Food & Drinks General Articles

The Skinny on Fat-Soluble Vitamins

The Skinny on Fat-Soluble Vitamins

Fat-soluble vitamins are key micronutrients that are needed by the body in small amounts in order for a variety of chemical reactions to occur. While they are not a direct calorie source, these vitamins help the body to metabolize and utilize the calories in specific foods. Adequate intake of dietary fat is essential for proper absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (learn the basics of dietary fat here). Once they are absorbed they are stored in body fat (adipose tissue) and the liver. There are four fat-soluble vitamins: A, D, E, and K.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A (or retinol) has a number of vital functions including cellular growth and development, immunity, reproduction, and the maintenance of healthy vision, hair, nails, and skin. It can be found in many animal-based foods including liver, eggs, milk and other dairy products. Vitamin A can also be manufactured from a plant-based compound called beta-carotene (provitamin A). Beta-carotene is abundant in orange, red, and deep green vegetables and fruits like carrots, tomato, mango, spinach, and collard greens (learn about the numerous health benefits of consuming vitamin A-rich foods here).

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Vitamin D

Vitamin D is needed for intestinal absorption and metabolism of calcium, which is crucial for the formation and maintenance of strong bones and teeth (learn about calcium deficiency here). Foods containing vitamin D include fortified milk, oily fish, egg yolks, and butter (click here to learn how to get vitamin D from the sun and other food sources).

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is important for maintaining cellular membranes that line and protect the body’s cells. It also prevents unhealthy blood clotting and plaque buildup in the arteries. Vitamin E can be obtained from vegetable oils, nuts and seeds, green leafy vegetables, and whole grains (learn how to get the most vitamin E from your diet here).

Vitamin K

Vitamin K enables the production of specific proteins that are responsible for blood clotting and bone metabolism. Small amounts of vitamin K are housed in a lot of different foods (avocado, chicken, egg yolk, cheese and other dairy products) but you can obtain significant quantities from green leafy vegetables like kale, broccoli, and Brussels sprout.

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Since deficiencies in some fat-soluble vitamins are very common it’s important to regularly incorporate a variety of nutrient-rich foods into your diet to ensure that you’re getting the vitamins you need. Although adequate intake of fat-soluble vitamins is essential for optimal health, they do not have to be consumed every day. In fact, it’s important not to consume them in excess as they can accumulate in the body and become toxic.


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March 2016
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