Which whole foods for which vitamins?

Which whole foods for which vitamins?

Team ErbologyErbology

Feel you are lacking something from your diet? Notice physical symptoms of nutrient deficiency? Do you want to correct with whole foods, rather than with synthetic supplements? You can start here... 

June 09, 2020 9:17 am

Beta-carotene: Precursor to Vitamin A

Beta-carotene is an antioxidant which the body turns into vitamin A. Getting beta-carotene through whole foods is incredibly healthy. However, research suggests that getting it through multivitamin supplements may increase the rate of lung cancer, particularly in smokers.(1) Although vitamin A is found in other foods, these are in the main animal-derived products.

Among other things, this substance may improve how your skin responds to the sun.(2) The Latin word for carrot, Daucus carota, gave beta carotene its name. Not surprisingly, the carrot is also one of the best whole-food sources of this powerful antioxidant (8332μg of beta-carotene per 100g of cooked carrots). Unlike some other substances which are water-soluble, stores of beta-carotene may be higher in cooked vegetables than in raw.(3) As vitamin A is fat-soluble, you should eat your cooked carrots with healthy fats in order to maximise your intake of beta-carotene. For instance, might we suggest roasted carrots generously drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, embraced by pickled lemons and rosemary, with chopped almonds and pomegranate seeds sprinkled over? → View Related Products


Other food sources of beta-carotene

  • Sea buckthorn berry oil (3900μg)
  • Sweet potatoes (5219μg)
  • Dark leafy greens, such as spinach (5626μg) and kale (1731μg)
  • Butternut squash (4570μg)

Note: Values are indicated per 100g. Source: My Food Data


Seabukthorn balls

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Vitamins B

All together, there are eight B vitamins. That is to say, these are called B complex vitamins. Among other things, B vitamins assist our bodies with energy levels and are essential for the brain as well as the nervous system.(4) However, it is important to remember that all eight B vitamins are water soluble. To clarify, that means that our bodies are not great at reserving them within. Thus, it is especially important to take in all eight regularly via diet. On the other hand, fat-soluble vitamins can be stored in our bodies long term.

Foods such as whole grains, legumes, dark green leafy vegetables, seeds, nuts, and fresh fruit all contain decent amounts of varying B vitamins. Vitamin B12 is the one that many vegans and vegetarians are concerned about attaining through diet. However, there are plant-based whole food sources for this vitamin as well. These include nori seaweed.

Other whole foods rich in B vitamins

  • Lentils (0.2mg of thiamin – B1, 0.6mg of pantothenic acid – B5 and 181μg of folate – B9)
  • Bananas (0.4mg of B6)
  • Spinach (146μg of folate – B9)
  • Almonds (1.1mg of riboflavin – B2 and 3.6mg of niacin – B3)
  • Peanuts (0.6mg thiamin – B1, 12.1mg of niacin – B3, 1.8mg of pantothenic acid – B5 and 240μg of folate – B9)

Note: Values are indicated per 100g. Sources: My Food Data.


risotto with almonds

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Vitamin C

Our bodies need vitamin C to make collagen. Collagen is a protein found in skin, bones, joints, and digestive tract tissues. In other words, across your body! Look to citrus fruits, naturally. But also to kale! One cup of kale contains as much vitamin C as an orange! Moreover, just this amount more than satisfies your daily requirement of vitamin C. Meanwhile, you could use kale as a salad green or stir into your stews and pasta sauces just after cooking. → View Related Products


Erbology values

Plant-based foods high in vitamin C

  • Sea buckthorn berries (400μg)(5)
  • Citrus fruits such as grapefruit (79.1mg), lemon (112.4μg), and bergamot (144mg)
  • Green and red peppers (119.8mg)
  • Green leafy vegetables, such as kale (93.4mg), spinach (28.1μg) and turnip greens (60μg)

Note: Values are indicated per 100g. Sources: My Food Data and Eat This Much.

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immunity boost

'Vitamin C is also important for our immune system. Many raw fruits and vegetables are good sources of vitamin C.'

Vitamin D

We need vitamin D to help us take in calcium gained through diet. Vitamin D is also essential for our muscles to work properly. Further, it may have protective qualities against many diseases and conditions, such as several types of cancer. Our bodies can make vitamin D if we get enough sunshine. However, many people cannot or do not get enough – and so may need dietary sources of vitamin D.

That’s where mushrooms may come in. Although we find them in the produce section of food stores, we often forget that mushrooms are not plants. Fungi are formed entirely differently to plants. Mushrooms, unlike plants, have a substance called ergosterol in their cell walls. When exposed to ultraviolet light, either through sunlight or in artificial conditions, the ergosterol becomes a form of vitamin D that can be accessed by humans. However, not all mushrooms will have been exposed to light. Do your research.(6) 

Plant-based food sources of vitamin D

  • Mushrooms exposed to UV light, such as maitake, chestnut, portobello and white button mushrooms. To clarify, vitamin D2 levels in mushrooms vary depending on the type of light and duration of exposure. For instance, 100g of raw maitake mushrooms provide over 1,100 IU of vitamin D (7)
  • Hemp seeds and cold-pressed hemp seed oil

Note: Values are indicated per 100g. Source: My Food Data

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is the name given to a group of dynamic antioxidants. To clarify, antioxidants help our bodies fight oxidative stress, which can lead to all manner of diseases including cancers and many types of infections.(8) On the other hand, vitamin E deprivation is quite rare in the developed world. However, we all should be aware of which foods contain vitamin E and ensure that we include them in our diets. There are several forms of Vitamin E. Further, the most active type is called alpha-tocopherol. Many cooking oils, such as almond oil and sunflower oil, are rich in Vitamin E. However, make sure that you search out cold-pressed oils in order to maximise the amount of nutrients present in the oil. → View Related Products

Plant-based foods high in Vitamin E

Note: Values are indicated per 100g. Source: My Food Data


organic milk thistle oil

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Vitamin K

The German word for blood clotting is koagulation. Vitamin K, which is central to blood clotting, got its name from this word. This substance is also central to bone development. Fortunately, there are many plant-based sources for vitamin K including the handily k-lettered kale. Easy to remember, eh? And there are so many other reasons to eat kale, including vitamin C. Another plant-based food rich in vitamin K which has the letter ‘k’ prominent? Sauerkraut, also a wonderful source of both prebiotics and probiotics.(9)

Plant-based sources of Vitamin K

  • Aronia berries (60μg)
  • Brussels sprouts (177μg)
  • Broccoli (101.6 μg)
  • Romaine lettuce (102.5 μg)
  • Blueberries (19.3μg) 

 Note: Values are indicated per 100g. Source: My Food Data

aronia berry juice

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  • (1) Tanyetyanon, T and Bepler, G, “Beta-carotene in multivitamins and the possible risk of lung cancer among smokers versus former smokers: a meta-analysis and evaluation of national brands.”  Cancer, 2008.

    (2) Stahl, Wilhelm and Sies, Helmut, “β-Carotene and other carotenoids in protection from sunlight” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2012.

    (3) Livny et al, “β-carotene bioavailability from differently processed carrot meals in human ileostomy volunteers”, European Journal of Nutrition, 2003.

    (4) Kennedy, David O, “B Vitamins and the Brain: Mechanisms, Dose and Efficacy—A Review”, Nutrients, 2016.

    (5) Gutzeit et al, “Vitamin C Content in Sea Buckthorn Berries (Hippophae rhamnoides L. ssp rhamnoides) and Related Products: A Kinetic Study on Storage Stability and the Determination of Processing Effects” Journal of Food Science, 2008.

    (6) Cardwell et al, “A Review of Mushrooms as a Potential Source of Dietary Vitamin D”, Nutrients, 2018.

    (7) Food Data Central, “Mushroom, Maitake, Raw“, US Department of Agriculture, 2019.

    (8) Rizvi et al, “The Role of Vitamin E in Human Health and Some Diseases”, Sultan Qaboos University Medical Journal, 2014.

    (9) DiNicolantionio et al, “The health benefits of vitamin K”, Open Heart, 2015.

    Photo credits: Leilani AngelGabriel Gurrola

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