Vitamins – everything you need to know about them. Nothing works without them: vitamins. We need vitamins to maintain all our bodily functions, and yet we notice so little of the tiny active substances in everyday life. After all, we usually get enough of them in our daily diet – as long as it’s varied and balanced.
Only when a deficiency occurs do we quickly realize that fruits and vegetables are not quite so unimportant. And it’s not quite as simple as that with vitamins. Where do I get the vitamins I need? How much of which vitamins does my body actually need? And what for? Isn’t it enough to simply take a multivitamin tablet? Or buy more “functional food”? Aren’t there more vitamins in organic foods anyway?
Fat and water-soluble
Vitamins – everything you need to know about them. Basically, all vitamins – with the exception of vitamin D – are essential. This means that the body cannot produce them itself and they must be supplied to it with food. There are two groups within vitamins:
- the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K)
- and the water-soluble vitamins (vitamin C and the vitamins of the B complex).
Fat-soluble means that the body can only properly absorb and utilize these vitamins if dietary fat is available for this purpose. This can be the piece of butter on grandma’s carrot vegetables, but also any other fat that is in most of our food. Often, high-quality vegetable oils are not only good for making fat-soluble vitamins available but are also a good source of vitamins in their own right.
Water-soluble means that these vitamins can be quickly washed out of foods. For example, by soaking cut fruits and vegetables, boiling water, or boiling them down.
Where are the vitamins?
Vitamins – everything you need to know about them. Almost every food also contains vitamins. Or contained, because much of it can be lost through incorrect storage, incorrect preservation, or preparation. The fresher the fruit and vegetables, the higher the vitamin content.
An apple that goes straight from the tree to the mouth contains more vitamins than one that waits two weeks in the fruit basket at home to be eaten. And anyone who sees shriveled peppers in the vegetable display in the store realizes that incorrect storage is usually the final cause of vitamin loss.
Not every variety of vegetables always contains the same amount of vitamins. To stay with the example of the apple: Here it depends not only on the storage, but also already before on the soil, the climate, the cultivation method, and harvest.
Last but not least, old apple varieties in particular often contain more vitamins than new varieties. Data for vitamin contents are therefore always only orientation values, which can fluctuate very strongly!
Recommendation: Always try to buy your fruits and vegetables directly from the producer “fresh from the field” and also in the season in which they are harvested.
If this is not possible, prefer frozen food, which preserves the vitamin content of the harvest. Avoid “canned” fruits and vegetables in jars or cans.
Are there more vitamins in organic foods?
Vitamins – everything you need to know about them. There are many studies that have come to this conclusion, but about as many studies that have not. A review of these studies at the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute in Vienna found that 50% of organic foods contain more vitamins than their conventional counterparts. All studies agree that organic foods contain more phytochemicals, which also have a great positive impact on our health.
Since organic foods usually have a lower water content than those from conventional cultivation, all substances in organic foods are present in concentrated form. Therefore, fruits and vegetables from organic farming are often also much more aromatic.
In any case, however, organic foods do not contain toxic cocktails of residues of pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, and other “pesticides”, the long-term effects of which on our bodies are still little known.
Recommendation: Even if studies found more vitamins in only 50% of the organic foods studied, going organic is always worthwhile.
Do we need vitamin supplements?
The trade is full of vitamin tablets, effervescent tablets, powders, ampoules, and other “vitamin cocktails”. Suppliers suggest that our diet will never be able to cover our vitamin requirements and that we will soon suffer from vitamin deficiencies without these supplements.
As sales arguments “exhausted soils”, the climatic change and changed mining methods are gladly called, however, vitamin deficiency is very rare with us. The German Nutrition Society (DGE) had the vitamin and mineral content of many foods examined from 1954 to 2000. It came to the conclusion that neither fruits nor vegetables are depleted in nutrients. So it is still possible to get all the vitamins (and minerals) you need from a balanced diet without supplements.
Recommendation: No healthy person needs food supplements. On the contrary: the health benefits of such preparations are countered by not inconsiderable health risks from overdosing on vitamins. Only in individual cases (vegans, those wishing to have children, pregnant women, nursing mothers…) is it necessary to prevent a deficiency with individual active ingredients.
Functional food: the extra vitamin boost?
Sellers of functional food are taking the same approach as manufacturers of dietary supplements. They claim that today’s farming methods, modern lifestyles, and our hectic daily lives no longer allow us to properly supply ourselves with everything our bodies need.
Functional foods thus suggest that we urgently need the added vitamins, minerals, fiber, fatty acids, and more in this synthetically produced or isolated form. We have already explained that this is not so.
But could our bodies even utilize artificially produced vitamins and isolated phytochemicals? It is not yet clear exactly how all secondary plant compounds, vitamins, and minerals work in the body.
The fact is: Isolated secondary plant substances, such as those added to functional foods, cannot act as they would in the interaction of all the substances contained in a piece of fruit or vegetable. How exactly these interaction works is still Mother Nature’s secret.
Recommendation: Natural foods contain many substances that are beneficial to health and often only have their effect in natural interaction. A diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables ensures a supply of all vitamins, minerals, and secondary plant substances. Functional foods are usually only of use to those who sell them.
Which vitamins do I need for what – and how much of them?
Vitamins – everything you need to know about them. Often micrograms are enough for the body to properly carry out the metabolic processes made possible by a certain vitamin. But which vitamins are necessary for which bodily functions and how much of them does my body need? And above all, which foods contain which vitamins? We provide an overview.
Vitamin A is important for: Vision, function, and structure of the skin and mucous membranes, protection of skin cells against DNA damage (e.g. by the sun), formation of red blood cells, incorporation of iron, bone formation, and bone healing, protein metabolism, maintenance of nerve cells, strengthening of the immune system, formation of antibodies and white blood cells, formation of sperm, formation of hormones, development of the embryo.
Vitamin A deficiency leads to: blindness, hair loss, dryness of skin, hair and mucous membranes, night blindness, impaired vision, iron deficiency, increased risk of infection, increased risk of cancer, reduced fertility, fatigue, impaired growth in children, impaired sense of smell and touch, loss of appetite.
A lot of vitamin A is found in: Fruits or vegetables that are yellow, orange, deep dark green, or red in color: carrots, squash, corn, peppers, tomatoes, kale, spinach, broccoli, and apricots.
The daily requirement: between 0.8 and 1 mg
The daily requirement can be found in: 100 ml carrot juice or 150 g fresh spinach leaves.
Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
Vitamin B1/Thiamine is important for: Stimulus transmission in the nervous system, glucose metabolism, metabolism of amino acids, energy production from food.
A vitamin B1 or thiamine deficiency leads to: beri-beri disease, memory problems, fatigue, irritability, headaches, loss of appetite, depressive mood/depression, decreasing physical performance, poor concentration, muscle weakness, insensitivity in the extremities, visual disturbances, edema, low blood pressure, heart failure.
A lot of vitamin B1/thiamine is found in: Whole grain products, nuts, seeds, legumes.
Daily requirement: at least 1 mg
The daily requirement is: 100 g of oatmeal sprinkled with a tablespoon of sunflower seeds.
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
Vitamin B2/riboflavin is important for: Growth and development, protein metabolism, metabolism of fatty acids, glucose metabolism, metabolism of the vitamin B complex.
A vitamin B2 or riboflavin deficiency leads to: cracked skin, torn corners of the mouth, increased desquamation of the skin, skin inflammations and changes, photosensitivity, anemia, inflammations of the oral mucosa. Probably also to the development of migraines and the formation of cataracts.
A lot of vitamin B2/riboflavin is found in: Dairy products, eggs, soy, wheat germ, nuts, mushrooms, legumes, broccoli, kale, and spinach.
The daily requirement: 1 to 1.1 mg
The daily requirement is found in: a large serving of whole-grain pasta, with spinach, mushrooms, or broccoli and sprinkled with nuts or cheese.
Vitamin B3 (niacin)
Vitamin B3/niacin is important for: Energy metabolism, cell division, fat metabolism, carbohydrate metabolism, protein metabolism, immune system, insulin secretion.
Vitamin B3 or niacin deficiency leads to: pellagra disease, physical weakness, skin changes, diarrhea, depression, dementia, inflamed and altered mucous membranes.
Plenty of vitamin B3/niacin is found in: dairy products, cashew nuts, legumes, dates, mushrooms, coffee. (Meat, fish, eggs, are optional for Non-vegan/non-vegetarians)
The daily requirement: 11 to 13 mg niacin equivalents.
The daily requirement is found in: two slices of wholemeal bread, thickly spread with peanut butter, and two cups of coffee.
Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)
Vitamin B5/pantothenic acid is important for: Processing of carbohydrates, protein, and fat, synthesis of cholesterol, formation of steroid hormones.
Vitamin B5 or pantothenic acid deficiency leads to: burning feet syndrome, fatigue due to insomnia, anemia, immune deficiency, stomach pain, muscle pain, often with numbness.
A lot of vitamin B5/pantothenic acid is in: Liver and offal, fish, meat, dairy products, eggs, legumes, mushrooms, wheat bran, nuts, and whole-grain products.
The daily requirement: 6 mg
The daily requirement is in approx.: 300 g of peas.
Vitamin B6 is important for: Protein metabolism, glycogen metabolism, fat metabolism, formation of messenger substances for the nerves, support of the immune system, hormone formation.
Vitamin B6 deficiency leads to: anemia, diarrhea, vomiting, muscle twitching, sleep disorders, skin changes (dermatitis, seborrhea, cheilosis…), loss of appetite, anxiety disorders, developmental disorders in children.
A lot of vitamin B6 is found in: Whole grain products, soybeans, and other legumes, bananas, nuts, and seeds (walnuts, sunflower seeds), potatoes, carrots, Brussels sprouts.
The daily requirement: approx. 1.2 mg
The daily requirement is in: 300 g of potato or carrot salad with a handful of walnuts.
Vitamin B7 (Biotin)
Vitamin B7/Biotin is important for: Building skin, hair, and nails, fat metabolism, protein metabolism, carbohydrate metabolism, conversion of gene information in the cell nucleus.
Vitamin B7 or biotin deficiency leads to: skin disorders, hair loss, brittle nails, drowsiness, loss of appetite, nausea, poor wound healing, elevated cholesterol levels, muscle pain. In extreme cases: Hallucinations, depression, movement disorders, fatty liver, and fatty heart muscle.
A lot of vitamin B7/biotin is in: soybeans, peas, nuts, oatmeal, spinach, mushrooms, and lentils.
Daily requirement: 30 to 60 mg.
Daily requirement is in: Based on current research, it is unclear what the bioavailability of vitamin B7/biotin from foods is and how much of it is produced.
Folic acid (vitamin B9)
Folic acid (vitamin B9) is important for: New cell formation (growth), prevents malformations (e.g. open back) in the unborn child, blood formation.
A folic acid deficiency leads to: anemia (anemia), malformations in unborn children, increased risk of premature births, development of congenital heart defects, delayed language development of the child, increased risk of autism, promotion of arteriosclerosis, and of cardiovascular diseases.
Plenty of folic acids is found in: green leafy vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, cabbage, parsley, cress, legumes, tomatoes, potatoes, and whole grains.
The daily requirement: 300 mg folate equivalents.
The daily requirement is in two thick slices of wholemeal bread with plenty of tomatoes and cress.
Vitamin B12 is important for: Blood formation, a functioning nervous system, cell division, fat metabolism.
A vitamin B12 deficiency leads to: anemia, tingling or numbness in fingers or toes, paralysis, confusion, dementia, coordination difficulties, memory loss, mood swings, irritability, depression, psychoses, manias, fatigue, pallor, concentration difficulties, reduced memory.
A lot of vitamin B12 is found in: dairy products, (Meat, fish, eggs, for Non-vegan/non-vegetarians)
The daily requirement: 3 mg
The daily requirement is found in approx. 100 g of hard cheese.(Optional if you are Vegan/Vegetarian)
Vitamin C is important for/as: strengthening of the immune system, radical scavenger, antioxidant, cell protection against premature aging processes, collagen formation, cholesterol, and fat metabolism, absorption of iron, sperm formation, formation of messenger substances and hormones, inhibition of the formation of cancer-causing nitrosamines.
A vitamin C deficiency leads to: scurvy, bleeding gums, susceptibility to infections, poor wound healing, joint, and bone pain, bleeding under the periosteum, bleeding of the skin and mucous membrane and organs and/or muscles, tooth loss, fatigue, dizziness, and fatigue, muscle atrophy, joint inflammation, diarrhea, heart failure, depression.
A lot of vitamin C is found in: Sea buckthorn, rose hips, citrus fruits, black currants, peppers, green and Brussels sprouts, strawberries.
The daily requirement: for women 95 mg, for men 110 mg.
The daily requirement is in about: 60 g of black currants, 80 g of peppers, 200 g of citrus fruits.
Vitamin D is important for: strong bones and muscles.
Vitamin D deficiency leads to: rickets, osteomalacia (softening bones), osteoporosis, muscle cramps and weakness, fatigue and sleep disturbances, depression, “slow thinking”, joint and bone pain, susceptibility to infections.
A lot of vitamin D is in: Sunlight.
The daily requirement is found in: 25 minutes of sunbathing (March to October), when the sun hits at least a quarter of the skin surface.
Vitamin E is important for: Control of the gonads, protection of body cells from free radicals, fat metabolism.
Vitamin E deficiency leads to: fatigue, irritability, poor performance and concentration, dry and wrinkled skin. Probably also to neurodermatitis, arteriosclerosis.
A lot of vitamin E is found in: vegetable seeds, nuts, and oils.
The daily requirement: 11 to 15 mg
The daily requirement is in about: one teaspoon of wheat germ oil or two tablespoons of sunflower oil.
Vitamin K is important for: Formation of blood clotting factors, inhibition of bone loss, regulation of cell growth, prevention of arteriosclerosis.
Vitamin K deficiency leads to: decreased blood clotting, spontaneous bleeding, high blood loss from minor injuries, increased risk of a cerebral hemorrhage.
A lot of vitamin K is found in: green leafy vegetables such as spinach, lettuce, cabbage, and many other green vegetables, legumes.
Daily requirement: 60 to 80 mg
Daily requirement is in: Research on the intake of vitamin K from foods is still ongoing, so there is no clear recommendation yet.
In conclusion, If you eat a healthy, balanced diet, you don’t have to worry about vitamin deficiencies.