What are vitamins?
In this course, learn what vitamins are and why you can’t live without them!
In 1911, polish scientist Dr. Casimir Funk did something extraordinary for your health.
Funk put pigeons on diets of only white or brown rice… and he discovered vitamins.
Birds on a white rice diet
developed painful nerve disease.
They struggled to walk.
Birds eating brown rice
Funk looked closely at brown rice husks and found what he named a “vital-amine”.
When Funk gave sick pigeons on a white rice diet this vital-amine, they recovered!
But why do you need vitamins
in your diet? And what do they
do in your body?
Swipe right to find out!
Vitamins are found in the foods that you eat. And yet when you think about why you need food, you might think only of energy.
Or you might think about building blocks for growth, like proteins that build muscle.
But you need food, a wide variety of food, for another reason. Vitamins!
Vitamins are not sources of energy or building blocks like sugars, fats and proteins are. But like you need water, your body needs vitamins to function.
But your body can’t create vitamins it needs all on its own. Like Funk’s pigeons, you have to eat vitamins.
You eat and drink the sugars,
fats, proteins and water
that your body needs.
For example, eating fruits and grains supplies your brain with sugars it needs for energy.
You also have to eat vitamins or provitamins, nutrients that your body can turn into active vitamins.
For example, the pigment that makes carrots orange,
beta-carotene, is a provitamin for vitamin A.
Your body needs 13 vitamins to stay healthy - A, C, D, E, K and the B-vitamins.
You can get all of these vitamins from a diet of colorful fruits and vegetables, beans, whole grains, fish and other meats.
Now you know why you need vitamins in your diet - your body can’t make them!
But what do vitamins do?
Vitamins aren’t a source of fuel for your body, like sugars and fats are.
Vitamins also aren’t building blocks or tiny working machines for your cells, like proteins are.
But many proteins in your body can’t do their work without help from vitamins.
The vitamin that Funk discovered is a helper to proteins that create energy for your cells.
Funk discovered vitamin B1 or thiamine. It is in pork and whole grains like oatmeal.
Without vitamin B1, your brain and nerve cells suffer an energy crisis. They don’t get enough energy.
Without vitamin B1, your brain cells also can’t make a calming chemical called GABA.
Vitamin B1 deficiency can lead to low GABA, anxiety, nerve pain and brain damage.
Funk also realized that people
with fatigue and slow-healing
wounds needed vitamin C!
Citrus fruits have vitamin C.
Vitamin C is a vital helper to proteins that make collagen,
a building block of your
skin and joints.
In addition to helping proteins, your vitamins help with a lot of other important jobs in your cells.
Some vitamins, like C and E, clean up harmful chemicals in your cells. They are antioxidants.
Some vitamins carry messages, like SMS texts between cells.
They are hormones.
Hormone vitamin D tells your gut cells to absorb more calcium.
It helps build strong bones.
Vitamin D also controls good chemicals in your brain.
Get it from diet and sunshine!
Your cells even need vitamins, like B-vitamin folate, to make your DNA and fix DNA “typos” or damage.
Your DNA is a recipe book for making proteins. Folate helps make your DNA recipes fresh and readable!
How will you use your new knowledge of vitamins?
Maybe you will try to eat a
more colorful variety of foods.
•Avoid taking multiple supplements that contain the same vitamins or supplements that contain more than 100% of the daily value of any given vitamin.
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