Vitamins are classed as micronutrients. This is because we require smaller amounts of them than any of the macronutrients (carbohydrate, fat, protein). However, they are no less essential! Ignoring any one of them would eventually lead to very serious health issues.
Vitamins are divided into two main categories according to how the body absorbs them; fat soluble, and water soluble.
Water Soluble Vitamins
Water soluble vitamins are absorbed using water, with excess amounts being passed out when you pee. Water soluble vitamins are not stored, you must consume them every day.
The water soluble vitamins are:
Vitamin C – Ascorbic acid/Ascorbate
- Essential for: Immune system, absorption of iron, antioxidant defences.
- Good sources: Chilli peppers, bell peppers, citrus fruits, kiwi, strawberries, parsley, broccoli.
- Deficiencies: Low immune system, scurvy (yes, like a pirate).
B Vitamins – Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Pantothenic acid, Pyridoxine, Biotin, folate/folic acid, B12
- Essential for: Normal cell metabolism, huge number of essential processes.
- Good sources: Wholegrains, lentils, beans, potatoes (skin on), chilli peppers, bananas.
- Deficiencies: Metabolic disorders and, Beriberi (B1), ariboflavinosis (B2), pellagra (B3), acne (B5), microcytic anaemia (B6, B9, B12) and depression (B6), impaired growth in infants (B7), neural tube defects in babies, brain ageing (B9), peripheral neuropathy, memory loss, brain decline (B12)
Fat Soluble Vitamins
As you’d expect, Fat soluble vitamins need fat in the diet in order to be absorbed. So it’s worth taking them into account before removing too much fat from your diet.
The fat soluble vitamins are:
Vitamin A – Retinol
- Essential for: Eye health/vision and a healthy immune system.
- Good sources: cod liver oil, meats (especially turkey and liver), sweet potato, carrots, butter, kale, spinach.
- Deficiencies: Poor vision, low immune response, blindness.
Vitamin D Cholecalciferol/ergocalciferol
- Essential for: Absorption of minerals (especially calcium), and bone formation.
- Good sources: Sunlight, mushrooms, fish, fortified cereals.
- Deficiencies: Rickets, Osteoporosis.
Vitamin E Tocopherol/tocotrienol
- Essential for: antioxidant defences, cell signalling
- Good sources: Seed oils, avocado, broccoli, seeds, nuts, nut oils.
- Deficiencies: Neurological problems
Vitamin K – Phylloquinone
- Essential for: Blood coagulation.
- Good sources: Kale, broccoli, cavolo nero, spinach, chard greens, brussel Sprouts.
- Deficiencies: Anaemia, bleeding gums, linked to Heart Disease and Osteoporosis