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Nutrition Basics Index
The Food Guide Pyramid
The Food Guide Pyramid
The Food Groups
Putting It Together
What is a Serving?
Closer Look at Fats & Sugar
Rate Your Diet
Dietary Guidelines for Americans
Recommended Dietary Allowances
All about Vitamins
All about Minerals
All about Vitamins
Vitamin A
Vitamin A is necessary for normal eyesight, body tissues, growth and bone formation, and resistance to infection.
  • Liver, fish liver oils, eggs;
  • Orange vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin;
  • Dark-green leafy vegetables, like spinach, bok choy;
  • Orange fruits like mango, cantaloupe, papaya;
  • Tomatoes, green beans.
Signs of Deficiency: Poor night vision or night blindness, loss of appetite, increased susceptibility to infection, and changes in the skin and teeth.
Vitamin B-1
Vitamin B-1 (thiamin) is vital for the normal functioning of all body cells, especially nerves. It also helps the body break down carbohydrates, protein, and fat for energy.
Sources: Oysters, green peas, brewer's yeast, organ meats, lean cuts of pork, dried beans and peas, oranges, wheat germ, breads and cereals whole grain, peanuts and peanut butter.
Signs of Deficiency: Fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, gastrointestinal upsets, nausea and weakness. Signs of a severe deficiency include mental confusion, muscular weakness, paralysis of the extremities, heart problems and loss of reflexes.
Vitamin B-2
Vitamin B-2 (Riboflavin) is necessary for the normal release of energy from carbohydrate, protein and fat in food. It's also important for normal growth and development, the production and regulation of certain hormones, and the formation of red blood cells.
Sources: Dairy products, meat, poultry, fish, enriched and fortified grains, cereals and bakery products, and green vegetables such as broccoli, asparagus and spinach.
Signs of Deficiency: Soreness of the mouth, lips and tongue, burning and itching of the eyes, loss of vision, sensitivity to light. As the deficiency progresses, the inside of the mouth, and the eyes and skin become inflamed, and depression and/or hysteria develop.
Vitamin B-3
Vitamin B-3 (Niacin) is essential for the release of energy from carbohydrates. It aids in the breakdown of protein and fats, in the synthesis of fats and certain hormones, and in the formation of red blood cells.
Sources: Meat, poultry, fish, enriched cereals and grains, and nuts. Although milk and eggs contain very little niacin, they provide tryptophan, which is converted into niacin by the body.
Signs of Deficiency: Weakness, loss of appetite, indigestion, skin inflammation, and lethargy. A severe deficiency results in the disease pellagra, which causes scaly skin, swollen tongue, tremors and damage to the central nervous system.
Vitamin B-6
Vitamin B-6 (Pyridoxine) helps the body build and break down carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. It plays a key role in the processing of amino acids, the building blocks of protein, and the nutrient aids in the formation and maintenance of the nervous system.
Sources: Chicken, fish, kidney, liver, pork, eggs, unmilled rice, soy beans, oats, whole wheat products, peanuts and walnuts.
Signs of Deficiency: Depression, vomiting, increased susceptibility to disease and infection, skin and nerve inflammation, anemia, nausea and lethargy.
Vitamin B-12
Vitamin B-12 is necessary for normal processing of carbohydrate, protein and fat, for the normal production of certain amino acids and fats, and to maintain the nervous system.
Sources: Meat, poultry, fish, milk, dairy products and eggs.
Signs of Deficiency: Anemia and neurological problems.
Vitamin C
Vitamin C is necessary for the formation of collagen, a protein that gives structure to bones, cartilage, muscles and blood vessels, and contributes to the proper maintenance of capillaries, bones and teeth. Vitamin C promotes the healing of wounds, bone fractures, bruises, hemorrhages and bleeding gums.
  • Citrus fruits and juices like oranges, lemon, grapefruit, strawberries
  • Broccoli, sweet peppers, tomatoes, cabbage, potatoes, snow peas, collard greens
  • Leafy greens such spinach, bok choy
Signs of Deficiency: An increased tendency to get black-and-blue marks, bleeding gums, nose bleeds and wounds that heal slower than normal. Other signs include damage to blood vessels, swollen, tender joints and aching bones, general weakness, loss of appetite and dry, scaly skin. The disease known as scurvy results from a severe vitamin C deficiency. Scurvy is characterized by anemia, tooth loss and bleeding under the skin.
Vitamin D
Vitamin D is essential in the formation and maintenance of bones and teeth by regulating the absorption and use of calcium and phosphorus. It also aids in the maintenance of a healthy nerve and muscle system.
Sources: Sunlight, fortified milk and margarine, eggs and butter.
Signs of Deficiency: A prolonged lack of this nutrient results in changes in the bones of children and adults.
Vitamin E
Vitamin E protects fats and vitamin A in the body from destruction by destructive oxygen fragments. As an antioxidant, Vitamin E stabilizes cell membranes and protects tissues that are found throughout the body.
Sources: Vegetable oils such as soyabean oil, corn oil
Signs of Deficiency: Anemia in infants and nerve damage in adults.
Vitamin K
The main function of Vitamin K is to regulate blood clotting.
Sources: Sunlight, fortified milk and margarine, eggs and butter.
Signs of Deficiency: Vitamin K deficiency is very rare. But certain conditions or medications that affect vitamin K absorption may lead to abnormal blood clotting.
Biotin is used by the body to manufacture and break down fats, amino acids, and carbohydrates.
Sources: Liver, egg yolk, soy flour, cereals and yeast.
Signs of Deficiency: Skin inflammation, depression, conjunctivitis, hair loss, elevated blood levels of cholesterol, anemia, loss of appetite, tingling and numbness in the hands and feet, nausea, lethargy, muscle pain, and enlargement of the liver.
Directly related to B complex vitamins, choline promotes metabolism, maintains the nervous system, protects the liver from excess fatty deposits, attributed to retaining long and short term memory as well as coordination, it also has the ability to dissolve fats. Choline is found in all living cells and can be manufactured in the body with the help of Vitamin B12, folate, and methionine.
Sources: Egg yolks, kidney, liver, whole grains, fish and legumes.
Signs of Deficiency: Choline is widely distributed in foods and therefore there is little known about deficiencies. It can be toxic, however, in large amounts and symptoms include: headaches, digestive problems, anorexia, neck & shoulder tightness, sweating, increased fatty deposits in the liver and in the long term it can cause nerve and cardiovascular problems.
Folate (Folacin, Folic Acid) is essential for the normal growth and maintenance of all cells. Its main function is to maintain the cells' genetic code.
Sources: Folate is found in many foods, but as much as 50 percent of it is destroyed during cooking, food processing and storage. Especially rich sources include liver, yeast, leafy green vegetables and legumes.
Signs of Deficiency: Anemia, poor growth, digestive disorders, malnutrition, diarrhea, loss of appetite, weakness, irritability, sore tongue, headaches, heart palpitations and behavioral disorders.
Pantothenic Acid
Pantothenic acid is a B-complex vitamin required for the breakdown of fats, carbohydrates, and protein for energy. It also functions in the production of fats, cholesterol, bile, vitamin D, red blood cells, and some hormones and neurotransmitters.
Sources: Pantothenic acid is found in many foods, but it is most abundant in meat, poultry, fish, whole grain cereals and legumes.
Signs of Deficiency: Fatigue, heart and digestive problems, respiratory infections, skin inflammation and lack of coordination may develop under severe conditions.

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