Vitamins are substances in food that supply your body with the nutrients needed for everyday health and well-being. When food manufacturers and processors fortify foods, they add vitamins or other nutrients that these foods do not normally contain. In some cases, they also add additional vitamins or other nutrients to those already contained in food sources.
Your body requires 13 vitamins to support biological functions such as nerve function, growth and digestion, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. These vitamins are vitamin A; the B-complex vitamins thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, folate, B6 and B12; and vitamins C, D, E and K. When you eat certain vitamins, called fat-soluble vitamins, your body stores them in your fat cells for future use. When you eat other vitamins, called water-soluble vitamins, your body takes what it needs and quickly eliminates the remainder in your urine.
Reasons for Fortification
Luis A. Mejia of United Nations University lists reasons for food fortification that include correcting or preventing deficiencies in the general population; correcting or preventing deficiencies in specific population segments; maintaining overall nutritional quality in a given food; and adding nutrient value to a given food. Manufacturers may also add vitamins to a food to correct variations in the nutrient content of different crops or batches. A common example of this last application is the addition of vitamin C to orange juice.
Commonly Fortified Foods
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, or FAO, lists foods commonly fortified with vitamin A in developed countries, including breakfast cereals, margarine, milk and dairy products. Foods fortified with B vitamins include nutritional yeast and breakfast cereals. Foods fortified with vitamin C include fruit juices and juice drinks, breakfast cereals and dairy products. You can find fortified amounts of vitamin D in foods such as dairy products, margarine and vegetable oils. Foods fortified with vitamin E include breakfast cereals, margarine and other types of oil-based spreads.
In addition to adding vitamins and nutrients during the food-production process, manufacturers also replace vitamins and nutrients lost during processing, according to United Nations University. This replacement is called food enrichment. During enrichment, manufacturers attempt to return the same amount of vitamins to your food that processing removes. In addition to vitamins and nutrients, manufacturers may fortify or enrich foods with proteins or essential amino acids.
The FDA lists vitamins commonly lacking in adult diets, including A, C and E. Children and adolescents often lack sufficient amounts of vitamin E. Nutrients commonly lacking the diets of both adults and children include magnesium, potassium and fiber. Whenever possible, get your vitamins and other nutrients from a balanced variety of food sources. Conditions that may require the intake of fortified foods or supplements include advancing age, dark skin pigmentation and pregnancy. Consult your doctor or nutritionist for more information on vitamin-fortified foods.