4. Vitamins are the fourth and last category in our list, but far from the least important. At the same time, a great deal of uncertainty of the function of vitamins is held by scientists and laymen alike. The specific way in which vitamins work is not positively known but it is widely believed that they act as a catalyst for numerous chemical reactions within the body. We will briefly discuss the role of the different vitamins.
Vitamin A is needed by all important organs of the body. It is essential for the health of the respiratory, digestive and urinary tracts. It keeps the mucous membranes of the nose, throat and windpipe strong and healthy, helping to prevent colds and other infections of this region.
Vitamin A is also concerned with the growth and development of the body and aids in reproduction and lactation. It keeps the skin smooth and clear and is essential for keenness of vision. When this vitamin is absent all tissues suffer. The skin becomes thick and rough, the eyes become dull and lustreless, and infections commonly occur over the entire body. The best sources of vitamin A are cream, butter, whole milk, egg yolk and carrots, together with numerous other fruits and vegetables.
Vitamin B complex consists of more than a dozen different vitamins. Some are required for the transference of energy in the cells, while others are used in the formation of red blood cells. One of the most important is thiamine (vitamin B1), which is concerned with the nerves and muscles. Neither can work properly if there is a deficiency of thiamine. Without sufficient quantities of thiamine the body would be in a perpetual state of aches and pains. It is most prevalent in liver, brewer’s yeast, peanuts, whole grain cereals, meat and eggs.
Riboflavin is another important member of the vitamin B complex. It is necessary for the maintenance of healthy skin and eyes, but possibly its most important function is in the production of enzymes that help to digest food. Niacin, another member of this group, is also important to the digestive system. These elements of vitamin B complex are found in liver, eggs, milk, cheese and whole grain cereals.
Vitamin C is the great healing vitamin of the body. It is essential for building bones, maintenance of the walls of the smaller blood vessels, strengthening the teeth and gums, and in aiding the absorption of iron from the digestive tract. Vitamin C is also required by the body in large quantities during disease. It is found abundantly in fresh fruits, leafy vegetables, potatoes and tomatoes.
Vitamin D is necessary for the development of strong healthy bones. Its chief function is to maintain the correct balance between calcium and phosphorus in the body. Its deficiency causes a disease called rickets, during which the bones become soft and pliable. It can be obtained from milk and eggs, but is unique in that the body produces its own supply by the interaction of the sun and the natural skin oils. The body therefore produces much of its own vitamin D and does not depend on food to supply its requirements. Vitamin E is still a mystery to modern scientists, but it is believed to influence the reproductive functions and muscular activities of the body. It is contained in whole grain cereals, green vegetables, coconut oil and other vegetable oils.
Vitamin K is necessary for the process of blood clotting and is found in green vegetables, soya beans, tomatoes and eggs.
There are over twenty known vitamins and the ones we have mentioned are the most important. You will notice that these vitamins are present in a great variety of foods; therefore it is not necessary to worry about your vitamin intake. If you eat a sensible mixed diet it is a certainty that you will never be deficient in vitamins. The same is true for all essential requirements in the body, for a healthy body has the ability to transform one type of foodstuff into another as required. Many yogic practices, especially surya namaskara and pranayama, increase the efficiency of this transformation process. A person who is able to gain control of his system can live on a simple diet and transform it internally to other substances as his body requires.
Remember fats and carbohydrates give energy; proteins are mainly for growth and maintenance; minerals and vitamins are for protection, control and regulation of biological processes.