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Vitamins – that’s why they are so important

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 207 views

Vitamins are vital substances for the body – without them, people would neither be able to perform nor survive. Find out everything you need to know about the topic here: Which vitamins does the body need? What is the recommended daily amount. How is a vitamin deficiency manifested? Are vitamin supplements useful?

What vitamins are there?

There are 13 vitamins in total, four of which are fat-soluble and nine water-soluble.

Fettlösliche Vitamine

Fat-soluble vitamins can be stored in the body in adipose tissue. They include vitamins A , D, E and K. They are found in fats and oils as well as in many low-fat foods. An exception is vitamin E , which is mainly found in vegetable oils.

Because fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the body, there is a risk of overdose if they are consumed in excess.

Water-soluble vitamins

The body does not store water-soluble vitamins, so a regular, sufficient supply is important. Water-soluble vitamins include vitamin C , the B group vitamins, folic acid, biotin , niacin , and pantothenic acid .

In contrast to the fat-soluble vitamins, there is hardly any risk of overdose with water-soluble vitamins: because the body cannot store them, the excess is simply excreted through the kidneys (i.e. with the urine) if the intake is high.


In addition, there are so-called provitamins. These are vitamin precursors that the organism can convert into the corresponding vitamins. For example, beta-carotene is converted into vitamin A in the body.

Why does the body need vitamins?

Like minerals, which we also get from food, vitamins do not provide energy. Nevertheless, without them, people are neither able to perform nor survive. Because they perform important tasks in the body.

Vitamins are involved in obtaining energy from carbohydrates, fats and protein, and in building hormones, enzymes and blood cells. They help with the utilization of food, control numerous biochemical processes and protect against pollutants.

Reference quantity: How many vitamins does the body need?

In order to remain healthy and efficient, the body needs all vitamins in sufficient quantities. Most of it has to be ingested through food. He can only produce vitamin D himself with the help of sunlight (UVB rays) and thus cover most of his needs with sufficient exposure to the sun. Vitamin K is also a special feature: the vitamin K absorbed through the intestine comes either from food or from the self-production of intestinal bacteria.

It is very difficult to establish reference ranges for vitamins. How much of a particular vitamin someone needs depends on a number of factors. These include, for example:

  • Alter
  • gender
  • lactation
  • diseases.

The following vitamin table shows the daily amounts for adults recommended by the German Society for Nutrition (DGE), the main tasks and important food sources of the individual vitamins:

Vitamin Recommended Daily Amount (Adults) Tasks and sources of food
A (Retinol) 0,8-1,0 mg Eyes, skin, mucous membranes, bones, teeth and immune system
Sources: liver, eggs, dairy, carrots, spinach
B1 (Thiamin) 1,0-1,4mg breakdown of carbohydrates
Sources: whole grains, legumes, pork
B2 (Riboflavin) 1,2-1,5 mg Fat, carbohydrate and protein metabolism, skin and mucous membranes
Sources: Dairy and dairy products, fish, whole grains
B6 (Pyridoxin) 1,4-1,6 mg Protein metabolism, blood formation, nervous system
Sources: offal, fish, whole grains, nuts, bananas
B12 (Cobalamin) 4 µg Formation of red blood cells, nervous system, regeneration of mucous membranes
Sources: meat, offal, eggs
C (ascorbic acid) 90-110 mg formation of connective tissue ; Wound healing, immune system , protection against free radicals
Sources: Fresh fruits and vegetables, especially citrus fruits, kiwi, peppers, potatoes, black currants
D (Calciferol) 20 µg Hardening of the bones, mineralization of the teeth
Sources: high-fat fish (like mackerel), avocado, mushrooms, egg yolks
E (Tocopherol) 11-15 mg Protection against free radicals
Sources: vegetable oils, peppers, eggs, whole grains
K (Phyllochinon) 60-80 µg blood clotting
Sources: Kale, green leafy vegetables, canola oil, poultry
folic acid 300 µg Formation of gene building blocks and blood cells
Sources: Leafy and collard greens, whole grains, eggs, liver
Niacin 13-17 mg Heart function, nervous system, carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism
Sources: nuts, sea fish, whole grains, lean meats
Biotin (H) 30-60 µg Skin, hair, nails, nerves, fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism
Sources: offal, egg yolks, oatmeal, peanuts
pantothenic acid 6 mg Fat, carbohydrate and protein metabolism, hormone formation, structure of the blood pigment
Sources: Yeast, egg yolks, whole grains

The most important vitamins at a glance

There are various vitamins that have specific tasks in the human body. While the body can make vitamin D and niacin on its own, it must get the rest of the vitamins from food. The most important vitamins include the following:

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is one of the fat-soluble vitamins and is also known under the name retinol .

Vitamin A has its most well-known effect in building up and regenerating the skin. Vitamin A is also important for the eyes and helps to see well, especially at night. In addition, the vitamin is involved in the production of testosterone, the development of sperm cells, the formation of the placenta and the maturation of the fetus. The bones, cartilage and teeth also benefit from the vitamin.

In addition, beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A, helps against free radicals: These are aggressive oxygen compounds that are constantly produced in the body, for example during metabolic processes, UV radiation, nicotine or medication.

Liver and sea fish are rich in vitamin A, as are green, yellow and red vegetables.

You can read more about this in the article on vitamin A.

Vitamin B1

Vitamin B1 is a water-soluble vitamin that is also called thiamine.

It is important for the energy metabolism – the heart muscle and the brain in particular need a lot of energy and therefore vitamin B1. It also helps in the transmission of impulses between nerves and muscles. Thiamine is also essential for the regeneration of the nervous system after illness. According to studies, thiamine may also have a soothing effect on PMS, the premenstrual syndrome.

Vitamin B1 is found in abundance in whole grain products, oatmeal, wheat germ, sunflower seeds and legumes.

Vitamin B2

Vitamin B2 is one of the water-soluble vitamins and is also known under the name riboflavin.

It is involved in numerous metabolic reactions, for example in respiration, the metabolism of fat and amino acids and various other vitamins.

Good vitamin B2 suppliers are milk and whole grain products, but also fish and meat. Offal such as liver, yeast and certain types of cheese such as mountain cheese or camembert are particularly rich in vitamin B2.

Read more about vitamin B2 here .

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin, also known as pyridoxine. Lobster, salmon, sardines, walnut kernels and sesame seeds in particular contain a lot of it.

This vitamin is involved in central metabolic processes, such as the conversion and incorporation of proteins and the development and protection of nerve connections. It also supports the immune system.

Learn more about vitamin B6 here .

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that is important for cell division, blood formation and nerve function.

The need for vitamin B12 can usually be well covered through food. Good suppliers are primarily animal products such as egg yolk, meat, fish and dairy products.

With a strictly vegan diet, it is important to consume enough vitamin B12. The small amounts found in foods like sauerkraut or fermented soy products are not enough. Dietary supplements are useful in this case. Talk to your doctor before taking it.

Vitamin C

One of the best-known vitamins is the water-soluble vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid.

It has a strengthening effect on the immune system, promotes the absorption and utilization of iron in plant-based foods and intercepts free radicals, i.e. cell-damaging oxygen compounds. Vitamin C is also important for building connective tissue and for wound healing.

Parsley, wild garlic, red peppers, sorrel and Brussels sprouts are particularly rich in vitamin C.

Read more about vitamin C here .

Vitamin D

Vitamin D occupies a special position among the vitamins: it can be ingested through food or formed by humans themselves through exposure to the sun. The body absorbs most of its needs from the sun, and only a small part is covered by nutrition.

Vitamin D is contained in cod liver oil, Gouda cheese, herring and chicken egg yolk. Chanterelles and morels also contribute to the vitamin D balance. The body only gets enough vitamin D if you exercise regularly outdoors and soak up the sun.

Vitamin D promotes the formation and maturation of bone stem cells. It also helps absorb calcium in the intestines and keeps bones and teeth hard and strong.

Read more about vitamin D here .

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is one of the fat-soluble vitamins and has an antioxidant effect. It protects the cells from free radicals. Vitamin E reduces inflammatory reactions and prevents calcification of the arteries.

It has a positive impact on memory and recall.

Wheat germ oil, sunflower oil and safflower oil are rich in vitamin E.

You can find out more in the article Vitamin E.

Vitamin K

Vitamin K is one of the fat-soluble vitamins and occurs naturally in two variants as vitamin K1 and vitamin K2. While vitamin K1 is mainly found in green plants, vitamin K2 is produced by bacteria such as E. coli.

Vitamin K is absorbed through the intestines and transported through the blood to the liver, where it makes blood clotting factors. The most important task of the vitamin is blood clotting. It also prevents calcium deposits in blood vessels or cartilage and is involved in cell processes such as cell division. Vitamin K also inhibits bone loss in women after menopause .

Vitamin K is increasingly found in green cabbages, chives, algae and vegetable oils.

Read more about it in the article on vitamin K.

folic acid

Folic acid, also known as vitamin B9, must be supplied through food in the form of folate.

Folic acid is necessary for the growth and multiplication of cells, especially for the formation of red (erythrocytes) and white blood cells. Pregnant women or those who want to take contraception or become pregnant have an increased need for folic acid. In the fetus, a lack of folic acid can lead to what is known as spina bifida (“spina bifida”).

Folic acid is found as folate in green leafy vegetables such as spinach and lettuce, as well as tomatoes, legumes, nuts and oranges.

Anyone who wants to become pregnant or is already pregnant can also cover their increased folic acid requirement with dietary supplements.


The water-soluble vitamin B3 – or niacin – is produced by the human body itself: in the liver from the amino acid tryptophan. But foods containing protein also provide tryptophan, which the body converts accordingly.

Niacin is involved in cell division processes, the formation and breakdown of carbohydrates, amino and fatty acids, and the immune response. It helps muscles to regenerate, skin, nerves and DNA to renew. It is also involved in digestion. It is also important for the heart and helps with high cholesterol levels and arteriosclerosis.

You can meet your niacin needs with mackerel, whole grain products, coffee, peanuts or oyster mushrooms.

You can read more about this in the article on niacin .


Biotin is one of the water-soluble vitamins and is also called vitamin B7 or vitamin H.

It is particularly well-known for its positive effects on skin, hair and nails. It supports so-called keratin proteins and the growth of blood cells, sebaceous glands and nerve tissue. It also has a positive effect on cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels.

Beef liver, yeast, egg yolk, peanuts and oatmeal contain high amounts of biotin.

You can read more about this in the article on biotin .

pantothenic acid

Vitamin B5 is a water-soluble vitamin also known as pantothenic acid. It helps to convert the food we eat into energy that the body can use and to produce substances such as cholesterol , provitamin D, bile acids and certain amino acids. Pantothenic acid also supports the formation of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and the red blood pigment heme.

Good sources of vitamin B5 are yeast, liver, fish, egg yolk, cereals and legumes.

How is a vitamin deficiency manifested?

With a balanced, varied diet, there is normally no risk of a vitamin deficiency in this country. That means five servings of fruit and vegetables a day, plus milk and whole grain products, fish, nuts and vegetable oils.

A vitamin deficiency occurs, for example, with chronic gastrointestinal diseases, alcoholism, an unbalanced diet (including eating disorders), during pregnancy and breastfeeding, and in ambitious athletes. People who eat a vegan diet must also ensure that they have an adequate supply of vitamin B12 through special dietary supplements.

Depending on the extent and duration of the deficiency, a vitamin deficiency becomes noticeable through different signs. With decreasing vitamin intake, four stages are passed through, which flow into each other.

Read more about vitamin deficiency here .

Are vitamins in the form of dietary supplements useful?

Taking vitamins in high doses in the form of pills, capsules or powder makes sense in individual cases – for example in the event of a severe deficiency or during pregnancy. However, this should only be done under medical supervision.

According to experts, it is not advisable to take vitamin supplements as a preventive measure. Studies show that these often have little or no effect and, in the case of fat-soluble vitamins, may even be harmful.

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