What exactly are vitamins?
Vitamins are organic compounds that perform numerous functions in our body and are required in our diets since we are unable to create them ourselves (fun fact: vita means “life” in Latin!). Since they are essential for life, the discovery of most vitamins came about because of their absence in the diet, in the case of a deficiency. Our knowledge of vitamins is still relatively new – the last discovered vitamin, B12, was identified only 70 years ago!
Fat-soluble vitamins differ from water-soluble ones in that they do not dissolve in water and are absorbed best when taken with higher-fat foods. Once absorbed they are stored in fatty tissue and the liver for later use. Aside from that, our fat-soluble vitamins have little in common! Read on to learn more about the four fat-soluble vitamins: Vitamin A, D, E and K.
Vitamin A: Vitamin A’s most widely known function is to help the eyes adjust to light changes, however it also plays an important role in bone growth, regulation of the immune system, reproduction, and cancer prevention as an antioxidant. Vitamin A comes from foods of animal origin, especially liver, dairy, and fish. Vegans and vegetarians need not fear, as a variety of produce contains beta-carotene which the body can convert to vitamin A! Look for fruits and veggies that are orange or dark green in color, such as carrots, winter squash, dark green leafy veggies, broccoli, and cantaloupe.
Vitamin D: Vitamin D works in concert with calcium to help build and maintain strong bones. Additional roles include boosting our immune system and controlling cell growth. Vitamin D is often called the “sunshine vitamin” as our skin can produce it when exposed to direct sunlight, however it’s been reported that 42% of US adults are deficient in the vitamin! Luckily, there are many foods that naturally contain or are fortified with vitamin D, including dairy, OJ, salt-water fish like salmon and tuna, egg yolks, beef and liver.
Vitamin E: Vitamin E acts as a powerful antioxidant in our body. However research indicates people who take vitamin E supplements are not better protected against cancer than non-supplement users. Rather, get your dose from food sources! Plant oils such as soybean, safflower and peanut oil are the richest sources of vitamin E, but you can also get plenty through fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds and fortified cereals.
Vitamin K: Vitamin K was named for the Danish word koagulation as it plays an essential role in normal blood clotting. While some vitamin K is produced naturally by our gut bacteria, we rely on our diet to obtain a sufficient amount. Dark leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables are good food sources of this vitamin.
Our March Seasonal Stars are Brassicas! Cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage…You may know them as cruciferous vegetables. Our seasonal stars recipe below contains all your fat-soluble vitamins!
Roasted Broccoli with Parmesan and Pine Nuts
Makes 4 servings
2 heads of broccoli
3 cloves garlic, sliced thin
2 Tbsp olive oil, extra virgin
1 tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp black pepper, ground
1 tsp lemon zest
1.5 tsp lemon juice
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
2 Tbsp parmesan cheese, shaved
1 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped fine
- Cut broccoli into florets. Peel broccoli stems and slice ¼ inch thick. Combine with garlic, olive oil salt and pepper in a bowl.
- Arrange in a single layer on baking sheet. Roast in 400 degree oven for 15 minutes, or until caramelized on edges.
- Remove from oven and toss with remaining ingredients.
Nutrition Facts per serving: 131 Cals, Fat 9g, Sat fat 2g, Sod 235mg, Carb 9g, Fib 3.5g, Sug 2g, Pro 5g