(or a basic guide to vitamins)
I think everybody should understand the importance of vitamins in healthy functioning of the body. Why it isn’t taught in depth within school curriculum is beyond many nutritionists.
Books are still the best source of nutritional information. There are so many well written and researched books on nutrition that go into far more depth than many internet articles.
So for the food geeks out there, here is a potted understanding of which dried foods offer what vitamins. These are the foods that are especially valuable to us in winter, as they will help our metabolism to maintain and thrive. I’ve given the amount required to meet the official labelling criteria “high”.
In the future I’ll write an article on those other little things which are so important to us, minerals.
Vitamin A is important for growth and development, for the maintenance of the immune system and for vision. It also protects cells from damage by retinoic acid (read more).
Good sources of vitamin A:
½ cup serving: 156 calories, 4.5 grams of fibre
With a single serving of apricots providing 47% of your daily vitamin A needs, having a few a day is really recommended. Apricots are also a source of potassium, vitamin E and copper! Buy at Eat Wholefoods
½ cup serving: 191 calories, 6.5 grams of fibre
Peaches are a fruit you’re not likely to find in many other shops. They are quite the delicacy and a portion contains 34% of your vitamin A and 18% of your iron daily needs. They are also a good source of potassium, niacin and copper. Have chopped peaches in your breakfast cereal (try adding to our freshly packed, high quality muesli base) or add to a fruit cobbler. Buy at Eat Wholefooods
1 tablespoon: 20 calories
One tablespoon provides a massive 69% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin A. It’s also an impressive source of vitamin C, potassium, and calcium. No matter where you’re from or what style of food you prefer, you can enjoy the many health benefits of this red spice by incorporating it into your favorite meals. Load up home-made soups, stews or bean dishes with our Hungarian Paprika; cheese dishes with our Sweet Paprika; or ribs, sweet and sour sauces or slow cooked meats with our quality Smoked Paprika.
1 tsp. 5g 35% RDA
A single teaspoon of this reasonably priced green superfood is packed with vitamin A; For soups and smoothies a little of our spinach powder goes a long way to meet our nutritional needs. Add at the end of cooking after leaving to cool a little to avoid the heat from damaging the nutrients.
B vitamins are a class of eight water-soluble vitamins that are essential to help convert our food into fuel, allowing us to stay energized throughout the day. They also help keep our hair, skin and nails strong, form red blood cells and maintain nerve function. Though these vitamins share similar names (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, B12), they are actually different but often can be found in the same foods. In general, dietary supplements containing all eight are referred to as a vitamin B complex. Importantly, generally the only reliable vegan sources of B12 are foods fortified with B12 (although barley grass powder does contain reasonable levels), please read this page for more information.
Good sources of vitamin B:
¼ cup, 35g
Vitamin B1 43% RDA, B6 28% RDA, B3 18% RDA Buy at Eat Wholefoods
1 cup (cooked) 198g
Vitamin B1 28% RDA, B6 21% RDA Buy at Eat Wholefoods
¼ cup, 36.5g
Vitamin B3 28% RDA, B1 19% RDA Buy at Eat Wholefoods
1/3 cup, 61g
Vitamin B1 33% RDA, Vitamin B3 18% RDA. Buy at Eat Wholefoods
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, meaning that your body doesn’t store it. You have to get what you need from food.
You need vitamin C for the growth and repair of tissues in all parts of your body and is needed for healing wounds, and for repairing and maintaining bones and teeth. Vitamin C also helps the body absorb iron.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant, along with vitamin E, beta-carotene, and many other plant-based nutrients. Antioxidants block some of the damage caused by free radicals, substances that damage DNA. The build-up of free radicals over time may contribute to the aging process and the development of health conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and arthritis.
Good sources of vitamin C:
Two teaspoons, 10g: 50% RDA Buy at Eat Whlefoods
½ cup: 21% RDA (and 21% RDA of iron) Buy at Eat Wholefoods
Vitamin D refers to a group of fat-soluble (can be stored by the body) substances that improve our absorption of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphate, and zinc from our food. Very few foods actually contain vitamin D instead the most natural way to get it is to expose our bare skin to sunlight, around midday is the best time. You don’t need to tan or burn your skin to get vitamin D. You only need to expose your skin for around half the time it takes for your skin to begin to burn. (read more) So taking a 25 minute walk three times a week might be your minimum weekly requirement.
I have heard that certain mushrooms when exposed to UV light, are high in vitamin D but I’ve yet to see speciality grown mushrooms on the open market.
Vitamin E is actually a group of compounds that generally protect body tissue from damage caused by substances called free radicals, which can harm cells, tissues, and organs. It is thought to counter signs of aging helping to keep our skin smooth and supple. Vitamin E also protects the immune system against viruses and bacteria, aids in the formation of red blood cells and helps the body use vitamin K and many other important functions. There are suggestions that vitamin E can prevent cancer, heart disease, dementia, liver disease, and strokes, but this still requires further research. It has been found that vitamin E is the only vitamin that actually helps us get over a cold (read more).
Good sources of vitamin E:
Sunflower seeds (clear winner)
¼ cup (35g) contains 82% RDA. Buy at Eat Wholefoods
¼ cup (23g) contains 40% RDA. Buy at Eat Wholefoods
¼ cup (36.5g) contains 20% RDA. Buy at Eat Wholefoods
1 cup (150g) contains 21% RDA.
Vitamin K is a group of structurally similar, fat-soluble vitamins (i.e. can be stored by the body) that the body requires for maintaining healthy blood clotting and maintaining healthy bones and other tissues. It comes in two forms K1 and K2. (You may wonder if there is a vitamin, F, G, H or I. Apparently they were missed out and vitamin K was named after K for the German word meaning coagulation, because of its importance in blood clotting)
There are plenty of vegetable sources for K1, such as kale, spinach, broccoli, collards and romaine lettuce, but vitamin K2 only comes from animal sources like eggs, liver, fish and meat. However, vitamin K2 can also be produced by the bacteria in our gut, essential if you are a vegan, so maintaining a healthy digestive tract flora is really important if you are going to be your own vitamin K2 factory. Eating fermented products like miso and tamari really help us maintain a good mix of gut bacteria.
People who have severe gastrointestinal disorders, such as gallbladder disease, cystic fibrosis, celiac or Crohn’s disease or people who have taken antibiotics for an extended period of time that has diminished their gut flora are more susceptible to being vitamin K deficient. Vitamin K supplements are useful in these cases.
… and some final thoughts on vitamins
So, in conclusion, if you have a deficiency in any vitamin a good quality daily vitamin pill is a good idea. I’d recommend BioHealth’s Kelp+ as a way to boost iodine intake (unless you are on medication for thyroid issues, when you’d need consult your doctor). If you know which vitamin specifically, like vitamin D for the darkest days, then these can help you get the minimum daily quota, and can help you feel more vital.
But, do be wise when considering starting vitamin supplements, especially if you are eating good quality, fresh vegetables, proteins and carbohydrates. You may be getting adequate sufficiency and it is possible to overdose on vitamin supplements. If in doubt, contact us and we will gladly give you a free 15-minute consultation session on staying healthy taking into account your individual needs.