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By Julene Tripp Weaver

More on Vitamins and Minerals

At Susun Weed's talk on Immune Health the question of whether to take vitamins came up. Aside from saying no don't take them, she explained what a vitamin is, looked at each vitamin briefly, and gave a simple alternative to taking it in a pill form.

So, what is a vitamin actually? Susun's explanation is that a vitamin is an enzyme produced by living tissue, and that we need very small quantities. Another definition is that a vitamin is an organic (carbon-containing) substance required in tiny amounts to promote one or more specific and essential biochemical reactions within the living cell. For the definition to fit, lack of the substance for a prolonged period of time must cause a specific deficiency disease which is quickly cured when the substance is resupplied.(1) A text on nutrition gives two characteristics that define a vitamin: It must be a vital organic substance that is not a carbohydrate, fat, protein, or mineral and is necessary in only very small quantities to perform a particular metabolic function or to prevent an associated deficiency disease. It cannot be manufactured by the body and therefore must be supplied in food. (2)

The first proposal of the basic concept of vitamins was made by English biochemist and nutrition pioneer Frederick Hopkins in 1906. He said, "Diseases like rickets and scurvy are very likely caused by a lack in the diet of very tiny, even trace amounts, of "accessory food factors." Six years later, Casimir Funk, a Polish biochemist working in England, suggested the name "vitamine" for all such accessory food factors.(3) Funk had noted that crude extracts of rice hulls which cured the disease beriberi contain a chemical grouping chemists call an "amine." His term was derived by combining the Latin vita- ("necessary for life") with the word "amine." Later, when it was found that some vitamines were not amines, the "e" was dropped to make "vitamin." By 1912, none of the vitamins had yet been chemically isolated in pure form. But their presence was increasingly suspected from evidence that lack of "accessory food factors" was responsible for the dreaded disorders, scurvy(4), rickets(5), pellagra(6), and beriberi(7). Between 1912 and 1937, a span of only twenty-five years, painstaking research into such deficiency diseases uncovered all but one of the vitamins now known. (B12 was found in 1948). (8)

There are two groupings of vitamins; fat-soluble vitamins and water-soluble vitamins. For more information on the specific vitamins in these groups and the foods they can be found in keep reading.

Fat-Soluble Vitamins
There are four fat-soluble vitamins: A, D, E, and K. They are stored in the fat cells in our body, therefore we must be careful of the amount we ingest, too much can be toxic. It is very important to eat healthy fat so your body can absorb and use these vitamins.

Vitamin A eats destructive free radicals, it is essential for the correct use of protein by the body, it enhances the production of RNA (which transmits to each cell vital information on function and renewal), and it protects the body at its surface - skin, mucus membranes of mouth, nose, throat, lungs - reducing susceptibility to infections. It is vital in the role of strengthening cell walls to inhibit penetration by viruses, it activates the thymus gland and immune system, and it helps our body maintain good vision, protecting against night blindness. (9)

Vitamin A has two varieties:
is found only in animal foods, it is only made by the liver of mammals (including our own), this form of vitamin A is not found in nature. As a fat soluble vitamin it can be quite toxic if taken in excess, it is stored in the liver and can cause toxic effects of jaundice and liver damage.
Food sources: this form of vitamin A is available from liver, other animal organs, butter, cream, egg yolk and cod liver oil (remember commercially raised animals are saturated with chemicals, hormones and drugs that accumulate in the liver & organs of animals, so using organic sources is especially important).

Carotenes are found in orange and deep green vegetables and fruits. These carotenes are converted by our liver into an active retinol-type form of vitamin A so they can be utilized. This form of vitamin is non-toxic, any excess will be stored in the body until it is needed.
Food sources: dark leafy greens, kale, collard, parsley, turnip greens, beet greens, spinach, watercress, romaine lettuce, dandelion leaves, nettles, violet leaves, dock leaves, lamb's quarters, plantain, peppers, cayenne, paprika, chickweed, carrots, squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, green onions, swiss chard, chinese cabbage, avocado, okra, rose hips, apricots, dates, persimmon, cantaloupe, watermelon, pink grapefruit, papaya, peach, alfalfa, seaweeds & spirulina.

Cooking these vegetables will help release more of the vitamins and minerals your body needs. In fact you'll get 200% more vitamins from a cooked carrot than from a raw carrot; this is because neither vitamin A or carotenes are heat soluble, meaning they are insoluble (do not break down) in water, therefore stable in cooking. Because of this you can get an adequate supply of vitamin A in a regular diet.

Vitamin D is known as the "sunlight vitamin," but research has shown that it should be viewed as a hormone. Current texts refer to it as vitamin D hormone. Vitamin D aids us in the use of calcium and magnesium. Mostly we get our vitamin D by exposure to sunlight; it is processed through cholesterol within the surface of our skin. Living in the northwest where there is less sunlight it is important to eat a diet rich in foods that contain this vitamin. Like vitamin A, excessive intake of vitamin D can be toxic.
Food sources: avocado, watercress, wheat germ, fish liver oil (cod liver oil & fish oils are polyunsaturated so they can go rancid quickly), fortified milk (all commercial milk is fortified with synthetic vitamin D (10)), butter, eggs, certain high fat fish (like salmon, herring, sardines, tuna, mackerel), shrimp, liver. Also, foods with chlorophyll act as a form of stored sunshine, they perform like vitamin D which primarily regulates calcium. Again it is important to eat your green vegetables; wild plants such as nettles and dandelions are particularly good.

Vitamin E (Tocopherolis) is the most potent fat-soluble antioxidant. It protects cell integrity; it is present in all seeds to protect them until they sprout. This vitamin is useful for our reproductive system. Unlike the majority of vitamins there is no major deficiency disease associated with vitamin E.
Food sources: freshly ground whole grain flours (11) (especially wheat, rice, oats and quinoa), leafy greens, the outer leaves of cabbage (it is the richest in the outer leaves which are removed from commercial cabbages and rarely eaten in the other vegetables), broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, cucumbers, sprouts (all bean sprouts and sprouted wheat), spinach, dandelion, carrot tops, mint, fresh nuts and seeds; especially almonds, hazelnuts, sunflower, pumpkin & sesame seeds (roasted nuts go rancid 30 minutes after roasting; store nuts in tins, not in glass, since light makes nuts go rancid, and keep them refrigerated). Wheat germ oil and wheat germ have the highest amounts of vitamin E (these are prone to rapid deterioration and should be refrigerated in a dark, airtight container after opening). Seaweeds, chlorella, mayonnaise, egg yolk, butter, liver, soybeans, fish. Cold pressed vegetable oils, provided you do not heat them (most commercial oils are heat processed which destroys vitamin E content).

Margarine has been hydrogenated which reduces the vitamin E content and makes it an unhealthy choice. White flour has almost no vitamin E, and it is likely to be rancid.

Vitamin K (menadion) is a critical ingredient that works in the liver to make clotting proteins. Clotting proteins are what work to heal wounds and make scabs. If you have any kind of surgery this vitamin is crucial for your clotting mechanism so you can heal quickly.

The main source of vitamin K is produced by bacteria in the human intestines. Therefore, yogurt and other cultured food products help to stimulate vitamin K production by encouraging the growth of helpful bacteria in the intestines.
Food sources: yogurt, egg yolk, cheese, green leafy vegetables, nettles, alfalfa, chestnuts, tomatoes, kelp, Shepherd's purse, green tea, blackstrap molasses and liver.
[Supplements of vitamin K are by prescription only due to its toxicity; large doses can cause brain damage in children and anemia in some adults.]

Water-Soluable Vitamins

Vitamin C
(Deficiency disease is scurvy (12) ). It is the most voilitile of all the vitamins, therefore it dissipates the most rapidly, it will wash off when we wash our lettuce, and the most heat it will tolerate in cooking is ten minutes in sturdier vegetables. Luckly our actual need for vitamin C is very low. Oxygen is needed for vitamin C utilization, so if possible go outside after you eat, take a walk and do some deep breathing. Vitamin C is an essential ingredient to help your body absorb iron.
Food sources: all fresh fruits and vegetables, white & sweet potatoes, sprouts, parsley, sprouted beans, paprika, cabbage (most is concentrated in the core), ginger, rosehips, pine needles, dandelion greens, red clover, plantain leaf, dock. Liver is the only appreciable animal source of vitamin C. The vitamin C content in mother's milk will be a reflection of the vitamin C found in her diet.

Vitamin C tablets are often synthesized from corn starch into Ascorbic acid, there is no Vitamin C in corn starch. Ascorbic acid is one small part (of about two dozen parts) of vitamin C and in the synthetic form it is a drug that can be addictive. Another commmon supplement of vitamin C is calcium ascorbate in crystal form; it is mixed into liquid to drink and you have to use a straw; if you don't use a straw it will wear the enamel off your teeth in less than two years.

Paul Pritchard writes, "70 mg of vit C ingested in the form of parsley or broccoli (one cupful) may strengthen immunity more effectively than 700 mg of synthetic vitamin C. Studies indicate that only 10% of synthetic vitamin C is absorbed; in contrast, the absorption and utilization of vitamin C in these green plants above are maximized in the context of beta-carotene, chlorophyll, enzymes, minerals and other cofactors."(13) Research he has uncovered has debunked several myths about vitamin C; especially important for people living with HIV is the fact that large dosages of vitamin C to bowel tolerance is harmful. Bowel tolerance dosage reduces the availability of calcium, antagonizes gut uptake of copper, thereby reducing superoxide dismutase (SOD), a copper-dependent enzyme that is a "free-radical quencher" and essential for proper immunity. Also, high levels of vitamin C, above 1,250 mg daily, will decrease chromium in our system. (14)

There are eight basic B vitamins:

Three classic disease factor vitamins:
Food sources: wheat germ, rice bran, pine nuts, brazil nuts, pecans, peanuts, walnuts, dried beans & soybeans, seaweed (dulse, kelp, nori, wakame), ginger, fish, lean meats especially pork, beef, beef and lamb kidneys. Food sources: chiles, lamb's quarters, mushrooms, saffron, milk, yogurt, egg, cheese, wild rice, seaweed (dulse, kelp, hijiki), ginger, salmon, fish roe, wheat germ, duck, goose, liver, pork. Food sources: unprocessed grains (rye, quinoa, amaranth, oats, as well as others), dairy products, seaweed (nori, wakame, hijiki), ginger, corn is low in niacin but when lime is cooked into it niacin absorption increases in the body, peanuts, legumes, beef and calf liver, chicken, eggs, turkey, lamb, tunafish, codfish, rockfish, salmon, sardines.

Three more recently discovered coenzyme factors: Food source: whole grains, wheat bran, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, dried apricots, prunes, raisons, beet, potatoes (particularily skins), sweet potatoes, beet, broccoli, cabbage, dried beans, lentils, soybeans, peanuts, filberts, walnuts, bananas, currants, white meat of chicken & turkey, pork, liver, fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel), blackstrap molasses. Food sources: legumes & vegetables, liver, kidney, egg yolk, milk, cheese. Food sources: corn, soy, egg yolk, liver, kidney, tomatoes.

And finally, the important blood-forming factors: Food source: leafy greens & vegetables, spinach, turnip greens, asparagus, brussels sprouts, collards, parsnips, avocados, corn, beets, sprouts, whole grains, wheat germ, dry beans, soybeans, sunflower seeds, filberts, cashews, almonds, micro-algae (spirulina), liver, pork, poultry, shellfish. Food sources: dairy products (milk, cottage cheese, cheese), yogurt, fish, meat (17) (fowl, beef, liver, kidney, heart, brain, bone and its marrow), eggs, human placenta, cereal grass, sprouts, bee pollen, seaweed (dulse, kelp), alfalfa, fenugreek, comfrey. Trace amounts can be found in parsley, miso, tempeh, rejuvelac, unpasteurized sauerkraut and pickles, and on organic vegetables and ferments. Micro-algae(18) and nutritional yeast(19) contain B12 but may not be the best source (see footnotes).

Vitamin B12 is produced only by microorganisms. Among healthy people, large amounts of vitamin B12 are manufactured by beneficial bacteria in the colon, and smaller amounts appear in the saliva and through out other parts of the gastrointestinal tract.(20) Thus it is important to eat foods that are fermented to assist the process: miso, vinegars, goat milk, sauerkraut, soups.

Antibiotics, birth control pills, alcohol, cigarettes, coffee, other drugs, stress from any source, liver disease and chronic illnesses deplete vitamin B12. Early signs of deficiency are weakness, fatique, diarrhea, depression, indigestion, paleness, numbness in fingers and toes, shortness of breath, infertility, mental inbalances. Pernicious anemia is the classic symptom that develops.

If these separations of the B vitamins appear confusing just remember the body makes all B vitamin complex from grains, except B12. In general, the B complex is in greens, dried beans, seafood, red clover and parsley. Whole grain brown rice is loaded with lots of the B vitamins, but to utilize them it must be cooked well. Like vitamin A, the B vitamins are not heat soluble therefore you get more of your B complex vitamins from cooked foods.
(1) Marshall, Charles, Help or Harm? Vitamins and Minerals, Philadelphia, PA: George F. Stickley Company, 1983, Pg 27.
(2) Williams, Sue Rodwell, Essentials of Nutrition and Diet Therapy, Fourth Edition, St. Louis: Times Mirror/Mosby College Publishing, 1986, Pg. 107
(3) Marshall, C, pg 27.
(4) Scurvy, a disease that is marked by spongy gums, loosening of the teeth, and bleeding into the skin and mucous membranes, it is caused by a lack of vitamin C.
(5) Rickets, characterized by soft and deformed bones, occurred in children because calcium and phosphorous were not able to be assimilated due to a lack of vitamin D.
(6) Pellagra is a disease marked by dermatitis, gastrointestinal disorders, and central nervous system symptoms, it is caused by a diet deficient in niacin and protein.
(7) Beriberi is a disease marked by inflammation and degeneration of nerves, digestive system, and heart, it was found to be a deficiency of thiamin or vitamin B1.
(8) Marshall, C, pg 27.
(9) Pitchford, Paul, Healing with Whole Foods Oriental Traditions and Modern Nutrition, Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 1993, pg 207.
(10) In 1928 irradiated (via ultra violet light) ergasterol was added to milk as a vitamin D fortification. There is concern that since this addition to our food supply there has been an increase in illnesses of disturbed calcium and cholesterol metabolism, and of conditions related to magnesium deficits (examples include: renal disease, mental deficits, convulsions, cataracts, arteriosclerosis, kidney stones, osteoporosis, and heart problems). Brown, R.B., AIDS, Cancer & The Medical Establishment, New York, NY: Robert Speller Publishers, 1986, pg 164 - 166.
(11) Once the seed breaks open and absorbs oxygen it becomes rancid within 36 hours, if in refrigerator will remain good 3 weeks. Because of this it is a good idea to grind your own flour and use it immediately, get your own flour mill or Vita Mix. Eating rancid flour, nuts or seeds will use up your vitamin E. Vitamin E is destroyed by rancid oils, pollution, chlorinated drinking water, and oral contraceptives. 
(12) Scurvy, a disease that is marked by spongy gums, loosening of the teeth, and bleeding into the skin and mucous membranes.
(13) Pritchard, Paul, Healing With Whole Foods, pg 172.
(14) Pritchard, P, pg 173 - 174.
(15) Beriberi, a disease marked by inflammation and degeneration of nerves, digestive system, and heart.
(16) Pellagra, a disease marked by dermatitis, gastrointestinal disorders, and central nervous system symptoms.
(17) Meat is the best source of vitamin B12. However, one warning I have heard through Susun Weed is that meat has no B12 if it is not free range, another reason to support organic farming.
(18) According to research Paul Pritchard has uncovered, bacteriological tests indicate seaweeds and micor-algae are abundant in vitamin B12. However, much of what tests as B12 may actually be an ineffective analogue (similar substance), therefore, one should not rely on seaweeds or micro-algae as a vitamin B12 source. In addition, multiple vitamins that contain this vitamin are not a good source for a similar reason, the combination of minerals in them can cause B12 analogues to form. Pritchard, Paul, pg 541 & 322.
(19) According to Susun Weed nutritional yeast is not a good source of vitamins since it is sprayed with synthetic vitamins.
(20) Pritchard, P, pg 96.
Disclaimer: Please be advised this is a sharing of information that is not meant to be used to replace medical treatment and your own intuitive sense of your body and what it needs. Please see your medical provider (Dr., Naturopath, Acupuncturist, etc.) to follow up on suggestions.