Vitamins are essential nutrients that are mainly found in foods but some can also be produced by your body. They contain no calories and do not give your body energy but they do help it perform certain vital functions. Although each of the thirteen vitamins are unique they do share certain characteristics which allows them to be grouped into two broad categories; fat soluble vitamins (A,D,E and K) and water soluble vitamins (all the B vitamins and vitamin C). In this article I will be discussing these two vitamin groups in greater detail and outlining four of the key differences between them.
1) SOLUBILITY:- One of the main differences between these two types of vitamins (as the names suggest) is how they dissolve. Fat soluble vitamins dissolve within the body’s fat cells whilst water soluble vitamins dissolve in water. As a result the vitamins that dissolve in fat are generally more difficult to break down and stay in the body for longer periods.
2) STABILITY:- Fat soluble vitamins are relatively stable and are generally resistant to heat and light. Water soluble vitamins are much more volatile and can be quite easily destroyed by heat and light. Therefore, when preparing and storing foods you need to take much more care with those that contain vitamins that are soluble in water. Using a cooking heat that is too high can destroy these vitamins whilst boiling can cause the vitamins to be washed out and lost in the cooking water.
3) STORAGE:- Your body can store fat soluble vitamins in the liver and fatty tissues. If your body does not need these vitamins right away then they will be stored here for later use. However, your body cannot store water soluble vitamins. If you consume too much of these vitamins then they will be excreted in your urine. Therefore, you need to make sure that you top up on vitamins that dissolve in water daily to ensure that you are getting enough. Vitamins which are fat soluble do not need to be consumed as frequently because your body can turn to the stores if necessary.
4) OVERDOSING:- It is generally much easier to overdose on fat soluble vitamins than water soluble vitamins. The reason for this is that vitamins which are soluble in water do not stay in the body for very long and are generally excreted if not needed. However, vitamins that dissolve in fat are stored by the body for later use if not required immediately. If these stores build up over a long period they can eventually become toxic causing a number of unpleasant symptoms. Therefore, you need to be careful that you do not consume excessive levels of these vitamins which can be an issue if you regularly take vitamin supplements.
I hope this article has given you a greater insight into these two types of vitamin. Although these two groups have different characteristics they are all equally important to your health. By eating a diet that is rich in healthy, natural foods you should be able to consume adequate amounts of both fat soluble and water soluble vitamins. Just make sure that you take note of the precautions discussed above.