What Is a Vitamin
Don’t feel bad: Most people are confused about what a vitamin is exactly. And, most people confuse vitamins with other health compounds such as Minerals and Amino. Vitamins are indeed one of the four groups of essential nutrients, but each member is unique in their source, effects, utilization, and requirements.
The other three essential nutrient groups are Minerals, Amino Acids, and Fatty Acids. Please review the LiveWise Health News library for articles about these other nutrients.
By definition, a vitamin is an organic compound that all living organisms require in order to grow and live. These particular compounds cannot be created (or synthesized) by the living organism itself. So, they must be taken in from an outside source, such as diet or supplement.
Not all living creatures require the same vitamins, or the same amounts, in order to grow and live healthily. Also, some creatures have the ability to absorb certain vitamins from the environment directly. One example is that a dog can absorb much vitamin D from the sunshine. Humans too can absorb vitamin D from sunshine, but a dog has a better ability to do this than we humans do.
You might remember from chemistry class (if you were not sleeping that day), that a compound is a combination of ‘stuff’. Individual molecules of stuff are not compounds. But when different molecules combine, they make…compounds.
So, vitamins are actually compounds – a combination of stuff. The term Vitamin ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’, etc… refers to a standardized list of things that a vitamin compound effects. This list is not a list of ingredients, but instead a list of functions of the ingredients. For example, Vitamin B affects enzymes in your body that control your metabolism. So, it contains compounds that relate to this function. Although this list is not a list of specific ingredients, there are certain ingredients that are known to produce this effect in your body. So, most Vitamin B supplements will be made from similar ingredients. The same is true for other vitamins.
However, even though the ingredients can produce the same effect, not all vitamin ingredients are the same. Different manufacturers can use different forms of the ingredients in their products. You can think of this like sugar. There are many ways to produce the effect of making something taste sweet, right? But, not all of these methods are the same. Cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup, saccharine, and others all have the same effect of making something taste sweet, but they are all very different ingredients.
So, you should always look at the label of your vitamin to see what ingredient they are using to make the vitamin produce the effect. If someone has an allergy to a certain vitamin, it is not always the vitamin itself. Sometimes it is the specific ingredient that a person is allergic to – not the vitamin itself.
Also, for vitamin pills and capsules, other stuff is always added to make the pill stick together and hold its shape as a pill, and be strong so it doesn’t break apart when knocked-around against the other pills in the bottle. Other inactive ingredients are sometimes used to change the color, taste, smell, or appearance of the vitamin pill. Sometimes, people can have allergies to these other ingredients too. And, none of these ingredients provide any additional health benefit. Actually, many people do not want to take vitamins that have any of this extra stuff in them. Using natural, liquid, vitamins is the best alternative if you want to avoid eating any of this extra, inactive, stuff.
If you want to take a supplement to balance your vitamin levels, generally it is good to start with a combined ‘Multi-Vitamin’ supplement. These types of supplements have all of the major vitamins that your body will need and has them in the proper balance. Once you have a good Multi-Vitamin, then you can add small doses of specific vitamins to compensate for particular, personal needs that you have.
You can choose a Multi-Vitamin pill, capsule, or liquid – whatever works best for you. As we discussed, be aware that pills and capsules contain other binders and fillers, and also do not offer the best absorption. Liquid supplements always provide the best absorption, and usually will not upset your stomach the way that pills can.
If our environment and food supply were perfect – grown in perfect conditions, and delivered and eaten when it is farm-fresh, we could get vitamins from our food naturally. But, these days, our food is not always grown in the best possible conditions, and seldom is really fresh. Our environment is full of pollution and toxins. Even if you lived on a farm, you could get some things very fresh, but other things would have to be shipped from somewhere else.
Think about it – Where will the people of Mongolia get a pineapple? Certain food items only grow in certain climates, making it necessary to ship them long distances. There is no way that a pineapple shipped from Hawaii USA is going to arrive fresh in Mongolia unless it is picked from the ground, taken directly to the airport, and flown to Mongolia to be eaten right away. And if you happen to have a connecting flight anywhere inside of China, you will probably have air traffic delay in Shenzhen and never arrive in time.
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