Vitamins 101: The Cheat Sheet

Carrots are packed with vitamin A; almonds are loaded with vitamin E; salmon boasts huge amounts of B3.  From product packaging to news reports, food has become revered and praised for the vitamins and minerals associated with it.  While it’s important to know oranges are chock full of vitamin C, it’s more valuable to know what that really means.

Here is a breakdown of vitamins, what they are, where they come from, and how each one affects your body.

* Vitamins are labeled as either fat-soluble or water-soluble; a categorization based on the materials they will dissolve in.  Fat-soluble vitamins include A, D, E, and K – they are stored in the fat tissue of the body and transported through the lymphatic system.  Fat-soluble vitamins are not excreted through the body and therefore can remain in the system for a few days to several months.  An excess of fat-soluble vitamins might be stored in the liver or kidneys, cause health problems, or lead to toxicity.  Water-soluble vitamins include all the B’s (B-complexes) and vitamin C.  Water-soluble vitamins travel thorough the bloodstream and whatever is not needed by the body at that moment is eliminated and excreted through urine.  As a result, we need a continuous supply of B and C vitamins in our food.

Type Why It’s Important Sources
Vitamin A (Retinol) An antioxidant.  Promotes healthy vision, skin, bone, and tooth growth. Has been said to help prevent LDL oxidation.  Most vitamin A comes from animal sources, but some plant-based foods supply beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A. Animal:beef and chicken liver, eggs, fish liver oil, and dairy.Vegetarian: dark leafy greens, sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkin, cantaloupe, broccoli, apricots, yams, and squash.
Vitamin B1 (Thiamin) Helps metabolize carbohydrates and fuel the body by converting blood sugar into energy.  It is essential for cardiovascular, muscular and central nervous system functioning. Animal:organ meats, pork, egg yolks, poultry and fish.Vegetarian: whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts, asparagus, spinach, tomatoes, eggplant and Brussels sprouts.
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) Works with other B vitamins in the breakdown of carbohydrates, proteins and fats.  It is important for vision, skin, hair, and nail health and thyroid metabolism. Animal:milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, eggs and red meat.Vegetarian: whole grains, dark leafy greens, soybeans, tempeh, almonds, asparagus, and broccoli.
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) Converts calories from carbohydrates, fat and protein into energy and maintains properly functioning gastrointestinal tract.  Promotes healthy skin, appetite, and nervous system. Has been shown to reduce LDL and raise HDL. Animal:meat, poultry, fish (esp. salmon and tuna), milk and eggs.Vegetarian: yeast, peanuts, whole grains, beets, and sunflower seeds.
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid) Supports immune, gastrointestinal and adrenal function.  Important for manufacturing red blood cells, energy, and combating depression. Animal: eggs, saltwater fish, pork, beef, milk.Vegetarian: whole grains, kale, broccoli, tomatoes, cauliflower, avocados, sweet potatoes, beans, lentils, sunflower seeds and peas.
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) Promotes brain functioning; essential in the production of neurotransmitters, including serotonin. Helps the body convert protein to energy. Required for B12 absorption.  Also shown to reduce homocysteine levels (elevated levels can increase risk for heart attack) when combined with folic acid and B12. Animal: poultry, pork, shellfish, fish (esp. herring and salmon), and eggs.Vegetarian: whole grains, legumes, dark leafy vegetables, brewers yeast, walnuts, sunflower seeds, spinach, carrots, brown rice, soybeans, oats and bananas.
Vitamin B7 (Biotin) Necessary for the formation of glucose in the body and shown to slow down the progression of type II diabetes.  Also helps to break down amino acids and carbohydrates in the body. Animal: liver, egg yolks, and salmonVegetarian: cauliflower, carrots, bananas, whole grains and yeast.
Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid) Important for DNA production.  Especially necessary during pregnancy when cell growth is rapid, also known to reduce the risk of birth defects.  A key vitamin in mood disorders, the production of red blood cells and the prevention of anemia. Folic acid and B12 can’t be activated without each other. Animal: liverVegetarian: spinach, turnip greens, dark leafy greens, broccoli, asparagus, whole grains, lentils, mushrooms, dried beans and peas, fortified juices and cereals.
Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin) Works with folic acid to produce healthy red blood cells.  B12 is also needed to maintain a healthy central nervous system and brain functioning. Animal: muscle and organ meats, dairy, and free-range eggs.Vegetarian: sea vegetables, fermented foods, fortified yeast, enriched soymilk and alfalfa.
Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) An antioxidant.  Helps to heal wounds, prevent cell damage, promote healthy gums and teeth, strengthen the immune system, delay aging, and help the body absorb iron. Animal: noneVegetarian: citrus fruits, tomatoes, berries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, dark leafy greens, cantaloupe, horseradish, potatoes, green and red peppers, spinach, papayas and mangoes.
Vitamin D Promotes bone and tooth health by keeping normal blood calcium levels, regulates the immune system, and supports muscle and nerve functioning.  The body can synthesize vitamin D with sunlight.  We need vitamin K to complete the absorption of vitamin D. Animal: eggs, tuna, fish liver oils and fortified milk.Vegetarian:fortified cereal, and fortified rice/soy milkOther: Sunlight
Vitamin E An antioxidant.  Supports the immune system, helps heal wounds and scars, anti-cancer and anti-aging.  Thins the blood and increases blood flow; has been said to decrease heart disease. Animal: liver and egg yolks.Vegetarian: wheat germ, whole grains, nuts, seeds, sunflower and safflower oil, beet, mustard and turnip greens, sweet potatoes, and avocados.
Vitamin K Essential for blood clotting.  Supports kidney function, helps bone growth and repair, and helps to guide calcium into the bones.  Has been said to help prevent osteoporosis. Animal: beef liver, cheese, milk. And egg yolks.Vegetarian: dark leafy greens, green tea, cabbage, tomatoes, and whole wheat.

Stay tuned for the mineral cheat sheet….



3 thoughts on “Vitamins 101: The Cheat Sheet

  1. Pingback: Minerals 101: The Cheat Sheet | Wellness Made Natural

  2. Pingback: Phytochemicals: The Cheat Sheet | Wellness Made Natural

  3. Vitamin B is more often referred to today as the B vitamins to better relate that it is actually a group of 8 different vitamins, with varying functions and sources. B vitamins, like vitamin C, are water soluble, which means that extra levels of B vitamins are excreted by the body, though small amounts are stored in the liver and toxicity, while rare, is possible.;

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