The A to K of vitamins: Why you need them and where you can get them from


One of the ways to ensure kids get enough vitamins is to include vegetables and fruits of different colours into their daily diet. — 123rf.com

VITAMINS (from the Latin words vita and amine) are a group of organic substances that are needed in small amounts for normal body functions, growth and development.

There are 13 essential vitamins which can be grouped into two categories – fat-soluble and water-soluble. Their functions, recommended nutrient intake and sources are illustrated in the diagram below:

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Are multivitamin supplements necessary?

Vitamins are important for children’s growth, development and overall wellness. Vitamin deficiencies can therefore result in serious health problems.

To ensure children get enough vitamins, provide them with a balanced diet containing a variety of foods from different food groups.

Consuming different coloured fruits and vegetables is also an advantage as they contain different vitamins. However, more is not better in the case of vitamins as they are only required in small amounts.

While water-soluble vitamins are quickly absorbed and excreted from the body, fat-soluble vitamins are metabolised slowly, and any excess is stored in the liver. This means that too much of fat-soluble vitamins can lead to toxicity, especially in cases of over-supplementation.

Our main source of vitamins should come from fresh foods, e.g. vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Fortified foods and supplements may be appropriate in some cases – during pregnancy, for people with restricted diets, and for people with specific health issues.

Consult a healthcare professional to find out if supplements are needed for you or your family.

Dr Siti Raihanah Shafie is a nutritionist and member of Nutrition Society of Malaysia (NSM). This story also appears on Positive Parenting, an education initiative by the Malaysian Paediatric Association. For more articles and expert advice, check out mypositiveparenting.org.

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