Vitamins are essential to promote different bodily functions. There are two types of vitamins: water-soluble and fat-soluble. This means that one group dissolves more readily in water, while the other is better absorbed in fatty substances. Often times, the bioavailability of vitamins is not high enough to meet our needs. The lack of uptake by the body can be caused by many things including the chemical makeup of the supplement, age, gender, etc. When speaking of how bioavailable a substance is, EUFIC.org describes it as, “the proportion of a nutrient that is absorbed from the diet and used for normal bodily functions.”
How Many Vitamins are there?
In total, there are 13 vitamins essential for optimal human functioning. The National Institute of Health provides the following list and descriptions of each vitamin:
- Vitamin A: Helps form and maintain teeth, bones, soft tissue, mucus membranes, and skin
- Vitamin B6: Helps form red blood cells, maintain brain functions, and regulate body proteins
- Vitamin B12: Regulates metabolism, maintains the central nervous system, and helps form red blood cells
- Vitamin C: An antioxidant that helps maintain healthy teeth, gums, iron absorption, and tissue
- Vitamin D: Made in the body after exposure to the sun. It helps the body absorb calcium, and regulates blood phosphorous levels
- Vitamin E: An antioxidant and helps form red blood cells
- Vitamin K: Regulates blood coagulation
- Biotin: Essential for the metabolism of proteins and carbohydrates. It also plays a role in the production of hormones and cholesterol
- Niacin: Helps to maintain healthy skin and nerves, as well as lowers cholesterol
- Folate: Helps in the production of red blood cells and DNA
- Pantothenic acid: Essential for the metabolism of food, and plays a role in the production of hormones and cholesterol
- Riboflavin: Important for body growth and the formation of red blood cells
- Thiamine: Helps the body change carbohydrates into energy
Increasing Bioavailability with Food and Supplements
There are many food sources, which offer these necessary vitamins in highly bioavailable forms.
- Vitamin A: Dark fruit, dark leafy greens, eggs, beef, liver, fish, fortified dairy products
- Vitamin D: Fatty fish, fish oils, fortified cereals and dairy products
- Vitamin E: Nuts, wheat germ, sunflower oil, avocado, spinach
- Vitamin K: Cabbage, cereal, eggs, beef, liver, fish, broccoli, Brussels sprouts
- Biotin: Chocolate, milk, yeast, pork, organ meat, legumes
- Folate: Beets, lentils, peanut butter, leafy green, wheat germ
- Niacin: Eggs, poultry, potatoes, nuts, tuna, cereal
- Pantothenic acid: Mushrooms, potatoes, milk, organ meats, kale, whole grains
- Thiamine: Eggs, peas, nuts, whole grains, dried beans
- Vitamin B6: Bananas, avocados, poultry, nuts, whole grains,
- Vitamin B12: Meat, eggs, shellfish, fortified foods
- Vitamin C: Citrus fruits, spinach, cauliflower, broccoli, tomatoes
Most synthetic vitamins are not readily bioavailable, so make sure to purchase natural, whole and raw supplements made from fruits and vegetables. A good tip I once read is that a vitamin should cost about $1 a day to take, otherwise you are just purchasing synthetic supplements made in a lab, that typically won’t add much benefit to your health. To increase the bioavailability of fat-soluble vitamins from both food and extra supplements, it is a good idea to consume them with a meal containing healthy fats, such as avocado or fish oil.
A reputable company called Dr. Willard’s offers a product called Willard Water, which has been scientifically proven to optimize the absorption of nutrients in the body by making them more bioavailable. A diluted patented catalyst added to drinking water helps break down nutrients and make them more easily absorbed in our blood stream.
Increasing Bioavailability with Lifestyle Changes
Aside from consuming foods high in vitamins that are readily available for absorption, making changes to lifestyle habits can also increase the bioavailability of nutrients. Maintaining a healthy weight can determine how much of a vitamin the body will take in. Harvard Medical School notes that studies have linked obesity to low levels of vitamin D. As well, because a lot of vitamins are absorbed in the intestines and regulated by the liver/kidneys, it is important to ensure the health of these organs. Taking high-quality probiotics to balance intestinal bacteria, and limiting alcohol consumption, is a good way to make sure organs can function properly, and effectively regulate vitamin absorption.
Vitamins are essential for the wellness of human health and body regulation. Sometimes, taking supplements is not enough, as the amount of bioavailable nutrients can be affected by internal and external factors. Ensuring a balanced diet, including healthy fats, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle help the body get the vitamins it requires.
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