Vitamins and minerals A-Z

Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)

Vitamin C is essential for the production of collagen and in turn the structure and maintenance of blood vessels, connective tissue and cartilage. It provides resistance to infection and is an important antioxidant. For vegetarians who have a relatively high-fibre diet vitamin C plays a key role in non-haem iron absorption.  Vitamin C is present in citrus fruits, strawberries, guava, berries, currants, fruit juice, potatoes and nuts. Vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, kale and green peppers are rich sources but large amounts of the vitamin are lost during food storage, preparation and cooking.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D influences calcium absorption and ensures continuous mineralisation of bones and teeth by supporting calcium blood levels. Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is produced by the action of sunlight on our skin and found in animal products such as eggs and some fortified products. Vitamin D(ergocalciferol) is derived from plant sources and used in fortified products. For most people the recommended exposure to sunlight provides adequate levels of vitamin D. In the UK, groups at risk of vitamin D deficiency are pregnant women, people receiving < 15 minutes a day exposure to the sun on face and forearms, older people, ethnic groups wearing enveloping clothes and people with dark skin colour. Excessive intakes of vitamin D can cause excessive absorption of calcium which can damage the kidneys.  

Vitamin D is found in eggs, fortified margarines, breakfast cereals and soya milk.

Vitamin E


Vitamin E is an important antioxidant which protects cells, in particular DNA and polyunsaturated fatty acids, from the effects of free radicals. Dietary sources of vitamin E come from fats, either directly in margarine and spreads, or from foods high in fat, such as crisps. Vegetable oils, such as corn, soya and sunflower are the most concentrated sources, but olive oil contains much less vitamin E. Small amounts also occur in dairy products. High intakes of vitamin E from supplements can interfere with the function of vitamin K leading to problems with blood clotting. 

Vitamin K

Vitamin K is stored in the liver and plays an essential role in blood clotting. Vitamin K is also important in the production of some proteins which are required for bone formation, renal function and connective tissues. Vitamin K is present in dark leafy greens such as cabbage, kale, spinach and broccoli, vegetable oils such as rapeseed, soybean and olive, but not corn or sunflower oil. Smaller amounts are found in eggs and dairy products. Human gut bacteria can also synthesise a form of vitamin K. In the UK, synthetic vitamin K is routinely given to newborn babies as a precaution against a rare but serious blood disorder.

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The Vegetarian Society of the United Kingdom Limited, Parkdale, Dunham Road, Altrincham WA14 4QG
Registered Charity No. 259358, Registered Company No. 959115 (England and Wales)

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