Water-Soluble Vitamins, Part 1 of 2

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I hope the information on fat-soluble vitamins yesterday was helpful. Today, let’s move on to water-soluble vitamins: the eight B-vitamins and vitamin C. Just to be clear up front, I will give you the names of the B-vitamins. Some have multiple names so it can be confusing, but here they are: thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, biotin, pantothenic acid, B6, folate, and B12. Vitamin C is sometimes referred to as ascorbic acid.

Whereas fat-soluble vitamins travel through our lymph system before being absorbed into the blood, the water-soluble vitamins go directly to the blood. They travel freely without need of transporters. Since they are water-soluble, they are stored in the watery parts of the body, and the kidneys function to excrete any excess in the urine.

Remember when I told you that fat-soluble vitamins are stored for long periods and you can go months or even years before becoming deficient? Well, that’s not the case with water-soluble vitamins. They are needed every few days, and preferably every single day. Since they are not stored for very long and are excreted through our urine, we need to replenish often. Therefore, it is easier for someone to become deficient in their B-vitamins or vitamin C.

Below is a very brief overview of each of the water-soluble vitamins. I’m going to give you half today, and half tomorrow, so as not to overwhelm. Each one is important – take note of which foods these vitamins are concentrated in and try to include them in your diet each day.

Vitamin C: Vitamin C’s primary function is to manufacture collagen, which is the main protein substance for the human body used in things such as connective tissue, cartilage and tendons. It is also a strong antioxidant. The best food sources of vitamin C include broccoli, brussels sprouts, peppers, potatoes, guava, kale, parsley, waterress, red cabbage, strawberries, papaya, spinach, oranges, lemons, grapefruits, and calf’s liver. Exposure to air destroys vitamin C content in foods, so try to eat quickly after you slice. And if you’re eating lunch at a salad bar, keep in mind that most of the fruits or vegetables you are choosing have probably already lost almost 50% of their vitamin C content (disappointing, I know!). The major deficiency symptom is scurvy (bleeding gums, poor wound healing, extensive bruising). Other signs of possible vitamin C deficiency include depression, hysteria or susceptibility to infection.

Thiamin (B1): Thiamin is necessary for brain energy and mental function. Signs of a thiamin deficiency include mental confusion, muscle wasting, fluid retention, high blood pressure, and difficulty walking. The best food sources of thiamin include brewer’s yeast, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, pine nuts, pecans, split peas, millet, pistachios, oatmeal, whole wheat flour, cashews, brown rice and garlic. Alcohol and the tannins in coffee can both destroy thiamin completely, so try to consume separately.

Riboflavin (B2): This vitamin is used in energy production and protection against free radicals. Deficiency symptoms include cracked lips or corners of the mouth, sensitivity to light, cataracts, burning or itchy eyes, and anemia. The best food sources of riboflavin are brewer’s yeast, calf liver, almonds, wheat germ, wild rice, mushrooms, millet, kale, cashews and broccoli.

Niacin (B3): Remember when I talked about metabolism a few months ago? Niacin is a key nutrient used in metabolism. It also helps regulate blood sugar and high cholesterol. Food sources include brewer’s yeast, wheat bran, peanuts, wild rice, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, brown rice, and almonds. Signs you may be deficient in niacin are dermatitis, dementia, and diarrhea.

Pantothenic Acid (B5): Pantothenic acid helps us utilize fats and carbohydrates to produce energy during metabolism, and also to manufacture adrenal hormones and red blood cells. Deficiencies are very uncommon, because its food content is so high. Foods containing pantothenic acid include brewer’s yeast, calf liver, peanuts, mushrooms, split peas, pecans, soybeans, oatmeal, sunflower seeds, lentils, cashews, broccoli, brown rice, avocados, and kale.

That’s enough for one day… more tomorrow!

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