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In a world where health and fitness are often top priorities, vitamins are all the rage—so much so that we have an entire industry built around dietary supplement stores like GNC. However, with so many options to choose from, it can be difficult to distinguish which products may be necessary and which ones are excessive. Over the course of my next two articles, I will first discuss the basics of some vitamins, and then continue with a look at deficiencies and possible remedies in hopes of helping you determine which ones you might need.

There are two main classes of vitamins—water-soluble and fat-soluble. Water-soluble vitamins tend to be excreted from the body and thus not maintained for future use while fat-soluble vitamins are stored in fat cells and the liver. Because there are too many specific vitamins to discuss simultaneously, this two-part article will focus solely on the fat-soluble vitamins, which are A, D, E, and K, and their various functions in the body.

Vitamin A is most commonly known for maintaining vision, but it is also important for reproductive, digestive, and immune health. It can be found in both plant and animal sources, including leafy greens, carrots, and beef liver.

Leafy green vegetables are an important source of several fat-soluble vitamins.

Image Source: Larry Washburn

Vitamin D serves as a critical component of bone health because it helps your body absorb calcium. In addition, vitamin D plays a role in maintaining proper function of the nervous and muscle systems. Although the body can produce vitamin D naturally following exposure to sunlight, many people also consume dietary sources, such as fortified milk and saltwater fish, to avoid premature aging and the possibility of skin cancer.

Though lesser known than the aforementioned types, vitamin E protects red blood cells and body tissues from the presence of free radicals, chemicals that are often found in various types of pollutants. Furthermore, it protects existing concentrations of vitamins A and C so that the body can use them. Common E-rich foods include nuts, seeds, leafy greens, and vegetable oils.

Like for vitamin D, the body can also make one variety of vitamin K naturally in the intestines, but the others are mainly acquired through food. Its primary functions involve synthesizing proteins for blood clotting and bone structure. Green vegetables are the most notable dietary source of vitamin K.

Now that you know the essentials about the fat-soluble vitamins, stay tuned for insight into which ones you might be lacking and whether supplements are right for you!

Feature Image Source: pills by Liu Tao

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