Introducing Vitamin B6

Interacting in the Majority of Biological Reactions

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While looking at diet and cardiovascular disease risk many of us immediately consider our saturated fat intake however Vitamin B6 should not be overlooked. Together with folate and vitamin B12, vitamin B6 is required for maintenance of normal blood homocysteine levels. Raised homocysteine is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Vitamin B6, comprises 3 forms: pyridoxine, pyridoxal and pyridoxamine. All three forms of B6 can be converted to the coenzyme PLP. Vitamin B6 in its coenzyme form is involved in more than 100 enzyme reactions, many concerned with protein metabolism. 

Along with its central role in the metabolism of amino acids (protein), it is fair to say that Vitamin B6 is required for the majority of biological reactions in our body including neurotransmitter synthesis, red blood cell formation and metabolism and transport of iron.

Vitamin B6 is stored in muscle tissue.

The Primary Sources of Vitamin B6

There are many good sources of vitamin B6, including chicken, liver (cattle, pig), fish (salmon, tuna) from animals.

In addition, chickpeas, maize and whole grain cereals, green leafy vegetables, bananas, potatoes and other starchy vegetables are ideal sources from fruits and vegetables. Vitamin B6 can also be found in nuts and chickpeas. 

Bioavailability of Vitamin B6

If consuming a mixed diet, the bioavailability of vitamin B6 is about 75%. Vitamin B6 is destroyed by heat but it remains stable during storage.

Risks Related to Inadequate or Excess Intake of Vitamin B6

Deficiency of vitamin B6 alone is uncommon; usually it occurs in combination with a deficit in other B-vitamins. Individuals at risk for poor intakes are alcoholics and those taking tuberculosis medication. Signs of vitamin B6 deficiency include microcytic anemia due to inadequate synthesis of hemoglobin, depression, nerve problems, and irritability. No adverse events have been observed with high intakes of vitamin B6 (from food or supplements).

Find more information on vitamins and micronutrient deficiencies though our partner, Vitamin Angels or download our complete vitamin and mineral guide here

Incorporate vitamin B6 into your next dinner with this delicious recipe below. 

Casserole Roast Chicken with Autumn Herbs*

(Serves 4-6)

Ingredients

1 chicken (3½ lbs (1.575kg) free range if possible
1 oz (30g) butter
4-6 teasp. chopped fresh herbs eg. Parsley, Thyme, Tarragon, Chervil, Chives, Marjoram
¼ pint (150ml) light cream
¼ pint (150ml) home-made chicken stock
*Roux, optional
1-2 tablespoons freshly chopped herbs
1 oval casserole

Method

Remove the wish bone and keep for the stock. Season the cavity of the chicken with salt and freshly ground pepper and stuff a sprig of tarragon inside. Chop the remaining tarragon and mix with two-thirds of the butter. Smear the remaining butter over the breast of the chicken, place breast side down in a casserole and allow it to brown over a gentle heat. Turn the chicken breast-side up and smear the tarragon butter over the breast and legs. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover the casserole and cook in a moderate oven for 13-12 hours.

(To test if the chicken is cooked, pierce the flesh between the breast and thigh. This is the last place to cook, so if there is no trace of pink here and if the juices are clear the chicken is certainly cooked.) Remove to a carving dish and allow to rest for 10-15 minutes before carving.

Spoon the surplus fat from the juices, add a little freshly chopped tarragon, add in the cream and stock if using* boil up the sauce until it thickens slightly. Alternatively bring the liquid to the boil, whisk in just enough roux to thicken the sauce to a light coating consistency. Taste and correct seasoning.

Carve the chicken into 4 or 6 helpings, each person should have a portion of white and brown meat. Arrange on a serving dish, nap with the sauce and serve.

*Adapted from Daria Allen, Ballymaloe Cookery School

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Introducing Vitamin B5

The Stress Reducer

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Feeling stressed? Your vitamin B5 intake may have an important role to play. Vitamin B5, also know as Pantothenic acid, is critical to the development of stress-related hormones produced in the adrenal glands, small glands that sit on top of the kidneys.

Vitamin B5, like all B vitamins, helps convert food into glucose and break down fats, carbohydrates, and proteins for energy generation. Additionally, this essential nutrient is important for maintenance and repair of tissues and cells of the skin and hair, helps in healing of wounds and lesions, and pantethine, which is a form of vitamin B5, normalizes blood lipid profiles. Vitamin B5 also helps in the production of red blood cells.

Sources of Vitamin B5

The primary sources of vitamin B5 in animal products are found in offal (liver, kidneys), meat (chicken, beef), egg yolk, milk, fish. While pantothenic acid can also be derived from produce such as potatoes, tomatoes, broccoli, and mushrooms, it can also found in whole grain cereals. 

Bioavailability of Vitamin B5

The bioavailability of pantothenic acid from food sources is about 50%. Although vitamin B5 is quite stable if heated, extended cooking times and prolonged high temperatures (such as boiling temperatures) can cause greater loss of the vitamin. Pantothenic acid is also destroyed in the process of freezing, canning, or refining.

Risks Related to Inadequate or Excess Intake of Vitamin B5 

Vitamin B5 deficiency is very rare and symptoms involve a general failure of all the body’s systems. Symptoms include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, headaches, and tingling sensations know as “burning feet” syndrome. No adverse effects have been reported with high intakes of vitamin B5.

Additional information on vitamins and micronutrient deficiencies is available though our partner, Vitamin Angels or download our complete vitamin and mineral guide here

Incorporate vitamin B5 into your next dinner with this delicious recipe below. 

Irish Beed Stew*

Ingredients

1½kg/3lb 5oz stewing beef, cut into cubes
175g/6oz streaky bacon
3 tbsp olive oil
12 baby onions, peeled
18 button mushrooms, left whole
3 carrots, cut into quarters or 12 baby carrots, scrubbed and left whole
Salt and freshly ground black pepper 
1 tbsp chopped thyme
2 tbsp chopped parsley 
10 cloves of garlic, crushed and grated
425ml/15fl oz red wine
425ml/15fl oz chicken or beef stock

For the roux

50g/2oz butter
50g/1¾oz flour
champ, to serve

Method

Heat a casserole or heavy saucepan and then add the olive oil to brown the beef and bacon. Remove the meat and toss in the onions, mushrooms and carrots, one ingredient at a time, seasoning each time with salt and pepper.  Place the meat back in the casserole, along with the herbs and garlic. Cover with red wine and stock and simmer for one hour or until the meat and vegetables are cooked.

 To make the roux, in a separate pan melt the butter, add the flour and cook for two minutes. When the stew is cooked, remove the meat and vegetables. Then bring the remaining liquid to the boil and add one tbsp of roux. Whisk the mixture until the roux is broken up and the juices have thickened, allowing to boil. Replace the meat and vegetables, and taste for seasoning. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with champ.

*Adapted from Rachel Allen online

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Introducing Vitamin B3

A Partner in Energy Production

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Niacin, also known as vitamin B3, helps release energy from the foods we eat by acting as coenzyme in energy-transfer reactions, especially the metabolism of glucose, fat, and alcohol. Niacin also helps keep the nervous system and skin healthy. There are two forms of niacin – nicotinic acid and nicotinamide – both of which are found in food.  Niacin is unique in that it can also be synthesized from the amino acid tryptophan.  

The Primary Sources of Vitamin B3  

Primary sources are offal (liver), fish, meat, milk, eggs, whole grain cereals, legumes, fruit (avocados, figs, dates, prunes), and nuts. Vitamin B3 can also be synthesized from tryptophan.

Bioavailability of Vitamin B3  

Absorption of niacin depends on the food source. Niacin from meat, liver, beans and fortifed products is highly bioavailable. About 30% of the niacin in grains is bioavailable, though additional niacin can be released if the food undergoes alkali treatment (limewater/calcium hydroxide).

Compared to other water-soluble vitamins, niacin is less susceptible to losses during food storage. It is fairly heat resistant, so it can withstand reasonable cooking times. However, like other water-soluble vitamins, it will leach into cooking water.  

Risks Related to Inadequate or Excess Intake of Vitamin B3  

Individuals whose diets to not meet their energy needs are therefore at risk of deficiency, as are individuals whose staple diet relies primarily on (untreated) maize or barley, and chronic alcoholics. Severe niacin deficiency results in a disease called pellagra and its symptoms are dermatitis, diarrhea, dementia and eventually death.  

Risk of excessive intake is unlikely if niacin is consumed from food sources. However, consumption of niacin in the form of nicotinic acid from multiple sources at high levels, including dietary supplements, pharmaceutical doses, and fortifed foods, may result in adverse effects such as flushing, nausea and vomiting, liver toxicity, blurred vision and impaired glucose tolerance.  

Additional information on vitamins and micronutrient deficiencies is available though our partner, Vitamin Angels or download our complete vitamin and mineral guide here

Incorporate vitamin B3 into your morning routine with this A perfect breakfast recipe below. 

Baked Eggs with Tomatoes, Chorizo, Chilli and Cheese*

Ingredients 
2 tablespoons olive oil 
4 large ripe tomatoes, skinned, seeded and chopped 
Salt 
2 tablespoons chopped parsley 
A good pinch of crushed chilli peppers 
(dried chilli pepper flakes) 
8 large eggs 
8 slices of chorizo 
50g (2oz) manchego or Parmesan, grated 
4 slices of bread, toasted and buttered, 
to serve 
 
Directions
Preheat the oven to 180°C, 350°F, Gas 4. Put a frying pan on a medium-low heat, add the olive oil then add the skinned, chopped tomatoes, see my tip, above left. Season with a good pinch of salt and cook for about 15 minutes, until the tomato sauce is thick and viscous. 
  
Remove from the heat, stir in the chopped parsley and the crushed chilli peppers. Divide the tomato sauce between four ovenproof ramekins and break 2 eggs into each dish. Place a slice of the chorizo on top of each egg and divide the grated manchego or Parmesan cheese, whichever you’re using, between the ramekins. 
  
Place in the preheated oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, until the whites are set, but the yolks are just ever so slightly soft. Just before the eggs are ready, toast the slices of bread and butter them. 
  
Remove the eggs from the oven and serve with the buttered toast. 
*Adapted from Rachel Allen 

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Introducing Vitamin B2

A Key to Converting Food into Energy

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Vitamin B2, like all B vitamins, has an important role in producing energy for the body. Vitamin B2, commonly referred to as riboflavin, helps the body convert food, such as carbohydrates, into fuel or glucose, which provides us with energy. It also aids the body in metabolizing fats and proteins.

Additionally, riboflavin acts as an antioxidant to fight the damaging particles in the body known as free radicals. These free radicals can impair cells and DNA, which may contribute to the aging process as well as the development of a number of health conditions, such as heart disease and cancer. Antioxidants, such as riboflavin, have a potential health benefit by fighting free radicals and preventing some of the damage they may cause.

Vitamin B2 also helps the body change vitamin B6 and folate into useful forms. Moreover, it is important for growth, reproduction, and plays a role in vision.

The Primary Sources of Vitamin B2

Vitamin B2 is found in animal products such as offal (liver, kidneys, heart), eggs, meat, milk, yogurt, and cheeses while other sources include whole grain cereals, dark green leafy vegetables, and brewer’s yeast.

Bioavailability of Vitamin B2

Vitamin B2 from foods is highly available; bile salts, which are released when we consume fats, increase the rate of absorption of vitamin B2. Vitamin B2 is sensitive to light but remains stable under heat and refrigeration. The milling process reduces the content of vitamin B2 in cereal grains.

Risks Related to Inadequate Intake of Vitamin B2

Individuals whose food intake relies primarily on refined cereals from the elderly and chronic dieters to individuals who exclude milk products from their diet are at risk for inadequate intakes. Vitamin B2 requirements are increased during periods of strong growth, such as in pregnancy and lactation. Vitamin B2 deficiency co-occurs with other nutrient deficiencies and it may precipitate deficiencies in vitamin B6 and niacin. People with cardiovascular disease, diabetes or cancer are at risk for vitamin B2 deficiency.

Additional information on vitamins and micronutrient deficiencies is available though our partner, Vitamin Angels or download our complete vitamin and mineral guide here

Enjoy this recipe for your next dinner…

Liver and Bacon Sauté with Potatoes*

Ingredients 

400g new potato
2 tbsp olive oil
4 spring onions trimmed and cut into 2-3 pieces on the diagonal
4 rashers of unsmoked bacon cut into pieces
1 tbsp plain flour
1 tsp paprika
155g lamb’s liver, sliced into thin stripes
150ml hot vegetable stock
4 tbsp creme fraiche

Method

Start by cutting the potatoes in half and simmer in salted water for 12-15 minutes. Drain and set aside. Next, heat the oil in a wok and add the potatoes. Fry them for 4-5 minutes over a high heat until browned and crispy. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Then tip the spring onions and bacon into the pan and stir and sizzle for 3-4 minutes or until the bacon gets crispy. Meanwhile, season the flour with paprika, a little salt and plenty of black pepper and use the mixture to coat the liver.

Stir the liver into the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes. Toss in the potatoes and quickly reheat. Remove everything from the pan and divide between 2 plates. Keep warm.

For the finishing touches, quickly pour the hot vegetable stock into the pan and scrape all the crispy bits up from the bottom. Let it bubble for 1-2 minutes, then pour around the liver and potatoes. Serve each portion topped with creme Fraiche and a sprinkling of paprika.

*Adapted from bbc food recipes

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Introducing Vitamin B1

Creating Energy to Burn

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Wondering how to optimize your energy levels? Vitamin B1, also known as Thiamin, has an important role to play in the energy puzzle. Vitamin B1 helps break down and release energy from the food we eat by converting carbohydrates, lipids and proteins into energy. As a result thiamin requirement is very much related to the amount of energy we consume. Thiamin also plays a key role in nerve and muscle activity.

The Primary Sources of Vitamin B1

A variety of sources offer vitamin B1 from animal products and grains to fruits and vegetables. A few examples are offal (liver, kidneys, heart), fish, meat (pork), whole grain cereals, leafy green vegetables, asparagus, eggplant, fruits , legumes (beans and lentils), nuts, soymilk, squash, and brewer’s yeast.

Bioavailability of Vitamin B1

There is no data on bioavailability of vitamin B1, but we know that levels in foods are very susceptible to heat, cooking times, and length of storage. Vitamin B1 is also lost in the milling process, where the bran layer and some of the germ layer that contain vitamins are removed from grains.

Risks Related to Inadequate or Excess Intake of Vitamin B1

People who consume diets consisting of primarily refined grains (mostly milled flours and polished rice) are at risk for thiamin deficiency. The risk of inadequacy is less when food manufacturers fortify refined grains with vitamin B1. Clinical vitamin B1 deficiency is called beriberi, a condition which still occurs in South-East Asia. In beriberi, there is damage to the nervous system characterized by muscle weakness in the arms and legs, or damage to the cardiovascular system which is characterized by dilated blood vessels, causing the heart to work harder and the kidneys to retain salt and water, resulting in edema. No adverse effects have been associated with excessive thiamin intakes.

Additional information on vitamins and micronutrient deficiencies is available though our partner, Vitamin Angels or download our complete vitamin and mineral guide here

Here is a creative way to include vitamin B1 in your next meal. 

Lentil Curry*

Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil
1 salad onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
½ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp mild curry powder
2 green cardamom pods
1 tbsp tomato purée
100g/3½oz canned lentils, rinsed and drained
50ml/2fl oz hot vegetable stock
50ml/2fl oz double cream
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 hot ready-made chapatis

Method

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and then add the onions and garlic and fry for two minutes, until soft. Next incorporate the spices and cook through for two more minutes. Then add the tomato purée, lentils, and vegetable stock. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes. Finally, mix in the cream and season with salt and fresh ground black pepper. 

To serve, pour the lentil curry into a warm bowl with the warm chipattis served on a plate alongside.

*adapted from bbc food recipes

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Introducing Vitamin K

Learning the Fundamentals

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One often hears the term ‘it’s a matter of life and death’ but this is literally the case for Vitamin K! Vitamin K, also known as phylloquinone or menaquinone, has a vital role in blood clotting and thus also supports wound healing.

More than a dozen different proteins and the mineral calcium are involved in making a blood clot. Vitamin K is essential for the activation of several of these proteins. When any of the blood clotting factors is lacking, hemorrhagic disease (uncontrolled bleeding) results. Vitamin K also participates in the metabolism of bone proteins, most notably osteocalcin. Without vitamin K, osteocalcin cannot bind to the minerals that normally form bones, resulting in poor bone mineralization.

Storage and primary sources of vitamin K

Vitamin K is stored in the liver. Vitamin K is found in plant foods as phylloquinone (K1). Bacteria in the lower intestine can synthesize vitamin K as menaquinone (K2), which is absorbed by the body. 

Sources of phylloquinone are green leafy vegetables (i.e., parsley, spinach, collard greens, and salad greens), cabbage, and vegetables oils (soybean, canola, olive). Menaquinones are also found in fermented foods such as fermented cheese, curds, and natto (fermented soybeans).

Bioavailability of vitamin K

Absorption of vitamin K from food sources is about 20%, and dietary fat enhances absorption.

Risks related to inadequate or excess intake of vitamin K

Deficiency of Vitamin K is rare as it is widely available from the diet and is also provided by gut bacteria. Thus, deficiency is generally secondary to conditions such as malabsorption or impaired gut synthesis. However, there is growing interest in the role of vitamin K in optimising bone health. Supplementation with vitamin K has been found to be beneficial for improving bone density among adults with osteoporosis because it drives synthesis of a special protein called matrix Gla protein.

Vitamin K is poorly transferred via the placenta and is not found in significant quantities in breast milk, so newborn infants are especially at risk for bleeding. This innate vitamin K deficiency is treated with intramuscular injection or oral administration of phylloquinone. Supplementation with vitamin K has been found to be beneficial for improving bone density among adults with osteoporosis because it drives synthesis of a special protein called matrix Gla protein.

Additional information on vitamins and micronutrient deficiencies is available though our partner, Vitamin Angels or download our complete vitamin and mineral guide here

Here is an easy way to incorporated vitamin K into your next meal. 

Spinach, aubergine and chickpea curry*

Ingredients

1kg fresh spinach
2 tbsp olive oil
2 medium red onions, chopped
200g tinned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 fresh hot green chillies, halved and thinly sliced, seeds included
1 tbsp coriander seeds, ground
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 large aubergine, approx. 400g/14oz, cut into 2cm (3/4in) dice
400g tinned chopped tomatoes
salt

Directions

Cook the spinach in boiling water for two minutes, then cool it under cold running water and squeeze gently to remove most of the liquid. Place in a food processor and chop the spinach to a coarse purée. Meanwhile, heat half the olive oil in a large pan and cook the onion, chickpeas, garlic, chilli and spices for five minutes over a medium heat. Next, add the remaining olive oil and the aubergine to the pan. Cook for ten minutes, stirring often, until the aubergine is colored. Then add the tomatoes and a pinch of salt. Cover the pan, lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes until the aubergine is soft. Stir in the spinach purée and serve.

*Adapted from BBC Food Recipes

 

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Introducing Vitamin E

A Powerful Antioxidant

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Ever wondered why leading cosmetic companies add Vitamin E to their products? One very good reason is that Vitamin E acts as a powerful antioxidant protecting our cells against oxidative damage from free radicals thus maintaining healthy skin.

Vitamin E 

Vitamin E, also know as α-Tocopherol, is a group of eight lipid-soluble compounds synthesised by plants, tocopherols and tocotrienols. α-Tocopherol accounts for 90% of the vitamin E in human tissues and acts as an antioxidant (i.e., stops the chain reaction of free radicals producing more free radicals). Vitamin E protects cell membranes, proteins, and DNA from oxidation and thereby contributes to cellular health.

Sources of Vitamin E and Storage

Vitamin E is stored in the liver and is safe even at high intakes. Vitamin E in the α-tocopherol form is found in edible vegetable oils, especially wheat germ, and sunflower and rapeseed oil. Other good sources of vitamin E are leafy green vegetables (i.e., spinach, chard), nuts (almonds, peanuts) and nut spreads, avocados, sunflower seeds, mango and kiwifruit. 
 

One of the best source of vitamin E is almonds while leafy green vegetables such as spinach and Swiss chard are popular as well. Other excellent sources include animal products like cheese and eggs or plant oils.

Bioavailability of Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble nutrient. As such, absorption of this vitamin is enhanced in the presence of fat in a meal. Risks related to inadequate or excess intake of vitamin E Individuals whose diets consist mostly of starchy staples – with inconsistent intake of edible oils or other vegetable sources of vitamin E – are at a higher risk of inadequate vitamin E intake.

Deficiency of Vitamin E

Vitamin E deficiency is not common. When deficiency of Vitamin E is present it leads to red blood cell breakage and nerve damage. Recent studies from Bangladesh link low vitamin E blood levels to an increased risk of miscarriage. In other studies vitamin E supplementation has been successfully used for the treatment of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, a condition widespread in overweight and obese people. Excessive intake of vitamin E from food is very rare.

Additional information on vitamins and micronutrient deficiencies is available though our partner, Vitamin Angels or download our complete vitamin and mineral guide here

Here is a healthy recipe to incorporate vitamin E into your breakfast. 

Avocado Toast

Ingredients

1 Avocado
1 Tablespoon lemon or lime juice
4 Eggs
4 Slices whole grain toast
Salt and pepper to tast

Directions

First, mash the avocado, lemon or lime juice and pinch of salt together and set aside. Next, fry the eggs in a pan over medium heat and toast the whole grain bread. Then spread the avocado mixture evenly on the toast and place the fried egg on top. Season with salt and pepper to your liking or get creative with hot sauce, cheese, cilantro or other herbs.

 

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Introducing Vitamin D

The Sunshine Vitamin

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Yes, it’s true our exposure to sunlight, given the right season and enough time in the sun, has an important role in determining our Vitamin D status. With the help of sunlight, vitamin D is synthesized by the body from a precursor derived from cholesterol. Vitamin D exists as either vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) or vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). The active from of vitamin D is actually a hormone that targets organs – most notably the intestines, kidneys, and bones. In the intestine, vitamin D is involved in the absorption of calcium and phosphorus. In the bone, it assists in the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, helping bones grow denser and stronger as they absorb and deposit these minerals.

Why is Vitamin D Important?

One of the main roles of vitamin D is to facilitate the absorption of calcium and phosphorus. Consequently, a vitamin D deficiency creates a calcium deficiency, with significant consequences to bone health. Among children and adolescents, it may cause rickets and adversely affect peak bone mass. In adults, vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of osteomalacia and osteoporosis.

Sources of Vitamin D

Sunlight – exposure to ultraviolet B (UVB) rays is necessary for the body to synthesize vitamin D from the precursor in the skin. It’s not known exactly how much time is needed in the sun to make enough vitamin D to meet the body’s requirements. This is because there are a number of factors that can affect how vitamin D is made, such as your skin colour or how much skin you have exposed

Natural food sources of vitamin D include red meat, liver, egg yolks, and oily fish such as salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel and fresh tuna. A selection of fortified foods from fat spreads and choice breakfast cereals may be available at the market. 

Bioavailability of Vitamin D

There is very little information on the bioavailability of vitamin D. It is assumed that the food matrix has little effect on absorption. Bioavailability also varies among individuals and depends on the level of circulating vitamin-D-binding protein.

What Influences our Vitamin D Status?

Inadequate exposure to sunlight is the primary risk factor for poor vitamin D status. The use of sunscreen, higher levels of melanin in skin (i.e., dark skin), skin coverings (clothes, veils), and time of day are factors that decrease exposure to UVB rays. The distance from the equator is also a factor for UVB exposure; people living in latitudes above or below 40 degrees from the equator will be unable to form vitamin D from the skin precursor during the winter months.

Breast milk is a poor source of vitamin D. Children who are exclusively breastfed and have no or little sun exposure require vitamin D supplements to meet requirements.

Remember! While sunlight is important for our vitamin D levels be careful not to burn in the sun. Take care to cover up or protect your skin with sunscreen before your skin starts to turn red or burn.

Download our complete vitamin and mineral guide here

Here is a recipe to easily incorporate Vitamin D rich foods in your diet!

Salmon Fish Cakes* 

Photo credit BBC Good Food

Ingredients
450g floury potato (cut into chunks) 
350g salmon ( 3 fillets)
2 tsp tomato ketchup
1 tsp English mustard
½ lemon zest grated 
1 heaped tbsp chopped parsley
1 heaped tbsp chopped dill
3 tbsp plain flour
1 egg beaten
100g dried breadcrumb
4 tbsp sunflower oil

Method
1. Heat the grill. Place the potatoes in a pan of water, bring to the boil, cover and cook for 12-15 mins until tender. Drain and leave to steam-dry, then mash. Meanwhile, season the salmon and grill for 5-6 mins until just cooked. Cool for a few mins, then break into large flakes.

2. Mix the potato, ketchup, mustard, zest, herbs and some seasoning. Lightly mix in the salmon, taking care not to break it up too much. Shape into 4 large fish cakes.

3. Put the flour, egg and breadcrumbs in 3 shallow dishes. Dip the cakes into the flour, dust off any excess, then dip in the egg, and finally coat in breadcrumbs. Heat the oil in a large pan. Fry the cakes over a medium-low heat for 3-4 mins each side until deep golden and heated through. Serve with salad and lemon wedges.

*Adapted from BBC Food Recipes online

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Introducing Vitamin A

Understanding the basics

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‘’Mommy, Mommy’’, the little girl screams in the middle of the night. A bad dream and afraid of the dark she calls to her mommy who switches on a light. Calm is restored. But what if the girl wakes and cannot see? For many children in the developing word this is a reality. Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children and increases the risk of disease and death from severe infections. Today Vitamin A deficiency remains a public health problem in more than half of all countries, especially in Africa and South-East Asia, with young children and pregnant women in low-income countries at greatest risk.

What Vitamin A Does

Vitamin A plays a central role in our vision, skin, genes, growth, and immune system. It is especially important during the early stages of pregnancy in supporting the developing embryo. Infections and fevers increase the requirement for vitamin A.

Retinol

Three different forms of vitamin A are active in the body: retinol, retinal, and retinoic acid. These are known as retinoids. The cells of the body can convert retinol and retinal to the other active forms of vitamin A as needed.

Each form of vitamin A performs specific tasks. Retinol supports reproduction and is the major transport form of the vitamin. Retinal is active in vision and is an intermediate in the conversion of retinol to retinoic acid. Retinoic acid acts like a hormone, regulating cell differentiation, growth, and embryonic development. Foods derived from animals provide retinol in a form that is easily digested and absorbed.

Carotenoids

Foods derived from plants provide carotenoids, some of which have vitamin A activity. The body can convert carotenoids like β-carotene, α-carotene and β-cryptoxanthin into vitamin A. The conversion rates from dietary carotene sources to vitamin A are 12:1 for β-carotene and 24: 1 for β-cryptoxanthin.

Sources of Vitamin A 

Retinol: Liver, Egg Yolk, Butter, Whole Milk, and Cheese

Carotenoids: Orange flesh fruits (i.e. Sweet Potatoes, Melon, Mangos), Green leafy vegetables (spinach, broccoli), Carrots, Pumpkins, Red pam oil

Bioavailability of Vitamin A 

The degree to which it is absorbed in our bodies, bioavailability, of vitamin A derived from animal sources is high – about 70–90% of the vitamin A ingested is absorbed by the body. Carotenoids from plant sources are absorbed at much lower rates – between 9% and 22% – and the proportion absorbed decreases as more carotenoids are consumed.

Dietary fat enhances the absorption of vitamin A. Absorption of β-carotene is influenced by the food matrix. β-carotene from supplements is more readily absorbed than β-carotene from foods, while cooking carrots and spinach enhances the absorption of β-carotene. Diarrhea or parasite infections of the gut are associated with vitamin A malabsorption.

Risks of Vitamin A

About 90% of vitamin A is stored in the liver. Vegetarians can meet their vitamin A requirements with sufficient intakes of deeply colored fruits and vegetables, with fortified foods, or both. Vitamin A deficiency is a major problem when diets consist of starchy staples, which are not good sources of retinol or β-carotene, and when the consumption of deeply colored fruits and vegetables, animal-source foods, or fortified foods is low. Vitamin A plays a role in mobilizing iron from liver stores, so vitamin A deficiency may also compromise iron status. Excessive intakes of pre-formed vitamin A can result in high levels of the vitamin in the liver – a condition known as hypervitaminosis A. No such risk has been observed with high β-carotene intakes.

Additional information on vitamins and micronutrient deficiencies is available though our partner, Vitamin Angels or download our complete vitamin and mineral guide here

Here are some recipes to easily incorporate Vitamin-A rich foods in your diet!

Sweet Potato Fries 

Betacarotene, vitaminIngredients
95g of sweet potato
¼ tsp cayenne pepper (substitute with whatever spices you have available locally such as chill flakes or chill powder)
½ tsp rapeseed oil

Method
Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/ gas 6. Put the sweet potato fries on a baking tray and mix with the rapeseed oil and cayenne pepper. Bake in the oven for 20 mins

Spanish Tortilla

EggsIngredients
300g of baby spinach leaves
Large white onion, chopped
4 tbsp olive, sunflower or rapeseed oil
25g butter
400g potatoes (peeled and finely sliced)
8 eggs beaten
2 cloves of garlic

Method
Put the spinach in a large colander and pour over a kettleful of boiling water. Drain well and, when cooled a little, squeeze dry, trying not to mush up the spinach too much.

1. Put a large non-stick frying pan on a low heat. Cook the onion slowly in the oil and butter until soft but not brown – this should take about 15 mins. Add the potatoes, cover the pan, and cook for a further 15-20 mins, stirring occasionally to make sure they fry evenly

2. When the potatoes are soft and the onion is shiny, crush 2 garlic cloves and stir together with the spinach followed by the beaten eggs

3. Put the lid back on the pan and leave the tortilla to cook gently. After 20 mins, the edges and base should be golden, the top set but the middle still a little wobbly. To turn it over, slide it onto a plate and put another plate on top, turn the whole thing over and slide it back into the pan to finish cooking. Once cooked, transfer to a plate and serve the tortilla warm or cold.

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