Vitamins are one of the six classes of nutrients supplied by food. They are required for normal growth and maintenance of life. Vitamins are important for their regulatory and protective functions. Unlike most nutrients they are required in very small amounts. But it is necessary to provide these in the diet because many of them cannot be manufactured by the body. The lack of vitamins results in definite deficiency disorders, which are specific for each particular vitamin. Therefore vitamins are essential nutrients.
NATURE OF VITAMINS
Vitamins are organic substances, which occur in small amounts in foods. They are necessary for life and growth. Chemical structure of each vitamin is specific; like vitamin C have a simple structure, while others such as vitamin D have complex structure.
They do not provide calories, but are essential in the metabolic reactions, which release energy from carbohydrate, fats and proteins. Vitamins are essential in the metabolic reactions, which release energy from carbohydrates, fats and proteins. They are essential co-factors in hundreds of metabolic specific functions and so one vitamin cannot substitute for another in the body. They may occur in preformed or its active form in the food, or as a precursor compound which can be changed into active form in the body.
Vitamins are conveniently classified into two groups on the basis of their solubility into fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins. Fat soluble vitamins include A, D, E and K. water-soluble vitamins include B-group and vitamin C.
Food differ greatly in the amount and kinds of the vitamins they supply. Proper selection and intake of foods can help to meet one’s need of the various vitamins.
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