This week on Facebook we are talking about Basil. Not only does it taste great in food, it’s also delicious when mixed with fresh lemon in a jug of water. Fresh flavoured water without any added extras is somewhat addictive! I highly recommend it.
Basil is a good source of Vitamin K, the dried version more so than the fresh because it’s more highly concentrated. Getting your vitamins from your diet is the most direct way to absorb your nutrition, and is infinitely preferable to loading up on supplements.
Vitamin K helps keep our bones strong... it takes more than just calcium. Because it’s a vitamin, it also works in conjunction with vitamin D to do so. There are actually 2 types of vitamin K- K1, found in foods, and K2, produced by gut bacteria.
Vitamin K also plays a role in cancer prevention. It works with Vitamin C to weaken cancer cells and causing them to rupture.
Vitamin K keeps hearts healthy and strong by preventing calcium buildup in the arteries. There is also some really interesting work being done that suggests insulin response can be treated with Vitamin K supplementation.
Vitamin K can be overdosed on when using a supplement, and is no longer sold as one because of the high liver toxicity associated with it. This is why you must get it from your diet. I know I say it all the time but I will say it again:
The best way to maintain a healthy body in all areas is to eat a well-balanced diet of appropriate portions, drink lots of water, get enough sleep, and exercise the best you can when you can.
With the opposite benefit of Vitamin E, Vitamin K causes coagulation of the blood. It exists in a delicate balance within people taking blood thinners. Some Vitamin K rich foods are required, but not too much. Do speak to your doctor about this if you have any questions.
Vitamin K deficiency is rare, and most commonly found in infants.
There are interactions associated with Vitamin K.
To summarize, Vitamin K is important to:
You can find Vitamin K in these food sources:
Green leafy vegetables such as kale, beet greens, romaine lettuce and collard greens, cucumbers, broccoli, basil (dried is the most potent), pine nuts, carrots, peas, and so much more.
For a comprehensive look at foods containing Vitamin K, check here.
We’re finally past the B-Complex, and onto my favourite vitamin- Vitamin C! On my Facebook page this week we are talking about kiwifruit, a fun fuzzy berry that originated in China but is now grown many places.
For #testkitchentuesday I experimented with the meat-tenderizing properties of kiwi, and because cooking kiwi will disrupt much of its vitamin C content we also enjoyed a fresh kiwi and pear fruit salsa with the finished roast. Recipe will be posted on Facebook #foodiefriday! Check it out and use it to inspire your own test kitchen!
Kiwi is high in Vitamin C- a serving of 2 contains even more than oranges! Vitamin C is only found naturally in fruit and vegetables, so keep this in mind and make sure you eat lots of those!
Vitamin C stimulates white blood cells and is a free-radical fighting superhero. It helps to keep our immune system running strong, although studies with the aim to prove Vitamin C keeps you from getting sick are inconclusive. Common sense would dictate though, that a diet rich in fruit and vegetables is going to make you healthier with the plethora of nutrition available, so eat up as much of that food group as you like. I'm not too fussy on limiting servings of fruit and vegetables- in our house, it's unlimited. Our bodies do not make their own Vitamin C- it must be part of our daily diet.
Vitamin C also plays a role in healthy cardiovascular function. It seems to play a role in stroke prevention, as a deficiency can be a risk factor.
There are some interesting studies that show Vitamin C can actually help prevent certain types of cancer, oral and digestive, and can also be an effective treatment for killing the cancer’s stem cells which are resistant to traditional treatments.
Vitamin C also prevents scurvy, a condition that causes bleeding gums, nosebleeds, cracked skin, poor wound healing, and ultimately death by infection or associated complications. Thankfully, there’s no need to worry about scurvy here in the West- we have Vitamin C rich foods available everywhere.
Vitamin C helps produce collagen, which aids in the renewal of skin and keeps us looking our best. It assists in renewing skin damaged by the sun and pollution.
You can get Vitamin C from many fruits and vegetables! If you name it, it’s likely got it. Here’s a pretty comprehensive list.
Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron, so here’s a tip: Pair your iron-rich meals with Vitamin C-rich foods. The best way to maintain a healthy body in all areas is to eat a well-balanced diet of appropriate portions, drink lots of water, get enough sleep, and exercise the best you can when you can.
Vitamin C supplements are widely available. I actually take one every day because even though we usually eat really well, I do want to support my body for those days I make less than nutritious choices, which does happen from time to time.
However, before you take a supplement- because it’s easy to ingest too much of anything when you pop a pill, or cause side effects or drug interactions, talk to your doctor. There are several drug interactions associated with supplementation of Vitamin C.
To summarize, Vitamin C is important to:
You can find Vitamin C in these food sources:
Kiwi, oranges, grapes, guava, broccoli, cauliflower, snow peas, peppers, and more.
Children from 1 to 18 years need from need from 15-1800 mg per day, depending on age. Adults aged 19 and up need 90-120 mg per day, depending on sex and whether pregnant or breastfeeding.
For more information on Vitamin C dosing for children and adults, read this article here.
Today I’m spotlighting Vitamin B3.
On my Facebook page this week we are spotlighting bell peppers, which is a “very good” source of Vitamin B3. It’s a versatile food to work with, which is why we always have a bunch of fresh peppers in our fridge.
Tuesday's #testkitchen was a creamy coconut curry soup with pureed bell peppers. That recipe post will be shared with Facebook on #foodiefriday. Watch for it, try it, and let me know what you think!
Niacin keeps our blood circulating well. It assists in helping keep the brain clear and memory strong, and plays a role in assisting sexual health, such as erectile dysfunction. It works on keeping your skin clear and assists in digestion. It may also play a role in the improvement of high cholesterol.
Like the other B-Vitamins, Niacin works in conjunction with other vitamins in the B family. Niacin is water soluble, and available from many food sources. How you cook your food determines how much of the vitamin you actually ingest. Cooking these foods in water, for example, pushes the vitamins out into the cooking water. Consider roasting or baking.
Because it is water soluble, most of what we do not need will be eliminated from the body, and it’s important to daily replenish our supply of this important vitamin through the foods we eat. Taken in high dose supplements, Vitamin B3 can cause liver damage. As I’ve stated before, it’s much easier to overdose when taking a pill. Try to get what your body needs through a balanced diet.
To summarize, Vitamin B3 is important to:
You can get Vitamin B3 from many food sources:
Green peas, potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes, bell peppers, cabbage, and asparagus; chicken, turkey, and tuna; nuts and whole grains.
Adults need 14-19mg of Vitamin B3 daily, depending on their sex and whether or not they are pregnant or breastfeeding. Because of liver toxicity, stay below 35mg. Supplements are unnecessary in most cases- consult with your health care provider if you have any questions and before self-medicating.
For more information on Vitamin B3 deficiency, please check here.
For more information on Vitamin B3 side effects and overuse, please check here.
The Vitamin B Complex is the complete family of B-Vitamins: 1 (Thiamine), 2 (Riboflavin), 3 (Niacin), 5 (Pantothenic Acid), 6, 7 (Biotin), 9 (Folate), and 12. Over the next few weeks we will be talking about the B Vitamins in numerical order.
Today I’m spotlighting Vitamin B1. On my Facebook page this week we are spotlighting green peas, which is a food source high in Vitamin B1. It’s an easy vegetable for most kids to eat, which is why we always have a bag of frozen peas in our freezer. Tuesday's test kitchen was a Peas and Pine Nuts spicy side dish (watch for the recipe post!) and Friday will be a recipe round up of other ways to use peas.
Vitamin B1 plays a role in keeping your nervous system running smoothly. It helps us to regulate our stress response and keep us on an even keel, preventing cortisol (the big stress hormone resulting from the “Flight or Fight” response) from running the show. Vitamin B1 also gives our digestive system a hand, keeping our muscles in the walls of our intestines strong. It helps us to convert carbohydrates into glucose, and is essential in breaking down fats and protein into the components our bodies use for health and energy.
The largest organ in a human is their skin, and Vitamin B1 helps to take care of that too. Its antioxidant properties help moderate the effects of sun damage, alcohol intake, and smoking.
You can get Vitamin B1 from many food sources, and there is no real excuse to be deficient in Vitamin B1. It’s literally almost everywhere. It works alongside folic acid, riboflavin, and niacin- if you are deficient in any of those vitamins, your body can’t use B1 effectively. This is why a balanced diet matters so much, and why I am writing these articles for you.
The B-Complex is water soluble. Our bodies can only hold on to so much of it, but different amounts are required at different times. For example, if you consume a lot of sugar, you need more Vitamin B1 to help your body metabolize it. It’s important to daily replenish your Vitamin B1 intake through your favourite foods, and to plan your meals accordingly.
To summarize, Vitamin B1 is important to:
You can find Vitamin B1 in these food sources:
Green peas, broccoli, onions, kale, carrots, tomatoes, and asparagus; oats, wheat germ, and brown rice. Pinto beans, kidney beans, lentils, sunflower seeds, raisins, pecans, and pistachios.
Adults need 1.1-1.4mg of Vitamin B1 daily, depending on their sex and whether or not they are pregnant or breastfeeding. There isn’t really an upper limit established. Supplements are unnecessary in most cases- consult with your health care provider if you have any questions and before self-medicating.
For more information on Vitamin B1 deficiency, please check here.
For general information on Vitamin B1, please check here.
A very in-depth look at this vitamin can be found here.
In nutrition, bioavailability means that nutrients are best absorbed from food sources rather than supplementation. This is why I am so convinced that a diet rich in variety is the best way to be as healthy as possible.
Of course, this is an oversimplification. There are always exceptions as there are often factors that prevent people from absorbing this nutrition or even being able to ingest it, such as celiac and other malabsorption disorders. For the most part, however, try to get your nutrition from food.
My husband and I were at a pharmacy not too long ago and he asked me if I wanted to pick up any supplements besides our Vitamin C and Vitamin D. As a general rule I’m against supplementation- our diet is rich enough and varied enough, in my opinion, to cover most of our nutritional bases. When the pharmacist heard me she piped up from behind the counter, “Yes, exactly!”
Today I’m spotlighting Vitamin A. On my Facebook page this week our general food theme is cherry tomatoes. We talked about their history, benefits, and what happens when you eat too many of them on Monday, and on Friday we’re going to do a recipe roundup that features cherry tomatoes. If you haven’t already “liked” and “followed” my Facebook page, I encourage you to do it today so that you don’t miss out!
Vitamin A is responsible for eye health, bone health, reproductive health, and cell division. It helps to regulate immune system function and more is needed when infections are present. It may also play a role in fighting cancer.
You can get Vitamin A from both animal and vegetable sources in the form of beta carotene. This is the precursor to Vitamin A- and this is what’s found in tomatoes. 1 cup of cherry tomatoes contains 1241 iU (international units) of Vitamin A. Not a small amount!
It's much harder to overdose on food sources of vitamins and minerals than it is on supplements. Too much of a good thing is still too much. You can overdose on Vitamin A supplements easily as it’s stored in the liver and not sent out of the body when not needed- it’s a fat-soluble vitamin rather than water soluble, such as vitamin C. Overdosing is a gradual event, and long term liver damage is not reversible.
Adults need between 2310 and 4300 iU of Vitamin A daily, depending on their age, sex, and whether or not they are pregnant or nursing. Children need between 1000 and 2000 iU per day, again depending on age and sex. Here is my source for this information.
To summarize, Vitamin A is important to:
-Support your immune system, eye health, bone health, reproductive health, and supports the body in fighting cancer.
You can find Vitamin A in these food sources:
-Eggs, liver, fatty fish (such as salmon and steelhead trout) and beta carotene (which the body converts) from tomatoes, dark leafy greens (such as kale), mangoes, carrots, and so on.