Vitamins are essential players in our overall health, carrying out vital functions throughout our entire body. There are two types of vitamins, fat-soluble and water-soluble. Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat-soluble vitamins, they will dissolve in fat before being absorbed into the bloodstream. When in excess, these vitamins are stored in body tissue and organs meaning that daily consumption is not necessary. Water-soluble vitamins in contrast are dissolved by water and are not stored in the body as they are rapidly utilized after absorption and then eliminated. Therefore, in order to maintain optimal levels a continuous daily supply is required.
Water-soluble vitamins are sensitive molecules that will begin to break down and degrade when exposed to light and heat. Therefore, when storing vitamin rich fruits and vegetables, ensure they are kept away from bright and direct lights. Cooking methods will also impact the vitamin retention of food. Lightly steaming vegetables is preferable over boiling in water, as less vitamin loss will occur.
The health-giving benefits of the 8 water-soluble vitamins, Vitamin C and the B group vitamins - B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9 and B12, are described below.
It is crucial that Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is regularly obtained from the diet as humans don’t have the ability to synthesize or create it ourselves.
Vitamin C is largely associated with immunity. When the first sign of cold or flu hits, Vitamin C is a typical go-to for many people, and for valid reason.
When it comes to supporting our immune system during a pathogenic attack, the addition of vitamin C can help to increase the production of our immune cells, the white blood cells. This results in a stronger and more robust response to invaders.
Much more than simply an ally for our immune system, Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant, aids absorption of non-heme (vegetarian) iron and is also critical in the synthesis of collagen which supports the growth of tendons, ligaments, hair, skin and nails.
Low vitamin C status in the body can be linked to bleeding gums and poor wound healing.
Daily consumption of fresh Vitamin C rich foods such as citrus fruits, kiwifruit, capsicum, broccoli and tomatoes will ensure a steady supply. Additional supplementations may be required for those who experience deficiency signs, are smokers or suffering from acute or chronic illness.
In the body, the B group vitamins are involved in a large range of important functions where they work synergistically as well as having individual specialized roles. One of the synergistic processes the B group vitamins are involved in is the energy production pathway known as Krebs cycle, which creates ATP or energy for our cells. This physically gives us energy, supports metabolism, as well as aiding growth and repair. B vitamins also assist a number of other processes which extract energy from our food, metabolize fat and glucose and synthesize amino acids for neurotransmitter formation.
Folate (B9) and B12 (cobalamin) are of particular importance at preconception and throughout pregnancy as these two B vitamins assist the formation of normal red blood cells. Both B’s are also required to create our genetic material (DNA) and as such are critical components throughout all stages of growth and development.
The task of replenishing B vitamins on a daily basis should be an easy task, as these vitamins are widely distributed throughout our food supply. Foods which are rich in B vitamins include green vegetables (spinach and broccoli), grains (breads, cereals, rice, pasta, quinoa, buckwheat, millet), meat and fish, eggs and dairy, legumes (beans, chickpeas, lentils), nutritional yeast and some seeds such as pumpkin seeds.
Talk to any of our qualified Huckleberry Naturopaths for additional advice on supplementation with Vitamin C and B group vitamins.
-Article by Naturopath Kate Dalliessi.