The word “vitamin” comes from the Latin for “vital to life.” These important nutrients help release energy from food, fight infection, protect against damage to cells, promote normal growth and development and generally keep us healthy.
Some vitamins are water soluble, which means they are not stored in the body. Your body uses what it needs and releases excess amounts in your urine, making it necessary to consume these vitamins daily. Examples of water soluble vitamins include Vitamin C and the B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, B6, B12, biotin, folate and pantothenic acid). Others are fat soluble. These vitamins are stored in the body, but you need to eat a certain amount of fat to ensure that they are properly absorbed. Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat-soluble vitamins.
The following is a list of the different functions of some important vitamins and list of food sources for them.
Vitamin A: FUNCTIONS IN THE BODY
- Aids in normal bone and tooth development
- Aids in night vision
- Helps maintain the health of skin and membranes
Some Food Sources dark root vegetables such as carrots and sweet potatoes, pumpkin, cantaloupe, pink grapefruit, tomatoes, broccoli and dark leafy green vegetables including callaloo, dandelion spinach, beet greens, Swiss chard and kale
Vitamin C: FUNCTIONS IN THE BODY
- Helps in the development and maintenance of bones, cartilage and teeth
- helps heal cuts and wounds and keeps gum healthy
- Acts as an antioxidant
- Aids in iron absorption
Some Food Sources oranges and orange juice, grapefruit and other grapefruit juice, kiwifruit, strawberries, bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, potatoes and tomatoes
Vitamin D (the “sunshine vitamin”): FUNCTIONS IN THE BODY
- Helps the body absorb and use calcium and phosphorus
- Plays a role in bone and tooth formation and maintenance
Some Food Sources mushrooms (the only plant source of vitamin D), almond milk (original fortified with vitamin D), soy yogurt fortified with vitamin D, ready-to-eat cereals and oatmeal fortified with vitamin D, orange juice fortified with vitamin D
Our bodies can actually make and absorb vitamin D from sun exposure. According the the National Institute of Health, 5 – 30 minutes of sun exposure between 10 am and 3 pm twice a week to the face, arms, legs, or back without sunscreen is usually enough to help boost vitamin D intake. This process varies widely depending on the season, time of day, cloud cover, skin color, and sunscreen use, so eating food sources of vitamin D (such as fortiﬁed dairy products, or some mushrooms) is also important. Vitamin D is also available as a dietary supplement.
Vitamin E: FUNCTIONS IN THE BODY
- Protects the fat in body tissues from oxidation. This means it helps to slow down processes that damage cells.
Some Food Sources sunflower seeds, nuts, vegetable oils, papaya, peanut butter, avocados, sweet potatoes and wheat germ
Vitamin K: FUNCTIONS IN THE BODY
- Plays an important role in blood clotting
Thiamin (vitamin B1): FUNCTIONS IN THE BODY
- Releases energy in carbohydrates
- Aids in normal growth
Some Food Sources whole-grain and enriched breads, cereals and pasta, green peas, dried beans (kidney, navy, soybeans), lentils and nuts
Riboflavin (vitamin B2): FUNCTIONS IN THE BODY
- Plays a role in energy metabolism and tissue formation
- Is involved in the metabolism of other B vitamins
Some Food Sources nuts, green peas, cooked spinach, beans (navy, soybeans), lentils and whole-grain and enriched breads, cereals and pasta
Niacin (vitamin B3): FUNCTIONS IN THE BODY
- Plays a role in energy metabolism
- Aids in normal growth and development
Some Food Sources peanuts, peanut butter, beans (kidney, navy, soybeans, chickpeas), corn, green peas and whole-grain and enriched breads, cereals, pasta
Pyridoxin (vitamin B6): FUNCTIONS IN THE BODY
- Aids in energy metabolism and tissue formation
Some Food Sources whole-grains and enriched cereals, beans (kidney, navy, soybeans, chickpeas), lentils, potatoes, bananas and watermelon
Cobalamin (vitamin B12): FUNCTIONS IN THE BODY
- Aids in red blood cell formation
Some Food Sources Some foods such as soy and rice beverages and soy-based meat substitutes, are fortified with B12. If relying on fortified foods, check the labels carefully to make sure you are getting daily recommended amount. You may find the use of B12 supplements more convenient and economical. Talk to a physician.
Folacin: FUNCTIONS IN THE BODY
- Aids in red blood cell formation
- Has an essential role in making new cells
Some Food Sources cooked beans (kidney, navy, soybeans, chickpeas), lentils, asparagus, cooked spinach, romaine lettuce, Brussels sprouts, beets, broccoli, corn, green peas, oranges and orange juice, pineapple juice, honeydew melon, cantaloupe, sunflower seeds, nuts, peanut butter, wheat germ and enriched bread, cereal grains and pasta
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