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Water Soluble Vitamins and Deficiency

By Stacey Grant, M.S., C.P.T.

Your diet is intended to provide you with an array of vitamins necessary to maintain healthy cellular function. Some of these vitamins are absorbed directly into your blood stream without the help of fat and are excreted daily. This quick absorption and excretion qualifies these vitamins as water-soluble vitamins.

Water Solubility

One method of categorizing vitamins is by their solubility in water or fat. The water-soluble vitamins are named as such because their absorption is not enhanced by fat, they are not stored in your body, and they are excreted daily. Since you lose water-soluble vitamins everyday in urine, eating the foods that replace them is essential for preventing deficiency.


According to Medline, the National Institute of Health's online service, vitamin C and the B vitamins1 through 7, B12 and folic acid are all water-soluble vitamins. These vitamins are essential cofactors which help your body gets the energy it needs from your food. Water-soluble vitamins pass through your system quickly and are only needed in small amounts to perform their function.


A variety of whole foods contain adequate dosages of water-soluble vitamins. These include fresh vegetables, legumes, citrus fruit, bananas, avocados, walnuts, potatoes, eggs, pork, roast beef, chicken and fish like tuna, salmon and trout. They are also found in fortified cereal grains, breads, oatmeal, and wheat bran.


How you prepare foods that are rich in water-soluble vitamins greatly affects their vitamin content. As their name suggests, these vitamins dissolve in water and as a result are easily lost with aggressive washing, improper storage and overcooking. Nutrition specialist J. Anderson of Colorado State University's Extension School recommends storing grain and milk away from bright lights, refrigerating produce and using the remaining water from cooking vegetables for soups to retain their vitamin content.


Since water-soluble vitamins are present in so many foods, deficiencies are usually a result of an unhealthy diet or underlying condition that increases your urine output, like alcoholism. Deficiencies of water-soluble vitamins can lead to symptoms such as anemia, dermatitis and blurry vision. Extended deficiencies can lead to serious neurological, and dermatological consequences.

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