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Vitamins. What, why and where do they come from?

Vitamins are micronutrients that come in many forms and are vital to all metabolic processes in our bodies such as growth, repair, digestion, assisting with producing energy transfer, our nervous system and our immunity.

One of their most important roles is as what’s called a co-enzyme. A co-enzyme works with other nutrients in the process of energy transfer. We need vitamins in our diets as we can’t make most of them ourselves. Vitamins are found in abundance in whole foods.

Now, you will see many social media posts and pages advocating eating raw foods to get the most nutrients out of them. This is a massive non truth! Many of the vitamins, minerals and macronutrients we absorb from food are better used / absorbed by our bodies when cooked or mixed with other foods.

Water soluble vitamins the B group and vitamin C. 

These vitamins can be lost in water during cooking. Let’s take boiling potatoes. The vitamins will leach into the boiled water, leaving little in the actual potatoes. However, if you keep the boiled water, and use it for gravy, soup or broth you’ll retain most of the nutrients.

The micronutrients in tomatoes, carrots and other red, yellow, orange plants are often better absorbed by our bodies when cooked!

Did you know that chopping and crushing garlic and leaving it sit for a few minutes prior to cooking will release powerful disease-fighting chemicals!

Vitamin C helps absorb iron from leafy greens, so spread some freshly squeezed lemon on to your Kale!

Vitamins are classified as fat or water soluble.

Fat soluble vitamins can be stored in your liver, cell membranes, eyes and other fatty tissues. As we can store them, we don’t need eat them every day.

Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat soluble.

Water soluble vitamins are not so readily stored as we are taking in and excreting water, we don’t tend to store water soluble vitamins. So, we need to consume these more often.

Vitamins B and C are water soluble.

Here is a basic list of the vitamins our bodies need and use every day to survive.

B1 (thiamine)

Can be found in beans, sunflower seeds, nutritional yeast, most whole grains.

It’s used in the production of energy, as a co-enzyme, synthesizing DNA, and assisting the treatment of diabetic retinopathy

B2 (riboflavin)

Can be found in whole grains, mushrooms, canned tomatoes, beef, pork, fish, chicken

Helps regulate the levels of other B group vitamins, assists in energy transfer, is an antioxidant, red blood cell production, maintaining skin health, metabolising drugs and other toxins in the liver.

B3 (niacin)

Can be found in whole grains, mushrooms, canned tomatoes, beef, fish, pork, chicken

It helps DNA repair, maintaining skin health, cellular signalling, controlling cholesterol levels

B5 (pantothenic acid)

Our gut bacteria may produce B5 

Can be found in mushrooms, corn, avocado, peas, potatoes, lentils, egg yolk, beef liver, fish, pork, chicken, yogurt

It helps synthesize cholesterol, steroid hormones, drug metabolism, maintains skin health

B6 (pyridoxine)

Can be found in potatoes, sweet potatoes, sunflower seeds, chickpeas, bananas, spinach, fish, pork, beef, chicken

It helps as a co-enzyme to metabolise protein, glycogen breakdown, red blood cell metabolism, nervous and immune system function

B9 (folate)

Having adequate amounts of folate is particularly import for pregnant women as it is vital to assisting with foetal development.

Can be found in beans and legumes, leafy greens such as spinach and other greens such as asparagus and broccoli, chicken liver

As well as its role in foetal development B9 also helps metabolise amino acids, helps the breakdown of B12 and C, forming new proteins, red blood cell formation and circulation

B12 (cobalamin)

We store ample amounts of B12 in our liver. Which is important because as we age, we absorb less B12 from our food.

Can be found in fish and shellfish, beef, dairy. As its not readily found in plant-based foods, it’s important for plant-based eater to get B12 from some form of supplementation.

It helps with forming and maintaining healthy nerve and red blood cells, DNA synthesis

C (ascorbic acid)

Can be found in most colourful fruits and veggies, organ meats.

It’s involved in protecting cells from free radicals, improving non-heme iron absorption (iron derived from plant sources), regenerating Ve supplies, building collagen. An important structural protein throughout the body, metabolizing cholesterol to bile acids

D (ergocalciferol / cholecalciferol)

The best and biggest source is from direct sunlight. Some areas of the world require D supplementation as they won’t get enough exposure from the sun, especially during winter months.

Also found in fish, egg yolks, mushrooms, shrimp, beef liver, fortified dairy products.

The amount of D found in foods is quite small, usually its very difficult to get adequate amounts from food alone. So, supplementation may need to be considered if you can’t get it from the sun due to geological or other medical reasons.

It’s involved in maintaining calcium levels, immune system function, regulating glucose tolerance, regulating blood pressure.

E (tocopherol / tocotrienol)

Can be found in nuts and seeds, avocado, dark leafy greens

Basically, the V E family are antioxidants. They are involved in scavenging free radicals, cell signalling, and assistant with immune and inflammatory cells.

K1,  K2 (Plant based phylloquinone and animal based menaquinone)

K1 found in leafy greens, cruciferous greens such as broccoli and brussels sprouts, asparagus

K2 found in cheese, egg yolks, grass-fed beef, poultry, dairy

Involved in blood clotting, amino acid metabolism, cell-signalling in bone tissue.Whilst many companies that produce vitamins will spend millions on advertising agencies to continually to tell us that we need to supplement vitamins on a daily basis, this simply is not true for the vast majority of us. There are a small % of the population that through genetics, geological factors, socio economic factors that may get a benefit from supplementing various vitamins, however, if we eat a balanced diet rich with whole food, we will absorb sufficient vitamins to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The best advice is to eat as many whole foods as you can. You will find, as you get used to adding whole foods to your diet, you will start to reduce the number of processed foods along the way.

This will also lead to many other health benefit

Thanks for taking the time to read and I hope you found it interesting and informative.

If you’d like any further information regarding health and nutrition, please feel free to give me a call.

Your health in focus,

Jase

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