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What Are the Functions of Fat Soluble Vitamins?

By Kristin Mortensen

The fat-soluble vitamins include vitamins A, D, E and K. They have a multitude of functions from keeping your bones strong to allowing your brain to tell your muscles to move. Following a healthy, well-balanced diet which includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, meats, healthy oils and even a little time in the sun will help you meet your needs for these critical nutrients.

The “Eyes” Have It

Vitamin A helps your vision, immune and reproductive systems. It also keeps your heart, lungs and kidneys working properly. Preformed vitamin A, or retinol, is found in meat and dairy products, liver and fish oils being the best sources. Provitamin A, or beta-carotene, is found in green leafy, orange and yellow fruits and vegetables. Some of the best sources of provitamin A include carrots, spinach, broccoli, cantaloupe, apricots and squash. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend you eat one to two cups of dark-green, leafy vegetables and three to six cups of red or orange vegetables weekly. This should meet your body’s need for vitamin A.

The Sunshine Vitamin

Vitamin D, along with calcium, keeps your bones strong by preventing rickets in children and osteoporosis in adults. Vitamin D also helps your muscles move, improves your immune function and helps reduce inflammation. Most people get their vitamin D from the sun, although some foods such as milk and fortified cereals contain added vitamin D. The recommended dietary allowance for vitamin D is 600 IU (International Units) daily. Five to 30 minutes in the sun a couple of times a week allows your skin to manufacture adequate amounts of vitamin D.

Don’t Get Radical

Vitamin E protects your body from free radicals, which are molecules that damage your cells. It also boosts your immune system and keeps blood moving through your blood vessels without clotting. The best sources of vitamin E include nuts, seeds and vegetable oils. Green, leafy vegetables and fortified cereals also contain significant amounts of vitamin E. The RDA for vitamin E is 15 milligrams for adults. An ounce of sunflower seeds contains over 7 milligrams of vitamin E, and one-half cup of cooked spinach or broccoli contains almost 2 milligrams.

The Clot Thickens

Vitamin K allows your blood to clot. The best sources of vitamin K include green, leafy vegetables, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, fish, meat and eggs. Vitamin K deficiency is extremely rare because you also make vitamin K in your gut. The RDA for vitamin K for adults is 90 micrograms daily. Vitamin K can interfere with anticoagulant medications so ask your health care provider about any dietary restrictions you should follow if you are taking these types of medications.

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