Hi Mylk Fam! In today's blog were talking all about vitamins! What vitamins are, why we need them, and which vitamins we may need to supplement in our vegan diet. For your specific vitamin needs, we suggest talking to your doctor or nutritionist to ensure you're getting the right dosage based on YOUR body.
For starters, let's cover what vitamins are and why we need them. Vitamins are any of a group of organic compounds which are essential for normal growth and nutrition. Vitamins are required in our diets because they cannot be synthesized by the body and are considered an essential nutrient due to this! They are also referred to as micronutrients, since we only need to take them in small quantities. But even though we only require a small amount, failing to do so could result in various physical problems or illnesses.
In total there are 13 vitamins and they are either water-soluble or fat-soluble.
Fat-soluble vitamins: Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin E and Vitamin K. These vitamins are absorbed through the intestinal tract with the help of fats and lipids, which is why they're called fat-soluble vitamins. They are easier for our bodies to store than water-soluble vitamins and can stay in our bodies for a few days.
Water-soluble vitamins: Vitamin C, Vitamin B (Thiamine), Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), Vitamin B3 (Niacin), Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid), Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine), Vitamin B7 (Biotin), Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid), Vitamin B12 (Cyanocobalamin). These vitamins do not stay in the body very long, nor can our bodies store them. So water-soluble vitamins need to be replaced more often than fat-soluble ones!
Now that we know what vitamins are and how they work, what exactly do they do? Water-soluble vitamins are mainly responsible for:
- Release of Energy. Several B vitamins are key components of certain coenzymes that help release energy from food.
- Production of Energy. Vitamin B, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B5, and Vitamin B7 all engage in energy production.
- Building Proteins and Cells. Vitamins B6, B12, and Vitamin B9 metabolize amino acids and help cells multiply.
- Production of Collagen. One of many roles played by Vitamin C is to help make collagen, which knits together wounds, supports blood vessel walls, and forms a base for teeth and bones.
All of that sounds pretty important to me, and we haven't even gotten to our fat-soluble vitamins yet! Fat-soluble vitamins help with:
- Building Bones. Bone formation would be impossible without vitamins A, D, and K.
- Protecting Vision. Vitamin A helps keep cells healthy and protects your vision.
- Absorbing Other Vitamins. Without vitamin E, your body would have difficulty absorbing and storing Vitamin A.
- Protecting your Body. Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant, which helps protect the body against damage from unstable molecules.
Now that we're all in agreement that vitamins are V important, how do we get them and which are the most important for us to watch for as vegans?!
Good news: most vitamins can be easily obtained through your diet! In general, eating a wide variety of foods will help make sure you don't become deficient in any vitamins - “eat the rainbow”! But, when you're a vegan (or just a picky eater!), there may be some vitamins you have a difficult time obtaining through diet alone.
As you may have heard, Vitamin B12 is the hardest vitamin to obtain as a vegan. While there are some foods (like nutritional yeast) that provide a trace amount of B12, most doctors and nutritionists recommend supplementing for adequate B12 absorption. You can take an absorbable B12 vitamin supplement by itself, but some multivitamins contain sufficient amounts of B12 as well. Everyonecan benefit from taking a multi-vitamin to ensure there is never a deficiency! But of course, always consult with your doctor or nutritionist for your body's specific needs.
Looking to add a multivitamin or B12 supplement to your diet? Check out our vitamin and supplement category here!