Vitamins are organic compounds, found in nutrients in our food, needed for the proper functioning of our bodies and to fight disease. Originally called vitamines from vita, meaning life and amine, meaning containing nitrogen, the term was changed later to ‘vitamin’ because not all those substances contained nitrogen.
Some cannot be made by our body, so they are called essential.
There are two classes of vitamins, water-soluble and fat-soluble:
- Vitamins A, D, E & K are absorbed with the help of fat and can be stored in our body. A simple way to help absorb these vitamins is to eat your vegetables with some ghee or butter and drizzle olive oil over your salad. Despite popular opinion; higher amounts of fat do not increase absorption!
- All the B Vitamins and C are water soluble and are not readily stored in our body, with the exception of B12, so they need to be replaced daily. They circulate in our blood and whatever we don’t use comes out with our urine.
Cofactors and enzymes – the Allen keys to life
Our body doesn’t use vitamins as they exist in food, they need to be transformed into cofactors first – like a missing piece of jigsaw that makes our enzymes work. Enzymes coordinate thousands of chemical reactions inside our cells every day.
Some interesting facts about vitamins:-
- Most plants and animals can synthesise their own vitamin C
- Peppers, broccoli and Brussel sprouts contain more vitamin C than oranges!
- Vitamins are called organic compounds because they always contain carbon
- The suns UV rays convert some cholesterol into vitamin D and Vitamin D is the keeper of calcium in our bones and blood
- Farmers leave their hay out in the sun, resulting in the production of vitamin D to benefit their cows
- B12 is synthesised by bacteria in our intestine and colon
Many people that come to see me, express concern over why their nutritional supplements don’t seem to work. Although intentions are good, unfortunately they are often cheeper and synthetic, unrecognisable and unable to be broken down by our body, making for expensive urine and stools! Food is the best way to obtain our nutrients, so eat a colourful balanced diet, diversity is key and supplement second.
Fortunately we only need vitamins and minerals in tiny amounts and they’re super easy to find. We are surrounded by plants like factories collecting minerals from the soil to manufacture vitamins. So make sure to eat your greens, add some colour and don’t forget to throw in a bit of protein too!