VITAMINS

Most people know that vitamins are good for us, and one of the main reasons why we are told to eat our fruit and vegetables is that they are a good source of vitamins and minerals.

The latest dietary guides indicate that you need to eat up to 13 servings a day - and 9 servings on average - of fruit and vegetables to maintain health (a 'serving' is about two-and-a-half cups).

In fact, many studies suggest that an even higher intake of these foods will reduce your chances of contracting diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Check out the place of the fruit and vegetables that supply vitamins on the healthy food pyramid on our Nutrition and Food page.

Why are vitamins important?

Vitamins are nutrients that are necessary for health but which cannot be synthesized by the body. Therefore you have to get them from your diet.

This is what the word ‘essential’ means in nutritional science – nutrients that we can only obtain through what we eat and drink, even though they usually come in relatively small amounts.

They have many different functions in the body, ranging from antioxidant activities (Vitamins E and C) to hormonal roles (Vitamin D).

Most, however, function by assisting the enzymes which are the catalysts for metabolism.

A catalyst makes it possible for a chemical reaction to occur at a lower temperature (body temperature), using less energy and faster than it would take under normal conditions.

They do this in various ways. Some play a role in the actual catalysis process (when they are called prosthetic groups), while others carry chemical groups between enzymes during a reaction (when they are called coenzymes).

THE MAJOR VITAMINS

For information about specific vitamins please follow the relevant links below.

VITAMIN A ... go to Vitamin A
VITAMIN B ... go to Vitamin B
VITAMIN C ... go to Vitamin C
VITAMIN D ... go to Vitamin D
VITAMIN E ... go to Vitamin E