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Vitamin A 

aka beta carotene, retinal, retinol

What it does: “This vitamin plays an essential role in immune health, development and reproduction, and eye health,” Serena says.

Plant-based sources: carrots, sweet potatoes, mangoes, leafy greens, parsley, basil

Animal sources: fish oils, milk, eggs

Vitamin B1 

aka thiamin or thiamine

What it does: “Vitamin B1 supports cell function, energy production, protein synthesis, and the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Proper thiamine levels are also essential to the function of the nervous system,” Serena says.

Plant-based sources: brown rice, barley, beans, lentils, peas, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, almonds

Animal sources: porks, eggs, liver

Vitamin B2 

aka riboflavin

What it does: “This nutrient plays a role in energy production, cell growth, and the metabolism of fat, drugs, and steroids. Riboflavin also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and since it supports medication metabolism, it may help decrease the toxicity of certain medications,” Serena says.

Plant-based sources: mushrooms (especially shiitake), quinoa, leafy greens, beans, lentils, avocado

Animal sources: eggs, chicken breast, dairy products

Vitamin B3

aka niacin

What it does: “This vitamin is essential in the ATP production process, or cell energy,” Serena says. “There is also evidence that niacin supports gut health and has neuroprotective qualities.”

Plant-based sources: peanuts, lentils, chickpeas, whole grains, shiitake and portobello mushrooms, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, leafy greens

Animal sources: poultry, meat, fish, eggs

Vitamin B6 

aka pyridoxine

What it does: “This vitamin is important for brain development and the health of the nervous system,” Serena explains. “B6 also helps increase serotonin and dopamine levels and may support a decrease in water retention.”

Plant-based sources: bananas, potatoes with the skin on, avocado, spinach, chickpeas, yellow bell peppers, brown rice, oats, fortified cereals

Animal sources: poultry, meat, tuna, salmon

Vitamin B7

aka biotin

What it does: “Known as the building block of the proteins that make up your body, biotin is often touted as a hair and nail vitamin,” Serena says. “A deficiency may lead to brittle hair and nails.”

Plant-based sources: almonds, peanuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds, lentils, beans, peas, sweet potato, bananas, avocado, cauliflower, broccoli, mushrooms

Animal sources: egg yolk, salmon, pork

Vitamin B9

aka folate

What it does: “This vitamin is important for red blood cell development and healthy fetal growth. Folate is an essential nutrient for pregnant women. Folate intake is also connected to decreased risk for chronic disease,” Serena says.

Plant-based sources: spinach, kale, collard greens, turnip greens, lentils, chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, sunflower seeds, almonds, peanuts, beets

Animal sources: liver, seafood, eggs

Vitamin B12

aka cyanocobalamin, hydroxocobalamin, methylcobalamin

What it does: “Vitamin B12 is important for red blood cell production and nervous system health, but this nutrient is notoriously hard to come by if you eat a plant-based diet. If you don’t find yourself eating these foods very often, you may want to consider a B12 supplement,” Serena says.

Plant-based sources: fortified nutritional yeast, fortified cereal

Animal sources: eggs, clams, oysters, dairy products, meat

Vitamin C 

aka ascorbic acid

What it does: “A powerful antioxidant, this water-soluble vitamin protects the body from oxidative stress, improves the absorption of iron found in plant-based foods, supports collagen production (which is important for both skin elasticity and the health of your connective tissues), protects against UV rays, and may decrease the length and severity of a cold.

Plant-based sources: citrus fruits, strawberries, bell peppers, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, guava, papaya, mango, tomatoes, parsley, thyme

Animal sources: fruits and veggies are the best sources

Vitamin D3 

aka cholecalciferol

What it does: “Vitamin D3 is really important for calcium absorption, bone health, and fighting inflammation and boosting immune function,” Serena says. “However, many people don’t get enough. Vitamin D is created by your body in response to the sun, so it’s no wonder that people may be deficient, especially during the winter months or in areas that are cloudy for most of the year. Vitamin D supplements are those that I recommend almost all populations take (but check with your practitioner for specific recommendations, especially if you have a diagnosed condition or take medication).”

Plant-based sources: fortified plant-milks, mushrooms

Animal sources: egg yolks, trout, salmon, tuna, and mackerel

Vitamin E

aka tocopherol

What it does: “Another important antioxidant, vitamin E is known to support the anti-inflammatory and immune processes, helping your body fend off disease. This nutrient also supports immune health by protecting your T-cells as they replicate,” Serena says.

Plant-based sources: almonds, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, peanuts, olives, olive oil, spinach, Swiss chard, kale, avocado, wheat germ, brown rice, butternut squash, fortified cereal

Animal sources: fruits and veggies are the best sources

Vitamin K1

aka phylloquinone

What it does: “This vitamin is an important nutrient for bone health,” Serena says. “Vitamin K1 plays an essential role in blood clotting and is predominantly found in plant-based food.”

Plant-based sources: kale, spinach, Swiss chard, collard greens, turnip greens, parsley, cilantro, basil, scallions, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, edamame, okra

Animal sources: fruits and veggies are the best sources

Vitamin K2

aka menaquinone

What it does: Like vitamin K1, K2 is important for bone health. “Vitamin K2 is specifically known to support calcium absorption,” Serena says.

Plant-based sources: fermented foods, like natto, sauerkraut, and miso, some plant-based cheeses

Animal sources: fruits and veggies are the best sources

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This content is strictly the opinion of Chef Serena Poon and is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of medical advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Serena nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.

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