We know the vital role vitamins play in our health, but what exactly is the purpose of each one? From increasing our energy and metabolism, enhancing our bone and skin health, and protecting our cells from aging, these tiny nutrients are essential to our bodies’ health and function.
Each of the recipes featured in Fuel for Wellness lists the vitamin concentration per serving to help you plan your meals accordingly. To better understand the role of the essential 13 vitamins, let’s first learn a few terms used to describe these tiny, but mighty, nutrients.
Water-Soluble Vitamins: These nine vitamins dissolve in water and are directly absorbed into the bloodstream. They cannot be stored in the body and are eliminated in our urine so our bodies require a continuous daily supply of them through our diet. Water-soluble vitamins include the B-complex vitamins responsible for metabolism and energy production (thiamin, riboflavin, B6, biotin, B12, niacin, pantothenic acid, folate) and Vitamin C.
Fat-Soluble Vitamins: These four vitamins dissolve in fat before they are absorbed into the bloodstream making it even more necessary to include a small amount of fat into your meals. They are unable to be absorbed without fat present. Excess amounts are stored in the liver so we are less likely to be deficient in them. Fat-soluble vitamins include Vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Thiamin (Vitamin B1): helps release energy from foods, increases metabolism, maintains normal appetite, promotes nervous system function. Foods high in thiamin include whole grains, fortified grains/cereals, lean meat, fish, dairy, and peas. Try Asian Glazed Pork Tenderloin
Riboflavin (Vitamin B2): helps release energy from foods, increases metabolism, aids in good vision and healthy skin. Foods high in riboflavin include eggs, whole grains, fortified breads/cereals, lean meat, and milk. Try Lightened-Up Beef Sliders and Southwestern Egg Tostada
Niacin (Vitamin B3): helps release energy from foods, increases metabolism, promotes normal digestion and appetite, promotes nervous system function. Foods high in niacin include fish, poultry, eggs, peanuts, fortified breads/cereals, and salmon. Try Chicken N’ Waffle Sandwiches with Maple Glaze
Pantothenic Acid (B5): helps release energy from carbs, protein, and fat, increases metabolism, promotes healthy nervous system, promotes healthy skin and hair. Foods high in pantothenic acid include eggs, broccoli, salmon, nuts, beans, fresh vegetables, and dairy. Try Double Chocolate Fudge Brownie Cookies
Vitamin B6: aids in production of serotonin (a hormone that promotes sleep, appetite, mood), helps release energy from foods, increases metabolism, promotes red blood cell formation. Foods high in Vitamin B6 include salmon, chicken, potatoes, whole grains, beans, and leafy greens. Try Vanilla Chai Proatmeal Porridge
Biotin (Vitamin B7): helps release energy from carbs, protein, and fat, increases metabolism, promotes normal appetite, promotes healthy skin, hair, and nails. Foods high in biotin include egg yolks, milk, nuts, most fresh vegetables, berries, and bananas. Try Vanilla-Mint Berry Fruit Salad
Folate (Vitamin B9): aids in metabolism of protein, promotes fetal development, promotes red blood cell formation, may reduce risk of heart disease. Foods high in folate include beans, legumes, citrus fruits, whole grains, dark leafy greens, poultry, and shellfish. Try Grilled Chicken with Citrus Beet and Wheat Berry Salad
Vitamin B12: aids in metabolism of fat and protein, increases energy, promotes normal digestion and appetite, promotes red blood cell formation. Foods high in Vitamin B12 include animal products such as eggs, meat, poultry, fish, and dairy. Try Pumpkin Spice Latte Oatmeal
Vitamin C: aids in wound healing, maintains immune system, aids in bone and teeth formation, promotes healthy skin and hair, strengthens blood vessel walls, aids in absorption of iron. Foods high in Vitamin C include citrus fruits, peppers, strawberries, grapefruit, tomatoes, broccoli, and white vegetables such as cauliflower and potatoes. Try Cajun Salmon Tostadas with Mango Avocado Salsa
Fat- soLUBLE VITAMINS
Vitamin A (beta-carotene): aids in red and white cell production, promotes healthy eyes, bones, and skin, aids in reproduction, maintains immune system. Foods high in Vitamin A include orange/red fruits and vegetables (peppers, oranges, carrots, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, butternut squash, pumpkin, strawberries), dark leafy greens, eggs, and fish. Try Cinnamon Spiced Sweet Potato Carrot Fries
Vitamin D: aids in calcium absorption, increases bone density, maintains nervous system function, maintains immune system. Foods high in Vitamin D include fortified milk and cereals, oily fish such as salmon, and egg yolks. UV rays from the sun also provide Vitamin D. Try Eggy Waffle-Rito
Vitamin E: protects cells from environmental toxins, maintains immune system, aids in healthy skin and hair, prevents aging. Foods high in Vitamin E include vegetable oils (olive, canola, soybean), almonds, hazelnuts, seeds, and fortified breads/cereals. Try Strawberry Mint Chicken Salad with Poppyseed Chia Vinaigrette
Vitamin K: plays a role in blood clotting, wound healing, and bone health. Foods high in Vitamin K include dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, swiss chard, collard greens, parsley), cauliflower, cabbage, and vegetable oils. Try Lemon Parmesan Shredded Brussel Sprouts