Fat Soluble Vitamins

Sauteed Spinach with Toasted Sesame SeedsVitamins are essential nutrients (i.e. nutrients that we need for basic function but cannot produce on our own). There are two classifications of vitamins: Water-soluble and fat-soluble. Water-soluble vitamins include vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin B7 (biotin), vitamin B9 (folic acid), vitamin B12 (cobalamin), and vitamin C (ascorbic acid). The fat-soluble vitamins include vitamin A (retinol), vitamin D, vitamin E (tocopherol), and vitamin K.

When something is fat-soluble, it simply means it dissolves in fat. The best way to get these vitamins is consuming them with a little bit of fat, such as butter or olive oil. Not surprisingly, many fat-soluble vitamins are found in foods that are fatty (our Creator is so smart). Most vegetables, however, don’t contain fat, so when people try to be “extra healthy” by not using any oil or fat with their vegetables, they’re actually missing out on the fat-soluble vitamins those vegetables contain.

The interesting thing about fat soluble vitamins is they are not in extremely high demand in terms of quantity. They are actually stored in our tissues, so they do not need to be consumed in massive quantities. For this reason, fat-soluble vitamins (especially vitamin A) can cause toxicity if one is not careful. Toxicity is usually due to a person taking vast amounts of synthetic fat-soluble vitamins. One rarely becomes toxic from vitamins consumed from food sources. So, like in most everything nutrition related, it is best for the body when one consumes, whole, nutrient-dense foods.

Vitamin A (Retinol)
Functions: Absolutely essential for eye health (wards off night blindness and other eye ailments); maintains mucus membranes, skin, and epithelial cells; anti-inflammatory effects; bone and tooth growth; reproduction; immunity.

Dietary Sources: Cod liver oils, sweet potatoes, chicken livers, beef livers, calf livers, lamb livers, eggs, spinach, parsley, paprika, red pepper, cayenne, chili powder , cantaloupe, carrots, lettuce, dried herbs, butternut squash, watercress, mango, tomatoes, butter, beef

Notes: When consuming animal products containing vitamin A, you are actually getting retinol. This is the actual vitamin. Consuming plant-products gives you the precursor (also called the pro-vitamin) beta-carotene. The body turns this into vitamin A.

Vitamin D
Functions: Regulation of the minerals calcium and phosphorus

Dietary Sources: Cod liver oil, herring, pink salmon, kippers, mackerel, sardines, tuna, butter, caviar, salami, ham, sausages, eggs, mushrooms

Notes: The main source of this vitamin comes from the sun. It is synthesized in our skin and can be stored for periods of time (like through the winter). Lighter-skinned people synthesized it very effectively, whereas darker-skinned peoples are not able to synthesize it very well. It is interesting to point out that traditionally, darker-skinned people groups are usually found where sunshine is plentiful, like Africa, South America, and so on. Lighter-skinned people groups herald from colder climates, such as Norway, Sweden, Denmark, etc. They need all the vitamin D they can get, and they are more able to make it. Fascinating! Also, stay away from things fortified with vitamin D2. Your body utilizes vitamin D3, and vitamin D2 comes from some sketchy sources.

Vitamin E (Tocopherol)
Functions: A powerful antioxidant, it is actually part of the cell membrane and protects it. Some research suggests it can protect from certain types of cancers as well as heart disease, diabetes, viruses, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. A lot of research is still pending on this vitamin.

Dietary Sources: Sunflower seeds, paprika, red chili powder, almonds, egg yolks, pine nuts, fatty meats, wheat germ, liver, dried herbs, dried apricots, spinach, butter, avocado, almonds, raw peanuts (with skins), rye, asparagus, hazelnuts, blackberries

Notes: It really must be taken with food to even be absorbed.

Vitamin K
Functions: Synthesis of blood-clotting proteins and bone proteins

Dietary Sources: Gouda cheese, cauliflower, kale, green tea, turnip greens, spinach, tomatoes, parsley, Swiss chard, runner beans, broccoli, scallions, chili powder, curry, paprika, and cayenne, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, pickles, prunes, cabbage

Notes: Vitamin K1 is found and plants and must be converted to vitamin K2. Animal sources are already vitamin K2. Vitamin K is not stored well in the body like other fat-soluble vitamins, but it does recycle itself.

References:
Understanding Nutrition, 12th Edition (Whitney & Rolfes 2010)
USDA

Originally posted 2013-09-03 09:51:37.

The Benefits of Using Ghee (Clarified Butter)

 Ghee and Its Benefits: When you think of butter, you probably picture that rich, creamy medium you cook many of your favorite meals in; but not all butter looks, acts or tastes the same. Ghee or clarified butter, for example, is what you get when you remove the water and the milk solids, resulting in a pure butterfat. When butter is cooked long enough for the water in the butter to completely evaporate and for the milk solids to brown and produce a nutty flavor, you get a butter product called ghee. Ghee has a long history in Indian culture-and many other parts of the world!-for its use not only in meal preparation, but in holistic remedies as well. If you’ve never tried ghee, you may want to consider it for one of these delicious or healthy applications: 

Use ghee to fight inflammation: Ghee has been shown to reduce leukotriene secretion and reduce prostaglandin. Prostaglandin levels and leukotriene secretion both play a role in inflammation, which can not only lead to unpleasant physical reactions (redness, swelling, itchiness, etc.), but it can also accelerate the aging process.

Use ghee if you’re lactose or casein intolerant: The method of clarifying butter to turn it into ghee removes most of the lactose and casein contained in butter. Many of those who are lactose or casein intolerant can enjoy ghee without any negative reactions.  

Use ghee for a healthier butter choice: Although saturated fats, commonly found in butter products, should be consumed in moderation, ghee butter has been linked to decreased cholesterol levels in lab trials. Other butter products, such as margarine, are hydrogenated and have been shown to contribute to increased cholesterol levels, a leading cause in heart disease.

Use ghee to boost your daily dose of antioxidants: Ghee contains carotenoids and vitamins A and E. These antioxidants fight free radicals and promote skin cell growth, good vision and immune system health, as well as reduce the risk of certain cancers and heart disease. 

Use ghee to boost your micronutrient intake: Ghee is excellent source of vitamin K2 and CLA,  nutrients that aren’t found in very many other foods. Vitamin K2 may help prevent calcification of the arteries by activating the body’s system that removes calcium from the arteries to deposit it where it’s supposed to be, in the bones. Then there’s CLA, which is a special kind of fat that may provide anti-oxidant benefits and help promote a healthy metabolism.  

Use ghee to increase the effectiveness of some herbs: Ghee helps transport the medicinal properties of some herbs, when ingested, to organs and cells. Some herb mixtures used in Ayurveda (the Hindu system of holistic medicine) that contain ghee have been shown to enhance memory, increase the body’s wound healing ability and display anticonvulsant and hepatoprotective (liver-protective) properties.

Use ghee for flavor: Ghee’s nutty and intense flavor gives it a unique flair in the world of butters. Enjoy ghee on your popcorn without worrying about the soggy factor-the lack of water in ghee keeps the kernels dry! Rice and vegetables also complement ghee’s flavor and texture well, but you can try ghee on any food in your plant-based diet for a strong kick of buttery, nutty sweetness!

Use ghee for cooking: Ghee has a high smoke point, meaning it can be cooked at high temperatures without burning. Use ghee to fry or sauté your favorite foods to produce flavorful dishes, sans the singe!

The next time you’re planning a meal, you may want to walk past the margarine and vegetable oil in the grocery aisles and opt for ghee instead. This exotic butter will spice up your foods and add a little extra health to your diet!

References: University of Kansas Medical Center (inflammation); PubMed

Originally posted 2013-10-22 10:33:48.