By Caty Millburg, Nutrition Expert

We are all aware that we need vitamins in order to maintain a healthy body, but what are vitamins and where can we get them in our food?  Vitamins are natural chemical structures found in a wide array of food that help the body perform normal metabolic functions such as digestion, muscle building, bone forming, and tissue repair.  There are two different classifications of vitamins, and it takes a wide range of food choices to ensure optimum intake of each.
Water soluble vitamins are those that use water as a solvent and when taken in excess can be naturally flushed from the system through bodily waste.  These vitamins are the B vitamins, and vitamin C.  There are several different B vitamins and each comes from a different source.  Some of the main sources include enriched grains, legumes, dairy products, and especially meats.  The B vitamins are important for many reasons in the body which include mental alertness, heart muscles, growth, healthy cholesterol, decreasing stress, forming red blood cells, and improving memory and energy.  Vitamin C is found primarily in citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons and helps with connective tissue to help us stay young looking.  Vitamin C also has some immune benefits.
Fat soluble vitamins are those that use fat as a solvent and are stored in fat cells for a certain length of time.  These do have the potential to cause health risks if taken in excess over a long period of time, but it is not a concern for people who have a proper diet and maintain a healthy lifestyle. The fat soluble vitamins include vitamins A, D, E, and K.  Vitamin A is primarily found in orange colored foods such as carrots, pumpkin and egg yolk and is important for bone growth and the immune system.  Vitamin D food sources include cod liver oil, fortified milk, and some fish.  This vitamin is beneficial for bone formation, immunity, and may help fight certain types of cancer.  Vitamin E is found in fattier foods such as avocados, almonds, corn oil, sunflower oil, and walnuts and serves as an antioxidant protecting cell membranes.  And Vitamin K can be found in high amounts in alfalfa, broccoli, cheese, and many green leafy vegetables and is necessary for normal kidney function, growth, development, and normal blood clotting after being cut.  Each of these vitamins has a very specific metabolic process to ensure efficient and healthy bodies.
Most vitamins are most easily absorbed into the body when taken in through food sources.  To ensure sufficient intake, it is best for individuals to maintain a diet that allows for all types of foods and varying each meal day to day.  This is another reason that we often hear that our plate should be very colorful, because as you can see, when get our nutrients from a wide assortment of foods which come in many different textures, flavors, and colors.  Make sure you are participating in a diet that allows you to receive all of these nutrients through your daily food choices.