Vitamins

Vitamins are organic chemical compounds that an organism requires to maintain bodily functions but cannot synthesize within the body. These 15 vitamins are noted as essential in human biology and must be consumed from dietary sources.

Vitamin A


Fat soluble, for optimal absorption pair with foods that have a moderate fat content. See: Fatty Acids for a breakdown of healthy fats and where to find them. Vitamin A deficiency can lead to blindness and weakened immune system.

Retinoids, found only in meat and animal product foods, support immune, genetic, and reproductive health.

Foods with highest retinoid vitamin A content
  • Shrimp
  • Eggs
  • Cow’s milk and cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Chicken and turkey
  • Tuna
  • Cod
  • Scallops

Carotenoids, found in plants, have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Carotenoid nutrients Lutein and Zeaxanthin support eye health and ocular function.

Foods with highest Lutein and Zeaxanthin content
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Chard
  • Collards
  • Turnip greens

Under certain conditions, the body can convert alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin, from carotenoid into retinoid form. For essential Vitamin A retinoids in a diet without animal products, beta-carotene provides the most efficient conversion ratio.

Vegetarian foods with highest beta-carotene content
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Greens (spinach, kale, mustard greens, collards, turnip greens, chard, romaine lettuce, bok choy)
  • Winter squash
  • Cantaloupe
  • Bell peppers
  • Broccoli and asparagus
  • Sea vegetables
  • Herbs (parsley, chili pepper, basil)
  • Tomato

B-Complex Vitamins


Vitamin B1 (thiamin)

Key component in developing and maintaining cellular structures, critical in the metabolization of dietary carbohydrates and fats for use as energy. Vitamin B1 is easily deteriorated in cooking and processing, for optimal absorption consume from raw food sources.

  • Asparagus
  • Seeds (sunflower, flax, sesame)
  • Greens (brussels sprouts, beet greens, spinach, cabbage, lettuce, collards, mustard greens, turnip greens, chard, bok choy, sea vegetables)
  • Beans and legumes (peas, navy/white, black, lentils, pinto, lima, kidney, peanuts, green beans)
  • Eggplant, mushrooms, broccoli and cauliflower
  • Barley, oats and sweet potatoes
  • Tofu and tuna
  • Onions, carrots, bell peppers, garlic, parsley and cumin
  • Tomato and cucumber
  • Pineapple, orange, cantaloupe, watermelon and grapefruit
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)

Involved in energy and Iron metabolism, required to recycle the antioxidant amino acid glutathione. An abundance of vitamin B2 will produce a yellow coloration in urine, excess nutrients in excretion can indicate over-consumption or inefficient absorption.

  • Greens (spinach, beet greens, sea vegetables, collards, chard, bok choy, turnip greens, kale, mustard greens, brussels sprouts, cabbage, lettuce)
  • Mushrooms
  • Asparagus, broccoli, green beans, bell pepper and peas
  • Eggs, milk and yogurt
  • Soybeans, tempeh and miso
  • Almonds
  • Turkey, sardines and tuna
  • Sweet potatoes, carrots and celery
  • Cauliflower, winter and summer squash
  • Grapes
Vitamin B3 (niacin)

A powerful antioxidant, essential in metabolism of dietary proteins, fats and carbohydrates for use as energy. Niacin stores energy as starch in muscles and liver, regulates blood sugar, and lowers cholesterol.

  • Tuna, salmon, sardines, shrimp and cod
  • Chicken, turkey, pork, liver, lamb and beef
  • Mushrooms, asparagus, tomatoes and bell peppers
  • Peanuts
  • Rice and barley
  • Sweet potatoes, potatoes and carrots
  • Seeds (sunflower, chia, sesame, squash)
  • Peas, corn, avocado, squash, broccoli, green beans, eggplant and cauliflower
  • Cantaloupe
  • Greens (collards, brussels sprouts, spinach, bok choy, beet greens, kale, chard, mustard greens, turnip greens, cabbage, sea vegetables)
Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)

Critical in hormonal production, immune system function, and metabolism of proteins, fats and carbohydrates for use as energy.

  • Mushrooms
  • Cauliflower, broccoli and asparagus
  • Sweet Potatoes and potatoes
  • Greens (beet greens, turnip greens, collards, brussels sprouts, chard, spinach, cabbage, mustard greens, sea vegetables, lettuce, bok choy)
  • Bell peppers, cucumbers, celery, avocado, tomatoes and squash
  • Lentils, peas, rye, wheat, corn, sunflower seeds and flaxseeds
  • Meat (liver, chicken, turkey, pork, beef)
  • Yogurt, cheese, milk and eggs
  • Salmon, trout, shrimp and cod
  • Fruit (papaya, raspberries, grapefruit, pineapple, watermelon, oranges, cranberries, figs)
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)

Required for production of hemoglobin in red blood cells, detoxification of blood in liver and kidneys, and synthesis of neurotransmitters GABA, dopamine and serotonin. Vitamin B6 has anti-inflammatory properties and supports metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and amino acids.

  • Tuna, beef, turkey, chicken, salmon, pork, shrimp and cod
  • Greens (spinach, cabbage, bok choy, turnip greens, brussels sprouts, collards, beet greens, kale, chard, mustard greens, leeks, lettuce, sea vegetables)
  • Bell peppers and garlic
  • Sweet potatoes and potatoes
  • Banana, pineapple, cantaloupe, strawberries, watermelon and dried fruits
  • Cauliflower, winter squash, broccoli and summer squash
  • Carrots, asparagus, tomato and avocado
  • Sunflower seeds, pistachios, sesame seeds, hazelnuts, walnuts, flaxseeds, peanuts, macademias and cashews
  • Pinto beans, lentils, peas, lima beans and green beans
  • Onions, mushrooms, corn, beets, eggplant and celery
Vitamin B7 (biotin)

Essential in production and utilization of the hormone insulin for blood sugar regulation, and metabolism of fats for building, repairing and maintaining healthy skin tissues.

  • Tomato
  • Almonds
  • Eggs
  • Onions, carrots and sweet potatoes
  • Lettuce, chard and cauliflower
  • Sunflower seeds, peanuts, walnuts, oats, barley and yeast
  • Organ meats, salmon, sardines, pork, tuna, turkey and beef
  • Yogurt, milk and dairy products
  • Bananas, raspberries, strawberries, watermelon and grapefruit
  • Cucumber, avocado, mushrooms, peas and lentils
Vitamin B9 (folate)

Regulates blood levels of homocysteine and nitric oxide for cardiovascular health, monitors fetal development of neural pathways, and supports production of neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, GABA and glutamic acid. Vitamin B9 works with Iron and Copper minerals, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin B12 to regulate red blood cell production.

  • Lentils
  • Asparagus, broccoli, beets and cauliflower
  • Greens (spinach, turnip greens, lettuce, bok choy, parsley, brussels sprouts, cabbage, leeks, collards, beet greens, kale, chard, basil, mustard greens)
  • Beans (mung, pinto, garbanzo, lima, back, white/navy, kidney, peas, green)
  • Tropical fruit (mango, pomegranate, papaya, oranges, cantaloupe, pineapple, raspberries, guava, kiwi, lemon, lime, banana)
  • Bell peppers
  • Celery, squash, tomatoes and avocado
  • Peanuts, sunflower seeds, quinoa and wheat
  • Squash, mushrooms and eggplant
  • Onions and carrots
Vitamin B10 (PABA)

Para amino benzoic acid, regulates digestion and maintains healthy skin. Vitamin B10 aids in protein metabolism and promotes growth of beneficial microorganisms in gastrointestinal tracts. PABA, commonly used in sunscreens, corrects effects of inflammation and aging in skin tissues and protects skin from damage by free radicals in UV rays and air pollutants.

  • Organ meats
  • Brewer’s yeast
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Grains, bran and wheat germ
  • Potatoes
  • Eggs, yogurt and dairy products
  • Mushrooms
  • Fish
  • Nuts
  • Molasses
Vitamin B11 (salacyclic acid)

Essential in DNA and RNA synthesis, cell division, tissue growth and repair, reproductive function, fetal nervous system development and immune system functions. Vitamin B11 works with B9 and B12 in regulating methylation of homocysteine. Salacyclic acid can be synthesized in the body from the amino acid phenylalanine.

  • Spinach, kale, collards, lettuce and cabbage
  • Olives, mushrooms, tomato and bell pepper
  • Guava, cantaloupe, blackberries, blueberries, apricots, dates and raisins
  • Almond, peanut, macadamia, pine nut, pistachio, coconut and brazil nut
  • Avocado, cucumber, broccoli, cauliflower, pumpkin and asparagus
  • Oranges, apples, cherries, grapes, kiwi, plum and watermelon
  • Pecans, sesame seeds, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds and cashews
  • Sweet potatoes, potatoes, onions, peas, green beans, celery and lentils
  • Lemon, mango, passion fruit, banana and pear
  • Cumin, curry, dill, oregano, paprika, rosemary, thyme, tumeric, mustard, fennel, vinegar, soy, saffron, garlic, parsley and chives
Vitamin B12 (cobalamin)

Provides a range of cardiovascular and neurological benefits, works with vitamins B9 and B6 to regulate DNA production, supports activity of bone-forming cells and regulates TNF activity in bone breakdown. Vitamin B12 works with B9 and B11 as a required component for production of hemoglobin in red blood cells, and in regulating blood levels of homocysteine by aiding conversion to amino acid methionine. Cobalamin promotes neurological function with oxygen-based energy production and methyl metabolism for neurotransmitter production.

  • Mackerel, sardines, salmon, tuna, cod, herring and trout
  • Clams, oysters, mussels, scallops, crab, shrimp and lobster
  • Liver
  • Lamb and beef
  • Tempeh, miso and fermented soy products
  • Yogurt and milk
  • Eggs
  • Turkey and chicken
  • Cheese
  • Mushrooms
Choline

Essential building block in cell membranes and crucial component in the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. If vitamin B9 levels are insufficient for methylation, choline can work with B6 and B12 as a substitute.

  • Shrimp, scallops, tuna, cod and salmon
  • Eggs
  • Chicken, turkey and beef
  • Collards, brussels sprouts, chard, spinach and cabbage
  • Broccoli, cauliflower and asparagus
  • Peas and green Beans
  • Mushrooms
  • Summer squash
  • Miso
  • Tomato

Vitamin C


Commonly associated with citrus fruits, Vitamin C refers to the nutrient ascorbic acid, which acts as an antioxidant to prevent damage from free radicals in the eyes, bloodstream, and genetic material. Ascorbic acid is a necessary component for production of the structural protein collagen and certain neurotransmitters, particularly serotonin, a crucial hormone for maintaining mental health. Vitamin C deficiency leads to a condition known as Scurvy, characterized by lethargy, loss of teeth, brittle bones, skin sensitivity and difficulty healing wounds.

  • Papaya, guava and mango
  • Bell peppers (yellow, orange, red, green)
  • Broccoli, brussels sprouts, green cauliflower, cauliflower and cabbage
  • Strawberries
  • Pineapple, pummelo, orange, kiwi and grapefruit
  • Cantaloupe
  • Greens (kale, cabbage, bok choy, turnip greens, beet greens, mustard greens, collards, chard, spinach)
  • Raspberries, lemon, lime, blackberries and blueberries
  • Tomato
  • Herbs (parsley, fennel, thyme, garlic, basil, dill, cilantro

Vitamin D


Regulates blood sugar and promotes skeletal, exocrine and immune system health. Vitamin D deficiency increases risk of respiratory infection and diabetes, and can lead to a condition known as Rickets (in adolescents) or Osteromalacia (in adults), characterized by bone weakness and skeletal deformity. Certain forms of Vitamin D can be absorbed in the skin from sunlight, but dietary supplementation is necessary to utilize its full range of circulatory and immune system benefits.

Foods Naturally Rich in Vitamin D
  • Trout, salmon and swordfish
  • Portabello and shiitake mushrooms (exposed to sunlight)
  • Sardines (bone-in)
  • Swordfish, mackerel and halibut
  • Tuna and tilapia
  • Fish roe or caviar
  • Organ meats, particularly beef liver
  • Tofu
  • Ham
  • Eggs
Foods Fortified with Vitamin D
  • Cod liver oil
  • Cow’s milk, buttermilk, butter, cheese and yogurt
  • Dairy alternatives
  • Cereals
  • Orange juice

Vitamin D is fat soluble, for optimal absorption choose food sources with a moderate fat content, or pair with foods rich in healthy fats. Commonly known to build strong bones, what Vitamin D giveth, Vitamin D may taketh away to compensate for insufficient Calcium levels in the blood. To preserve bone health, pair Vitamin D with foods rich in Calcium. Dairy products, naturally rich in Calcium, are often fortified with Vitamin D.

Vitamin E


Fat soluble, and a strong antioxidant, Vitamin E protects the fats lining cell membranes from damage by free radicals. Vitamin E deficiency can impair its ability to protect cholesterol from oxidation, causing it to accumulate and harden in the arteries, leading to a condition known as Atherosclerosis.

  • Sunflower Seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts
  • Avocado
  • Greens (spinach, chard, turnip greens, beet greens, mustard greens, kale, collards)
  • Asparagus and broccoli
  • Chili peppers and bell peppers
  • Trout, swordfish, shrimp, oyster, crayfish and salmon
  • Olives, olive oil, wheat germ and canola Oil
  • Sweet potatoes and butternut squah
  • Cranberries, raspberries and kiwi
  • Tomatoes, carrots, green beans and leeks
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4 Comments

  1. Pingback: Essential Nutrients and Where to Find Them | Zu-Zu Lee

  2. Pingback: Proteins | Zu-Zu Lee

  3. Pingback: Fatty Acids | Zu-Zu Lee

  4. Pingback: Dietary Minerals | Zu-Zu Lee

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