Ok, ok, perhaps vitamins don’t elicit the excitement of say, the Beatles in the late 60s. Heck, I doubt they’d even be a headline performer on the state fair circuit. But if you know more about them, you’ll feel a certain admiration and, maybe, a general excitement towards these essential substances. Bring on Vitamania!
To really plant the seeds for Vitamania we first need to understand what vitamins are and what makes them essential to our bodies. Kinda like the Beatles perfecting their sound in Liverpool and Hamburg.
(Let it Be) A Vitamin.
So, what are vitamins anyway? Our bodies require about 40 nutrients to maintain normal body function. Thirteen of these are considered vitamins. (The others are minerals, electrolytes, and amino acids). What makes a vitamin, a vitamin? The guys in lab coats give three criteria:
1) A vitamin must be acquired from outside sources. Or an outside source is needed for the body to make a vitamin.
2) It must be organic. This is not like organic farming. In this case organic refers to chemical structures. All organic substances contain the element carbon.
3) Specific symptoms occur with deficiency of a vitamin and those symptoms can only corrected by ingesting the vitamin.
Got all three? Congratulations! You’re a vitamin! Missing one? Sorry, not a vitamin. Thanks for playing!
We get vitamins from our food, but where does our food get them? Most vitamins from food are from our fruits and vegetables. These plants create vitamins by using sunlight to combine chemicals from the soil into vitamins.
The vitamins we get from animal products are typically just a reflection of the plants the animal ate. (There are some exceptions, there’s always exceptions, but typically vitamins come from plants.)
Vitamins come in two categories: Fat-soluble and Water-soluble. These categories relate to where the body uses and stores a vitamin, as well as how they’re excreted from the body. Check back for this week’s Friday Focus on the differences in fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins.
What Vitamins (Love me) Do
Here’s the fun part. The part that will surely lead to Vitamania. What vitamins do! Oops, there’s a bit of a problem. Vitamins do a lot of stuff and each vitamin has different roles. That’s lots of stuff to talk about. Eventually, we’ll cover each vitamin individually. For now, we’ll just list what they all have in common. There are two key roles each vitamin plays to varying degrees:
1) As cofactors, or “helpers”, for a multitude of enzyme driven processes in the body. Everything from blood clotting to energy production.
2) As antioxidants in our body’s fight against the damage caused by free radicals.
The Beatles had John, Paul, George, and Ringo, we have:
Vitamin A Vitamin B12
Vitamin B1 (thiamin) Vitamin C
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) Vitamin D
Vitamin B3 (niacin) Vitamin E
Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) Vitamin K
Vitamin B7 (Biotin)
Vitamin B9 (Folate/Folic Acid)
Start printing the posters, t-shirts, and lunch boxes!
That’s our brief intro to Vitamania. This blog will be devoted to increasing your vitamin knowledge and generally inducing vitamin hysteria. Stay tuned for more pulse quickening info and faint inducing vitamin profiles!