Archive for November, 2011

Vitamins – part 1

Monday, November 21st, 2011

Vitamins regulate a variety of essential bodily functions.  They are crucial in many of our metabolic processes so that we can benefit from the energy in our foods.  Vitamins are also very important in helping to build our bones, teeth, skin, blood and many other vital body tissues.

Vitamins are classified as either water soluble or fat soluble based on how they are absorbed and used by the body.

This week we focus on the fat soluble vitamins. Join us in two weeks to learn more about water soluble vitamins.  

Fat Soluble (Vitamins A, D, E and K): Fat soluble vitamins are those that are normally stored in the body.

When these vitamins are ingested, they dissolve in fat. In a person with a healthy digestive system, the body uses what it needs at that time and stores the rest for future use.

In this blog, we explain the why we need each fat soluble vitamin and which foods are good sources of them.


Why do we need it?

Where do we find it?

Vitamin A

It is important in helping with the moisturisation of our skin and mucous membranes (lining of the nose, eyes, throat).

Vitamin A also helps with night vision.

It is an antioxidant, which means that it protects against the effects of “free radicals” (unstable compounds that can damage healthy body cells).

Vitamin A also increases our immunity.

It is stored in our liver, so the liver of other animals is a rich source of vitamin A.

The animal source is known as retinol, and is also found in eggs, oily fish (e.g. mackerel), butter and milk.

The main plant source of vitamin A is known as beta-carotene and is found in orange/red fruit and vegetables (e.g. carrot, sweet potato, red pepper).


Vitamin D

Regulates and improves the uptake of calcium and phosphate in our bodies for healthy bones and teeth.

Important for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers to assist with the child’s bone development because babies can’t produce the vitamin D in their skin.

Sunlight (we make vitamin D in our skin), oily fish, liver, fortified products (e.g. breakfast cereal, margarine), eggs, baby milk formula.


Vitamin E

It helps to maintain our reproductive system, nerves and muscles.

Similar to vitamin A, vitamin E is also an antioxidant.

Nuts, seeds, plant oils (e.g. olive oil, corn oil), wheatgerm, some green leafy vegetables

Vitamin K

Important for helping our blood to clot properly (healing wounds) and in the formation of our bones and kidney tissues.

Green leafy vegetables (e.g. broccoli, spinach), vegetable oils, cereals. Small amounts in pork and cheese.

Calories, so what are they?

Monday, November 7th, 2011

A calorie is simply the unit that we use to measure energy.

All foods have a ‘calorific value’ and this is simply the amount of calories (energy) that a food will supply your body when it is eaten. Food labels on packaged foods usually list the energy content in two units; one is kcals (calories) the other is in kj (joules).


Your body needs energy to be able to fuel metabolic pathways that enable the body to work properly. We are all individuals and we have our own unique metabolic rate (this is the rate at which our body consumes calories per day). The average person’s metabolic rate is approximately 2000 calories per day.

The simple truth is that there is a ‘balance of energy’ in your body, if you burn more or less calories (through activity) than your body consumes daily (through food), you will lose or gain weight accordingly.

So how do you ‘burn’ calories?

There are a number of reasons why calories are burned in your body.

  • Your body requires a certain number of calories per day to simply stay alive. This is called Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR).  Your body burns these calories to maintain the most basic functions of your body such as breathing, blood circulation and brain activity.
  • The rest of the calories are ideally burned through exercise and activity.  Everything you do results in you burning calories – washing up, hoovering, climbing the stairs, anything that involves movement will contribute to the total calories burned by the body.