Vitamins are essential micronutrients that we need to survive and thrive! When we think of vitamins, a picture of some CVS or GNC-type bottles probably comes to mind. This week we are going to discuss what roles vitamins play in the body and where to source them to get the most bang for our buck.
There is only one vitamin that can be created in the body, and that is Vitamin D, when our skin is exposed to sunlight. All other vitamins (and Vitamin D in the winter) are essential, meaning we can only get them by eating plants and animals. Vitamins play many critical roles in the body for overall health and growth. They are cofactors, or “helpers”, in metabolic processes, the growth of tissues, digestion, immune function and elimination. Deficiency of vitamins can impair our body in many ways, for example a lack of certain B vitamins may slow our metabolism, as they are responsible for helping create ATP (energy) from glucose.
Vitamins can be broken down into two categories: water soluble and fat soluble. Fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) can only be absorbed when sufficient amounts of dietary fat are present. Water soluble vitamins like the B’s, C and choline are absorbed only when water is present. In emphasizing nutrient-dense, properly balanced, whole foods diet, we can ensure we that are getting a good base of vitamins, and are less likely to need additional supplementation.
However, supplementation isn’t a bad thing. For instance, it’s extremely hard to get vitamin D in the winter living in New England where we remain indoors and covered up 90% of the time. Adding a Vitamin D supplement can be critical to maintaining those levels through the cloudy months, warding off that seasonal depression. As we touched on last week, diets that lack a variety of animal products will undoubtedly be low in certain essential vitamins. In this case, choosing a vitamin supplement that is made with high-quality, highly absorbable raw materials that don’t contain undesirable fillers will greatly impact the absorption of the supplement you are taking. When it comes our nutrition, making a small investment in higher quality real food supplements makes a big difference in short and long term health benefits, and saves us countless trips to the store to restock on supplements that aren’t tipping the needle.