What are vitamins?



Vitamins are essential micronutrients that the body needs in small amounts to function properly. Unlike macronutrients, the body cannot produce vitamins on its own.


  • There are 13 vitamins categorized as either water-soluble or fat-soluble. Water-soluble vitamins need to be replenished daily while fat-soluble vitamins can be stored in the body.
  • Each vitamin has specific roles. For example, Vitamin C boosts immunity while Vitamin A benefits vision. Not getting enough vitamins can cause deficiency diseases.


  • Water-soluble: Vitamin C, B vitamins
  • Fat-soluble: Vitamin A, D, E, K

Related Terms

  • Micronutrient – A micronutrient is a vitamin or mineral that is required in small amounts for proper growth, development and body function. Examples of micronutrients include iron, iodine, zinc, vitamin A, folate and vitamin B12.
  • Macronutrient – A macronutrient is a dietary substance that provides energy and is required in large amounts. The three macronutrients are carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
  • Minerals – Minerals are inorganic micronutrients that are essential for many bodily functions. Examples include calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, chloride and sulfur.
  • Deficiency – A deficiency refers to an insufficient amount of a nutrient in the body. Micronutrient deficiencies can lead to health problems and abnormalities.
  • Fortified foods – Fortified foods have vitamins and minerals added to increase the nutritional quality. For example, cereal grains are often fortified with B vitamins and iron. Fortification helps provide nutrients that may be lacking in a person’s diet.

Common Questions

  • What are the best food sources for each vitamin?
    • Vitamin A: Liver, sweet potatoes, carrots, dark leafy greens
    • Vitamin C: Citrus fruits, berries, tomatoes, bell peppers
    • Vitamin D: Fatty fish, egg yolks, fortified milk and cereal
    • Vitamin E: Nuts, seeds, vegetable oils
    • Vitamin K: Leafy greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts
    • B vitamins: Meat, eggs, legumes, nuts, fortified breads and cereals
  • What are symptoms of vitamin deficiencies?
    • Vitamin A: Night blindness, dry eyes, frequent infections
    • Vitamin C: Fatigue, bleeding gums, slow wound healing
    • Vitamin D: Bone pain, muscle weakness, depression
    • Vitamin B12: Fatigue, numbness, memory problems
    • Folate: Anemia, birth defects, trouble concentrating
  • Do I need to take vitamin supplements?
    • For most healthy individuals eating a balanced diet, supplements are not needed. But certain groups are at higher risk for deficiencies including vegetarians, pregnant women, and the elderly. So supplements may be recommended in those cases, especially vitamin B12 for vegetarians and folate for pregnant women. Always consult your doctor before starting any new supplement.

Do Not Confuse With

  • Minerals – Inorganic compounds like calcium, iron, zinc
  • Electrolytes – Ions like sodium, potassium, chloride
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