The term vitamin comes from vit (life-giving) amine (amino acid-like substance).

Centuries ago, sailors on long sea voyages subsisted on dried, preserved foods such as biscuits, salt beef and pork, and fish.  In 1497 it took Vasco da Gama 10 months to sail from Lisbon, around Africa, to India.  By the time he arrived in Calcutta, 100 out of 160 of his crew had died from scurvy.

In 1747, it was discovered that citrus fruit would rapidly cure sailors suffering from scurvy. When the English explorer James Cook sailed throughout the Pacific from 1768 to 1780, not one of his men died from scurvy. Whenever the Endeavour would make land, its crew would gather and stockpile fruits, berries, vegetables and green plants.  So appreciative were they of their Captain’s foresight and expertise they would sing:

We were all hearty seamen, no colds did we fear
And we have from all sickness entirely kept clear
Thanks be to the Captain, he has proved so good
Amongst all the Islands to give us fresh food.

Finally in 1795, the British Admiralty mandated that all sailors on its ships be given a daily ration of fresh lime juice.  Hereafter, the British sailor would be known as a “Limey.”

Vitamins are vital for the body to function properly.

Eleven vitamins have been identified so far. They are required in trace amounts in the diet for the normal growth and maintenance of a healthy body.

Vitamins are required for the formation of red blood cells, the building of bones and for energy metabolism. While they are not used directly for energy, they act as co-enzymes for the energy releasing processes. Often they work in conjunction with minerals to insure proper metabolism.

Natural, unprocessed foods are the source of all the vitamins that have been discovered.

There are two types of vitamins:

  • Fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K).
  • Water-soluble vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, folic acid, C).

Vitamin Table

How much vitamins do we need?

Vitamin needs used to be expressed as MDA (minimum daily allowance), which is the amount of vitamin necessary to prevent the disease caused by its deficiency. 

This may not be the amount of vitamin necessary to promote optimum health. The USDA has updated its terminology into the DV (daily value). There is on-going debate as to the validity of these values.

If a diet contains a variety of natural, unprocessed foods, it would easily supply enough vitamins to satisfy the DV. However, the heating involved in food processing removes most of the natural vitamins.

Also deteriorating soil conditions decrease the amount of vitamins contained in today’s foods.

Because these problems have long been recognized by the government, foods are routinely “enriched” or fortified by adding vitamins and minerals.