We all know vitamins are good for us, but it’s only when we start diving into nutrition properly that we discover that not all vitamins are the same.
Vitamins are often categorised based on their solubility. Most vitamins dissolve in water and are called water-soluble vitamins, but there are also fat-soluble vitamins. There are only four fat-soluble vitamins_ A, D, E, and K.
If we want our bodies to be performing optimally – that means feeling strong, energised, healthy, with an immune system that can fend off most viruses and diseases – we need to consume a full spectrum of vitamins and minerals on a daily and weekly basis.
While vitamins do not directly provide the body with energy, they are required for the release of energy from protein, fat, and of course, carbohydrates. This contributes to the energy levels we have each day, and can be felt depending on our intake.
What Are Water-Soluble Vitamins?
Water-soluble vitamins are vitamins that essentially dissolve in the water we consume, and that is in our bodies, which then makes it possible to transport it around the body. If you imagine a vitamin like a drinkable powder, it cannot be properly consumed until it is mixed with water. When the vitamin dissolves into the water in your stomach, it can then permeate through your cells and be transported around the body to assist in essential functions.
Which Vitamins are Water-Soluble Vitamins?
Water-soluble vitamins include the key vitamins we’ll touch on shortly – but it includes all vitamins besides A, D, E, and K. These vitamins are essential nutrients needed daily by the body in small quantities. Unlike fat-soluble vitamins, water-soluble vitamins are generally not stored in the body, because any excess is excreted by the kidneys – hence why we need to consume them daily. They can also be destroyed by heat (through cooking) or exposure to air (in other words, going past its sell-by date). For this reason, it’s important to try to eat them on a daily basis, or take a supplement to ensure your body has all the vitamins it needs, should you not get them all from your food that day.
Nine water-soluble vitamins can be found in the human diet_
Vitamin B1 (thiamine) helps to release energy from foods, promotes normal appetite, and plays a role in muscle contraction and nerve function. B1 can be found in legumes, cereals, peas, and bread.
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) is involved in energy release, growth, development and function of the cells in the body. B2 is found in dark green vegetables and whole-grain products.
Vitamin B3 (niacin) is important for energy production and critical cellular functions. It can be found in peanuts, avocado and brown rice.
Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) aids in the creation of blood cells. B5 can be found in broccoli and sweet potatoes.
Vitamin B6 is necessary for protein metabolism, red blood cell formation, and acts as an antioxidant in the body. It is found in legumes, starchy vegetables and whole-grain cereals.
Vitamin B7 (biotin) works to release energy from high-carbohydrate products and aids the metabolism of fats, protein, and carbohydrates. It is often used in hair and nail supplements, but can also be found in fresh vegetables and cereals.
Vitamin B9 is needed to produce healthy red blood cells and is critical during periods of rapid growth, such as during pregnancy and foetal development. The best sources of vitamin B9 include beans, citrus fruits, beets, cauliflower, and lettuce.
Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) is used by the body for the production of normal red blood cells, building of genetic material and maintenance of the nervous system. It is the only vitamin that can’t be found abundantly in a plant-based diet, so is often taken as a supplement by vegans. It can be found in eggs, milk, fish and fortified foods such as cereals and dairy-free cheeses.
Vitamin C aids in wound healing, bone and tooth formation, strengthening blood vessel walls, improving immune system function, increasing absorption and utilisation of iron, and also works with Vitamin E to act as an antioxidant. It can be found in citrus fruits, peppers, kiwi, strawberries, and broccoli.
Where Does the Body Store These Vitamins?
The liver is vital in storing vitamins and minerals for the times when they may be lacking in the diet. It can store enough vitamin A and vitamin B12 for up to four years, and enough vitamin D and E for four months.
If the liver ceases to function properly or is over-burdened by cholesterol, fatty deposits containing cholesterol start to build up in the arteries’ lining. These deposits can cause an obstruction to the blood flow which can lead to heart attacks. They can also lead to a build-up of cholesterol in bile, which then results in the formation of gallstones. In short, the liver is an extremely important organ in the body that has a lot of responsibilities in keeping the body healthy, so it’s important we look after it.
As we touched on earlier, many water-soluble vitamins aren’t stored at all, and certainly not for such a long length of time, so it’s important you pay attention to how you’re feeling and consuming a well-balanced array of vitamins and minerals.
Should I Take Water-Soluble Vitamins Differently to Other Vitamins?
Yes and no. While it’s important to realise that eating a balanced diet full of vegetables and fruits and taking your daily multivitamin will always be the best thing for you – regardless of how you consume them, there are a few things you should keep in mind_
They can be lost in water used for cooking, so by cooking foods, especially by boiling them, we lose many of the vitamins, so don’t over boil your food.
In an ideal world, the absolute optimum way of absorbing these vitamins is by following a raw, plant-based diet. Of course, very few of us are willing to do this full-time! The best (and most realistic) way to keep as many of these water-soluble vitamins as possible is to steam or grill foods, and store them.
Take any water-soluble vitamin-specific supplements on an empty stomach. If you take a multivitamin, take it as you start your meal so the water-soluble vitamins are absorbed first, followed by the fat-soluble ones as you eat your food.
Again, simply eating well and ensuring you fulfil your daily vitamin needs is more than most people do, so don’t worry about this too much.
Why are Water-Soluble Vitamins Important?
As we read earlier, a lot of water-soluble vitamins are important for things like maintenance of metabolism, energy generation, blood cell growth, and promotion of a healthy appetite. It is crucial to provide ourselves with a good variety of each food that contains any or all of the vitamins in the vitamin B complex.
A healthy, balanced diet will often provide these vitamins, but if you’re looking for a little support, our multivitamin contains vital water-soluble vitamins from natural sources. If you’d like to find out more about how we can help you maintain your health, click here. If you’d like to learn more about what vitamins and foods you should be consuming for optimum health, continue learning here with 7 Foods You Should Eat for an Immune System Boost.