Vitamins are divided into “water-soluble” and “fat-soluble”. The vast majority of vitamins and minerals are water-soluble, meaning they dissolve in water and can be taken in a tablet, capsule, or powder form. Fat-soluble vitamins do not dissolve in water, instead behaving much like oil. This means that they need to be mixed with a fat to be optimally digested by your body.
So which important vitamins are fat-soluble? Vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Vitamin A comes in many different forms and each one plays a different role in your health. Vitamin A is important for eyesight, immune function, reproductive function, and body growth in children. True vitamin A only comes in animal products, most commonly found in liver, fish oils, and butter. Precursors to vitamin A, such as betocarotene, are abundant in carrots, spinach, and kale.
Vitamin D can be divided into D2 and D3, with D3 being the activated form that is utilized in the human body. Vitamin D2 can be found in mushrooms and plants, but must be converted by the body before being used. Vitamin D3 is found in animal products, such as eggs and fish oil, and your body can make it using sunlight. Unfortunately, if you live in Illinois like us, you go several months without seeing the sun, which means you probably need to supplement Vitamin D, especially in the winter. Vitamin D is vitally important for bone health and optimal immune system function. In fact, vitamin D deficiency in the winter is a significant reason why illness increases during that season.
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that protects you from premature aging at the cellular level. The most abundant sources of vitamin E are nuts and seeds, but it can also be found in avocados, nut butters, and fatty fish. The good news is that vitamin E deficiency is very uncommon so most people do not need to supplement their dietary intake, with the exception being individuals who have difficulty processing fats, such as those diagnosed with liver disease or cystic fibrosis.
Vitamin K is divided into K1 and K2. Vitamin K1 is found in leafy greens, while K2 is found in animal products like egg yolks and butter. Vitamin K plays a large role in blood clotting (in fact, the letter K comes from the Danish spelling of the word “coagulation”), but it also helps with blood vessel and bone health.
Remember, vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble, so they need to be combined with a fat to be absorbed properly. Necessary amounts of A, E, and K can be obtained through a balanced diet that includes vegetables, seeds, nuts, fish, and eggs. Most people, especially during winter, will need vitamin D supplementation, so make sure you find an emulsified oil version of vitamin D for optimum absorption. Hint: we carry a great vitamin D in our office!