Disclaimer: Consult your physician before starting any diet or exercise program, or before taking any dietary supplements. This article is NOT medical advice.
What are Vitamins?
A vitamin is an organic compound that is required as a nutrient in small amounts by a living organism. A vitamin is a chemical compound that an organism cannot synthesize on its own, and must therefore be obtained from the diet. Vitamins are essential for growth, development, and overall health. There are thirteen different vitamins required for the human body. Vitamins fall into two different categories: fat-soluble and water-soluble. Fat-soluble vitamins are absorbed through the intestinal tract with the help of fats. They can accumulate in the body. However, water-Soluble vitamins are not readily stored, so consistent intake is necessary for good health.
Vitamin A: is an antioxidant. Antioxidants protect cells against the effects of free radicals. Free radicals are molecules that are produced when the body breaks down food, or when it is exposed to substances like tobacco smoke. Vitamin A also plays a major role in vision, bone growth, reproductive health, and a helps maintain a healthy immune system.
Plant sources: carrot, sweet potato, kale, spinach, pumpkin, collard greens, cantaloupe, apricot, papaya, mango, pea, and broccoli.
Vitamin D: helps the body absorb calcium. An insufficient intake of vitamin D can lead to osteoporosis. Vitamin D also plays a role in the nervous system, healthy muscle function, and the immune system.
Plant Sources: sunlight, UV-irradiated mushrooms, and UV-irradiated yeast
Vitamin E: is an antioxidant. Vitamin E also plays a major role in the human immune system, and some metabolic processes.
Plant Sources: wheat germ oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, nuts and nut oils, green leafy vegetables, tomato, pumpkin, sweet potato, mangoes, asparagus, broccoli, papaya, and avocado
Vitamin K: Good for healthy bones and tissues. It also makes proteins for blood clotting. If you don’t have enough vitamin K, blood could become thin and a person could bleed too much.
Plant Sources: leafy green vegetables, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, avocado, kiwi, and grapes
Vitamin C: is an antioxidant. It is important for healthy skin, bones, and connective tissue. Vitamin C also plays an important role in healing, and it helps the body absorb iron.
Plant sources: red pepper, chili pepper, parsley, kiwi, broccoli, loganberry, Brussels sprouts, lychee, elderberry, papaya, strawberry, orange, kale, lemon, melon, cauliflower, garlic, grapefruit, raspberry, tangerine, passion fruit, spinach, cabbage, mango, blackberry, potato, melon, cranberry, tomato, blueberry, pineapple, grape, apricot, plum, watermelon, banana, carrot, avocado, cherry, peach, apple, asparagus, pear, lettuce, cucumber, eggplant, and fig.
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine): Thiamine plays a crucial role in some metabolic reactions. It is required for the body to form cellular energy (adenosine triphosphate, a.k.a. “ATP”).
Plant sources: oatmeal, flax, sunflower seeds, brown rice, whole grain rye, asparagus, kale, cauliflower, potatoes, and oranges.
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): works as an antioxidant by protecting cells against the effects of free radicals . Antioxidants such as riboflavin can neutralize free radicals. Vitamin B2 is also important for growth, and the production of red blood cells.
Plant sources: avocados, spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables, mushrooms, legumes, and nuts
Vitamin B3 (Niacin): is necessary for healthy skin, digestion, nervous system function, and the production of the sex hormones.
Plant sources: avocados, dates, tomatoes, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes, asparagus, nuts, whole grain products, and beans
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid): is required to synthesize and metabolize proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. It also plays a role in hair growth, skin health, and weight management.
Plant sources: broccoli and avocado
Vitamin B6: is needed for protein metabolism, and red blood cell metabolism, and nervous and immune systems function. Vitamin B6 also helps keep blood sugar levels within a normal range.
Plant sources: whole grain products, vegetables, nuts and bananas
Vitamin B7 (Biotin): is necessary for cell growth, the production of fatty acids, and the metabolism of fats and amino acids.
Plant sources: whole grains, nuts, oatmeal, green peas, lentils, mushrooms, and soybeans.
Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid): The body needs Vitamin B9 to synthesize DNA and repair DNA. It is also very important in helping rapid cell division and growth, and helps produce healthy red blood cells.
Plant sources: spinach, dark leafy greens, asparagus, turnip, beets, mustard greens, Brussels sprouts, lima beans, soybeans, brewer’s yeast, root vegetables, whole grains, wheat germ, bulgur wheat, kidney beans, white beans, lima beans, mung beans, orange juice, and avocado.
Vitamin B12: plays a key role in the healthy functioning of the brain and nervous system. It also plays a major role in the formation of blood, DNA synthesis and regulation, fatty acid synthesis, and energy production.
A common argument that is used against a vegan diet is that over time, a vegan could eventually develop a B12 deficiency, because B12 is primarily found in animal foods. However, a deficiency is unlikely, because in humans are capable of producing small amounts of B12; the mouth, upper intestine, and lower intestine all contain bacteria that produce B12.
Additionally, daily B12 requirements are very low, in the micrograms (1 microgram = 1/1000 gram), and B12 is stored in the liver, kidneys, and muscle tissue. Most of it is reabsorbed by the body, i.e. reused. If a B12 deficiency were to occur, it would most likely take several years to develop.
However, it is better safe than sorry, so I recommend taking a multivitamin to reduce the risk of developing a B12 deficiency. There are plenty of multivitamins available, which use vegan ingredients.
Plant sources: nutritional yeast, miso, sea vegetables, fortified soy milk, fortified cereals.
Take a Multivitamin
No matter what your diet is like, you should take a daily multivitamin. Taking a multivitamin in addition to a diet rich in vitamins and minerals is a good idea, because it will ensure that you get everything that you need. Toxicity is very unlikely to occur unless you take extremely high doses of specific vitamins.
Are you thinking of becoming a vegan, but are worried about bland foods? Or, are you a vegan who is tired of eating the same old beans and rice? If so, check out the new Vegan recipes book by Charles East, 120 Creative Vegan Recipes. The book includes exciting and flavorful ideas for: Appetizers, Entrees, Salads, Breakfast, Desserts, Sides, Sandwiches, Wraps, and Soups.