Animal Action Network
A non-profit Colorado Group Working for Compassion
Vitamins are available in two forms: water soluble and fat soluble. Water soluble vitamins include the B-complex vitamins and Vitamin C. Vitamins B6 and B12 are two of the most well-known B-complex vitamins. Water soluble vitamins are easily lost through bodily fluids and must be replaced each day. The fat soluble vitamins are A, D, E and K. Since they are not lost as easily as their water soluble counterparts, fat soluble vitamins tend to accumulate within the body and are not needed on a daily basis. Vitamins are essential organic nutrients, most of which are not made in the body, or only in insufficient amounts, and are mainly obtained through food. When their intake is inadequate, vitamin deficiency disorders are the consequence. Although vitamins are only present and required in minute quantities, compared to the macronutrients, they are as vital to health and need to be considered when determining nutrition security. Each of the 13 vitamins known today have specific functions in the body: vitamin A, pro-vitamin A (Beta-carotene), vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, biotin, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, folic acid, vitamin K, niacin and pantothenic acid.
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in many foods. Vitamin A is important for normal vision, the immune system, and reproduction. The lack of vitamin A is a common cause of blindness. Vitamin A also helps the heart, lungs, kidneys, and other organs work properly (plays a key role in the development of white blood cells). Provitamin A, is found in fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based products. The most common type of provitamin A in foods and dietary supplements is beta-carotene. Vitamin A is found naturally in many foods and is added to some foods, such as soy/nut milks and fortified breakfast cereals. You can get recommended amounts of vitamin A by eating a variety of foods, including the following: Green leafy vegetables and other green, orange, and yellow vegetables, such as broccoli, carrots, and squash. Fruits, including cantaloupe, apri-cots, and mangos.
Vitamin B6 is also called pyridoxine. It is involved in the process of making serotonin and norepinephrine, which are chemicals that transmit signals in the brain. Vitamin B6 is also involved in the formation of myelin, a protein layer that forms around nerve cells. Vitamin B6 deficiency in adults may cause health problems affecting the nerves, skin, mucous membranes, and cir-culatory system. In children, the central nervous system is also affected. Deficiency can occur in people with kidney failure complications, alcohol-ism, liver scarring, overactive thyroid, problems with absorbing nutrients, and heart failure, as well as those taking certain medications. Mild defi-ciency of vitamin B6 is common. Major sources of vitamin B6 include cere-al grains, legumes, vegetables (carrots, spinach, peas, and potatoes), and flour. Vitamin B6 is often used with other B vitamins in vitamin B complex formulas. High blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine may be a risk factor for heart disease. Taking vitamin B6 supplements with other B vita-mins (folic acid and vitamin B12) has been shown to be effective for low-ering homocysteine levels.
Vitamin B12 is a nutrient that helps keep the body's nerve and blood cells healthy and helps make DNA, the genetic material in all cells. Vitamin B12 also helps prevent a type of anemia called megalo-blastic anemia that makes people tired and weak. Two steps are required for the body to absorb vitamin B12 from food. First, hydrochloric acid in the stomach separates vitamin B12 from the protein to which vitamin B12 is attached in food. After this, vitamin B12 combines with a protein made by the stomach called intrinsic factor and is absorbed by the body. Some people have pernicious anemia, a condition where they cannot make intrinsic factor. As a result, they have trouble absorbing vitamin B12 from all foods and dietary supplements. Everyone needs to make sure they are getting enough Vitamin B12. It is an extremely important vitamin which is manufactured by certain kinds of bacteria. It is a myth that vegans automatically suffer from B12 deficiency, in fact they are less likely to, because vegans go out of their way to educate themselves about its importance and take steps to ensure that we supplement our diets with an adequate supply. B12 deficiency is often related to an individual body’s inability to absorb the vitamin, and can effect anyone regardless of their diet. Everyone should get their Vitamin B12 levels checked. You can obtain Vitamin B12 from supplements such as vegan B12 tablets or sub-lingual drops, and/or B12 fortified foods. You do not need to consume animal products to obtain Vitamin B12, and the bacteria can be manufactured without using animals. Speak to a doctor or nutritionist familiar with vegan diets to get advice about the best vegan source for your individual needs. Most Soy milks and Nutritional Yeast are a great source. Plant foods have no vitamin B12 unless they are fortified with B12. To find out if vitamin B12 has been added to a food product, check the product labels.
Vitamin D is a nutrient found in some foods that is needed for health and to maintain strong bones. It does so by helping the body absorb calcium (one of bone's main building blocks) from food and supplements. People who get too little vitamin D may develop soft, thin, and brittle bones, a condition known as rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults. Vitamin D is important to the body in many other ways as well. Muscles need it to move, for example, nerves need it to carry messages between the brain and every body part, and the immune system needs vitamin D to fight off invading bacteria and viruses. Together with calcium, vitamin D also helps protect older adults from osteoporosis. Vitamin D is found in cells throughout the body. Vitamin D is also a hormone that our skin manufactures from the ultraviolet rays of the sun. Sunshine is a great natural form of Vitamin D, and even fair skinned people should try to get a few minutes of sunshine a day on bare skin. There is no need to risk skin cancer, just a few minutes of mild sun on your arms or hands is a helpful way to obtain a natural source of Vitamin D. If you are very fair skinned then you can do so when the sun is mild, such as in the mornings and late afternoons. Vitamin D deficiency is becoming a worldwide concern; therefore you may also choose to consume a dietary supplement, especially if you are someone who is suffering from low Vitamin D levels. The vegan source of dietary Vitamin D is D2 (ergocalciferol), usually synthetic or manufactured from yeast. It can be obtained in a tablet form, or found in supplemented foods such as some soy milks. Generally, vitamin D3 is NOT vegan however “Garden of Life” makes a vegan raw D3. If you are curious about your own Vitamin D level, schedule with your doctor a blood test. Very few foods naturally have vitamin D. Fortified foods provide most of the vitamin D in American diets. Mushrooms provide some vitamin D. In some mushrooms that are newly available in stores, the vitamin D content is being boosted by exposing these mushrooms to ultraviolet light. Vitamin D is added to many breakfast cereals and to some brands of orange juice, and soy beverages; check the labels.
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin with antioxidant properties. Vitamin E exists in eight different forms: alpha-, beta-, gamma-, and and delta-tocopherol; and alpha-, beta-, gamma-, and delta-tocotrienol. Alpha-tocopherol is the most active form in humans. Dosing for vitamin E is often given in alpha-tocopherol equivalents (ATEs). This accounts for the differ-ent activities that the different forms of vitamin E have in the body. One milligram of an ATE is equal to 1.5 international units (IU). Vitamin E sup-plements are available in natural or man-made forms. The natural forms are usually labeled with the letter "d" (for example, d-gamma-tocopherol), whereas synthetic forms are labeled "dl" (for example, dl-alpha-tocopherol). Foods that contain vitamin E include fortified cereals, fruit, green leafy vegetables (such as spinach), nuts, nut oils, vegetable oils (corn, cottonseed, safflower, soybean, sunflower), argan oil, olive oil, wheat germ oil, and whole grains. Cooking and storage may destroy some of the vitamin E in foods. Vitamin K Vitamin K is found in green leafy vegetables. If you eat a balanced diet containing green leafy vegetables, you should be getting all the vitamin K you need. Little vitamin K is lost from foods with ordinary cooking. Lack of vitamin K is rare but may lead to problems with blood clotting and in-creased bleeding.
Folate (folic acid) is a B-vitamin that is naturally present in many foods. A form of folate, called folic acid, is used in dietary supplements and fortified foods. Our bodies need folate to make DNA and other genetic material. Folate is also needed for the body's cells to divide. Folate is naturally present in many foods and food companies add folic acid to other foods, including bread, cereal, and pasta. You can get recommended amounts by eating a variety of foods, including the following: Vegetables (especially asparagus, Brussels sprouts, and dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach and mustard greens). Fruits and fruit juices (especially oranges and orange juice). Nuts, beans, and peas (such as peanuts, black-eyed peas, and kidney beans). Grains (including whole grains; fortified cold cereals; enriched flour products such as bread, bagels, cornmeal, and pasta; and rice). Folic acid is added to many grain-based products. To find out whether folic acid has been added to a food, check the product label.