Long before vitamins were identified¬†as essential to good health, people recognized that food had the power to cure. The ancient Egyptians knew that feeding a patient liver would help cure night blindness, an illness that is caused by a vitamin A deficiency. In 1749, the Scottish surgeon James Lind discovered that citrus foods helped prevent scurvy among sailors. Scurvy causes poor wound healing, bleeding of the gums, severe pain, and death. But sometimes medical discoveries are ignored. In the early 20th century, when scurvy undermined two expeditions to the Antarctic, the prevailing medical theory was that scurvy was caused by “tainted” canned food. In fact, scurvy is caused by a deficiency of vitamin C.

For good health and normal body functioning, we need seven essential nutrients. The body cannot manufacture these essential nutrients on its own. They must usually be consumed and absorbed from our food. The essential nutrients are carbohydrates, proteins, fats, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and water. Oxygen and sunlight are also necessary to support human life, but are not generally classified as nutrients. The carbohydrates are converted into sugars for energy. Protein is composed of amino acids, which help to build muscle mass. Fats, also called lipids, are used by the body for energy and motion. Vitamins are necessary to sustain life and ward off disease and even death. The minerals are inorganic, non living, elements found in all body cells. They regulate body fluids, contribute to growth, and aid in building tissues. Of course, water is essential to digest food and move waste material. Two-thirds of the human body is water. Water is the main component of blood and helps body tissues absorb nutrients. People have survived without food for weeks or even months, but they cannot live than a few days without water.

Vitamins are organic, living compounds that are essential to life and good health. Vitamins are essential for the normal growth and development of the human body. From the day of conception and all through life, vitamins support the chemical reactions that produce skin, bone, and muscles. Vitamins are essential nutrients for the healthy maintenance of the cells, tissues, and organs that make up a human. Vitamins allow the body to use the chemical energy provided by carbohydrates, fats and proteins. and to process the food. Small amounts of vitamins are necessary for metabolism, tissue building, and regulating body processes. Science classifies twelve vitamins and about the same number of minerals as “essential nutrients”.

Vitamins are either water soluble or fat soluble. Water soluble vitamins, like Vitamins C and B complex, that dissolve in water, are easily destroyed by cooking, air and light. Fat soluble vitamins, like Vitamins A, D, E and K, dissolve in fat and can be stored in the body. They are not easily destroyed by cooking, air and light.

For the most part, we get our vitamins from the food we eat. A well-balanced diet is the first source for the vitamins the body needs for good health. But there are a few other sources for vitamins. For example, there are microorganisms in the intestine, also known as “gut flora”, to produce vitamin K and biotin. One form of vitamin D is synthesized in the skin with the help of the natural ultraviolet wavelength of sunlight. The human body can manufacture some vitamins from what is eaten. Vitamin A, for example, is produced from beta carotene. Niacin, another example, is produced from the amino acid tryptophan.