enough vitamin D from food. Sunlight is the best source of vitamin D, as it allows the body to synthesize it.

For optimum health, the body requires different amounts of vitamins.

This article will explain what vitamins are, what they do, and which foods contain them.

Assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables
13 Essential Vitamins Your Body Needs Functions, Sources, Deficiency

What Are Vitamins?

Vitamins are ‘organic substances found in small amounts in natural foods. An inadequate intake of any vitamin can lead to specific health problems.

Vitamins are organic compounds, which means they contain carbon. The body may need to obtain it from food as an essential nutrient.

Presently, 13 vitamins are considered to be essential.

Fat-Soluble & Water-Soluble Vitamins

Vitamins can be dissolved in fats or water. The two types are described below:

  1. Fat-Soluble Vitamins

Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble. Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the liver and fatty tissues, and reserves can last for days or months.

Fat-soluble vitamins are absorbed through the intestine with the help of dietary fat

2. Water-Soluble Vitamins

Water-soluble vitamins will not stay longer in the body and cannot be stored. They leave the body through the urine. For this reason, people need to take water-soluble vitamins more often than fat-soluble vitamins.

Vitamin C and all B vitamins are water-soluble.

13 Essential Vitamins Your Body Needs Functions, Sources, Deficiency

13 Essential Vitamins 

Learn more about each of the following currently recognized vitamins:

Vitamin A

Chemical name: Retinal, retinol, four types of carotenoids – including β-carotene

  • Vitamin A is fat-soluble.
  • Function: It is crucial for eye health.
  • Deficiency: This can lead to night blindness and keratomalacia, a condition in which the clear front layer of the eye becomes cloudy and dry.
  • Good Sources: Liver, cod liver oil, broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes, kale, butter, pumpkins, spinach, collard greens, cheeses, apricots, eggs, milk, and cantaloupe melon are among them.

Functions of Vitamin A: Benefits | Deficiency | ‎Dosage | Food Sources

Vitamin B1

Chemical name: Thiamine.

  • Vitamin B1 is water-soluble.
  • Function: It helps in the breakdown of blood sugar by producing various enzymes.
  • Deficiency: This could result in beriberi and Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.
  • Good sources: Includes pork, yeast, sunflower seeds, cereal grains, whole grain rye, brown rice, kale, asparagus, cauliflower, potatoes, oranges, eggs, and liver.

Vitamin B1 or Thiamine Functions: Benefits | Deficiency | Foods | Dosage

Vitamin B2

Chemical name: Riboflavin.

  • Vitamin B2 is water-soluble.
  • Function: It is essential for the body’s cell growth and development and helps metabolize food.
  • Deficiency: Symptoms include fishers in the mouth and inflammation of the lips.
  • Good sources: Includes bananas, persimmons, asparagus, okra, beets, milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs, fish, meat, and green beans.

Functions of Vitamin B2 – Riboflavin | Benefits | Food Sources | Deficiency Symptoms

Vitamin B3

Chemical name: Niacin, Niacinamide

  • Vitamin B3 is water-soluble.
  • Function: Niacin is necessary for the production and functioning of cells in the body.
  • Deficiency: Low levels lead to pellagra, which causes skin changes, diarrhea, and intestinal upset.
  • Good sources: Includes chicken, beef, salmon, tuna, eggs, milk, leafy vegetables, tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, seeds, nuts, tofu, and lentils.

Niacin (Vitamin B3) – Everything You Need to Know About Vitamin B3‎

Vitamin B5

Chemical name: Pantothenic acid

  • Vitamin B5 is water-soluble.
  • Function: It is necessary for the production of energy and hormones.
  • Deficiency: Symptoms include tingling or paresthesias.
  • Good sources: Includes meat, yogurt, broccoli, avocado, and whole grains.

Vitamin B6

Chemical name: Pyridoxine, pyridoxamine, pyridoxal

  • Vitamin B6 is water-soluble.
  • Function: It is vital for the production of red blood cells.
  • Deficiency: Low levels of B6 ​​can cause peripheral neuropathy and anemia.
  • Good sources: Includes beef, bananas, pumpkin, chickpeas, and walnuts.

Vitamin B7

Chemical name: Biotin

  • Vitamin B7 is water-soluble.
  • Function: It helps the body metabolize protein, fat, and carbohydrates. It also helps keratin, a structural protein found in hair, skin, and nails.
  • Deficiency: Low levels can cause dermatitis or enteritis.
  • Good sources: Includes liver, egg yolks, spinach, broccoli, and cheese.

Vitamin B9

Chemical name: folic acid, folinic acid.

  • Vitamin B9 is water-soluble.
  • Function: It’s essential for DNA and RNA production.
  • Deficiency: It affects the nervous system of the fetus during pregnancy. Doctors recommend supplementing folic acid before and during pregnancy.
  • Good sources: Green leafy vegetables, beans, peas, liver, sunflower seeds, and fortified grains. Many fruits also contain moderate amounts.

Vitamin B12

Chemical name: Cyanocobalamin, Methylcobalamin. Hydroxycobalamin 

  • Vitamin B12 is water-soluble.
  • Function: It is vital for the healthy functioning of the nervous system.
  • Deficiency: Low levels can lead to anemia and neurological problems.
  • Good sources: Fish, shellfish, poultry, meat, eggs, milk, dairy products, fortified soy products, fortified cereals, and fortified nutritional yeast.

Doctors may recommend vitamin B12 supplements for people with vegan diets.

13 Essential Vitamins Your Body Needs Functions, Sources, Deficiency

Vitamin C

Chemical name: Ascorbic acid

  • Vitamin C is water-soluble.
  • Function: Helps collagen production, bone formation, and wound healing. It also strengthens blood vessels, supports the immune system, helps the body absorb iron, and acts as an antioxidant.
  • Deficiency: It can cause scurvy, leading to bleeding gums, tooth loss, poor wound healing, and poor tissue growth.
  • Good sources: Examples include fruits and vegetables, but cooking destroys vitamin C.

Vitamin D

Chemical name: cholecalciferol, ergocalciferol

  • Vitamin D is fat-soluble.
  • Function: It is essential for healthy bone mineralization.
  • Deficiency: It can cause rickets, softening of the bones, or osteomalacia.
  • Good source: Exposure to solar ultraviolet rays or other sources can cause the body to produce vitamin D. Mushrooms, oily fish, beef liver, and eggs also contain this vitamin.

Vitamin E

Chemical name: tocotrienol, tocopherol

  • Vitamin E is fat-soluble.
  • Function: Its antioxidant activity helps prevent oxidative stress, increasing the risk of systemic inflammation and various diseases.
  • Deficiency: This is rare, but it can cause hemolytic anemia in newborns. This condition destroys blood cells.
  • Good sources: Wheat germ, kiwi, almonds, nuts, eggs, green leafy vegetables, and vegetable oils.

Vitamin K

Chemical name: Phylloquinone, menaquinone

  • Vitamin K is fat-soluble.
  • Function: Necessary for blood clotting.
  • Deficiency: Low levels of vitamin K ​​can cause abnormal bleeding or bleeding diathesis.
  • Good sources: Includes natto, green leafy vegetables, figs, parsley, and pumpkins.

Vitamin Supplements

According to research, in the United States, many people take multivitamins and other supplements, but these may not be necessary or helpful.

Vitamins are best obtained through a balanced, varied diet that is high in fruit and vegetables. Health and Human Services provide guidelines for getting adequate nutrients from the diet.

Supplements and fortified foods may be beneficial in certain situations, including during pregnancy, for people on restricted diets, and people with certain health conditions.

It is essential not to exceed the recommended dosage of a vitamin supplement because taking too much can result in health problems.

Vitamin supplements can also interact with some medications. A healthcare provider should be consulted before taking any supplements.

13 Essential Vitamins Your Body Needs Functions, Sources, Deficiency


Vitamins are essential nutrients mainly derived from food. There are different ways in which vitamins can negatively impact health.

Eat a balanced, varied diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables to get vitamins. A nutritionist or doctor may recommend supplements if a person is pregnant, has a health problem, or has a restricted diet.

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