Vitamins: A to Z

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Vitamins are essential nutrients that you can get from certain foods. A proper balance and adequate levels of these are important for a range of complex processes in your body. Vitamins play key roles in bodily functions such as metabolism, immunity and digestion. It’s important for us to assess our diets and become knowledgeable on which types of food source the vitamins we need in order to stay healthy and avoid deficiencies.

Nutrients actually work better together, you may consume enough of one vitamin, but may not actually absorb it. For your body to get the full benefit of one vitamin, you may need sufficient amounts of others. For example, to fully deliver calcium into the bones and tissues, you would need sufficient amounts of vitamin D and vitamin K. Vitamins work together as a team - just as many of us do in our day-to-day working lives! You need a little of all of them so they can do their job properly, it’s all about balance.

Vitamins are either water-soluble or fat-soluble. Fat soluble vitamins are stored in the fatty tissue of the liver and the body. They are easier to store than water soluble vitamins and can stay in the body as reserves for a longer period. They are absorbed with the help of fats and lipids. On the other hand, water soluble vitamins do not stay in the body for very long as the body cannot store them, so these types of vitamins need to be more regularly consumed.

Fat soluble vitamins:

  • Vitamin A - supports eye health, (good for those of us that spend half our lives in front of a computer screen!). Good sources include carrots, liver, salmon, spinach, broccoli and sweet potatoes.

  • Vitamin E - a strong antioxidant that helps boost immunity and prevents cell damage. Good sources include vegetable oils, nuts, seeds and leafy greens.

  • Vitamin D - this vitamin is found naturally in limited foods but added to many others, the best source is natural sunlight (perfect excuse for a sunny vacation in Barbados!!), but you can also get it from salmon, egg yolks, mushrooms and shrimp

  • Vitamin K - creates healthy bones and keeps the heart strong. It is found in a variety of foods such as cooked kale, spinach, some cheeses, chicken, pork, avocado and other green vegetables.

Water soluble vitamins:

  • Vitamin C - this is an antioxidant that helps prevent cell damage, maintains skin health, and strengthens the immune system. It’s found in (but certainly not limited to) oranges, strawberries, broccoli, kale and parsley.

  • Vitamin B group - this family of vitamins is responsible for boosting your energy levels, feelings of well being as well as lowering stress and anxiety (not sure about you but these sound good to me!!). A good source of these vitamins can be found in a variety of foods including whole grains, meat, eggs and dairy products, citrus fruits and avocados.

The best way to meet your vitamin needs is through a balanced diet. However, what some of you might not realize is that no matter how healthy you eat, it can be difficult for your body to get all the nutrients it needs from food 100% of the time. In some cases therefore, dietary supplements can be used to fill in the gaps (this is dependent on your current diet/health - please consult a medical professional!).

A supplement is defined as something that completes or enhances something else when added, it is therefore NOT something to be used as a substitute. Nobody’s diet is perfect all of the time - we all have “cheat days” and enjoy pizza on the weekend and that’s perfectly acceptable (and also very normal). So a little help along the way to make sure our bodies are getting all the essential nutrients it needs won’t do any harm. Remember, your body is a temple!

Generally speaking, eat plenty of fruits, veggies, non-fatty meats, nuts and seeds, exercise regularly (or at least take the stairs from time to time!) and you are well on your way to a healthy, vitamin-enriched body. Taking supplements may be used as a boost, and an easy time-saving practice to incorporate into your morning routine. A healthy body leads to a healthy mind, and this ultimately is the answer in creating the best, happiest version of yourself possible!