This addition to the “Basics of Food” topic is about vitamins – specifically what they are, what they’re good and where to get them 🙂
These are important nutrients that assist in ALL your body processes! Like growing hair, making energy, or supporting your immune system. Your body is unable to make many vitamins on its own (it can only produce vitamin D and vitamin K), so we need to consume the rest through food.. Some vitamins are more available to your body raw, and some are more available when heated! Sprouting whole grains and soaking nuts help release their vitamins and nutrients, which are often sheltered by a strong layer of fibre. Isn’t nature neat?
Below is a list of common vitamins, what they do, and where to find them. A healthy body needs all the vitamins so try and get as many as you can from a number of different sources!
Vitamin A – really important in skin, eye and immune health. It is also a wonderful anti-oxidant (a molecule that helps repair tissue damage and protect against disease). A deficiency in vitamin A can cause dry scaly skin, acne, frequent colds or night blindness. Vitamin A is naturally present in orange foods like carrots, sweet potatoes or peppers, and also is present in large amounts in liver. Beta-carotene is part of the vitamin A familiy and is less toxic at high levels. You might see this listed on supplement ingredients as well.
Vitamin B – technically there is no “vitamin B”. Rather, there are many! We call them the B-complex vitamins. The B vitamins are involved in energy production, metabolism, nerve health and stress relief. The B vitamins work their best when they are together, and if you ingest too many your body just pees the rest out. Most B-vitamins are found in whole grains, avocados, eggs, poultry and vegetables. Here is a brief breakdown of each individually:
B1 and B2 – thiamine and riboflavin – these are involved in making stomach acid, energy, red blood cell formation and metabolism.
B3 – niacin – niacin is involved in enhancing blood circulation.
B5 – pantothenic acid – this is a super good vitamin for stressed-out people. It nourishes your adrenal glands and helps with stress.
B6 – p-5-p – this is needed in order to make DNA, stomach acid, and antibodies.
B7 – biotin – biotin is needed for healthy hair and skin growth.
B9 – folate – this is essential for women during childbearing years as it maintains the healthy development of the nervous system and spinal cord in a fetus. It is used to make red blood cells and DNA, and nourishes the nervous system.
B12 – methylcobalamin – makes red blood cells and helps protect the nervous system. It is also necessary in energy production and helps the body use iron. **Found almost exclusively in meat sources, or sea vegetables.
Vitamin C – is involved in literally everything. It enhances our immune system, is a potent anti-oxidant, and helps support healthy tissues and gums. Without vitamin C we would get scurvy, like sailors in the olden days (fun fact – the cats aboard the ships never got scurvy because cats can make their own vitamin C and humans cant!). You can find vitamin C in red peppers, citrus fruits, berries, and greens. Like the B-vitamins, vitamin C is water-soluble meaning that if you get too much your body will just pee it out. Vitamin C also enhances absorption of iron. *** please don’t take chewable vitamin C tablets – they are acidic and can damage delicate tooth enamel ***
Vitamin D – a super interesting vitamin that our skin can make when we are exposed to sunlight! It aids in the absorption of calcium and therefore affects the health of our bones and teeth. It is also important in cancer prevention, immune health, and heart health. Vitamin D comes from the sun, cod liver oil, egg yolks, or portabella mushrooms.
Vitamin E – naturally my favourite vitamin. It is an anti-oxidant and important for immune health, skin health, nervous system, and sustainable pregnancy. You can find it in avocados, seeds, wheat germ, sea vegetables and eggs.
Vitamin K – this vitamin is necessary for blood clotting. That might sound weird but think about this – when you get a paper cut, it is vitamin K that comes in and helps the blood clot to stop bleeding….so if we didn’t have enough vitamin K, it would be possible to bleed to death from a paper cut. The bacteria in our intestinal system can produce vitamin K, which is cool. Vitamin K comes from dark green leafy vegetables. Vitamin K2 is gaining popularity because it has been shown to increase the absorption and circulation of calcium. Without it, calcium can deposit itself in delicate tissues and not get circulated to the bones where it belongs.
So now you know some basics about vitamins. There are many multivitamins and single vitamins you can purchase, if you feel you aren’t meeting your requirements through food alone. I prefer to get my vitamins from whole food sources (i.e. vitamin C from citrus, vitamin E from annatto seeds, and a B-complex from herbs and plants). I also find vitamins give me more energy, so I prefer to take them in the morning. Have a vitamin-tastic day 🙂