Vitamins A, D, E and K are the fat-soluble vitamins. They are absorbed in the small bowel using the same transport mechanisms as cholesterols and fats because they do not mix well with watery solutions such as cellular fluid and blood. Deficiencies of these vitamins are less common than of water-soluble vitamins because they are stored in much higher amounts in the body. However, individuals with disorders of the bowel such as Crohn's disease may develop deficiencies due to inadequate absorption. Consult the following list for foods high in each vitamin if you need to supplement your diet.
Vitamin A is particularly high in animal and fish livers, whether cod liver fish oil, turkey liver or goose liver. Milks and cheeses contain significant levels as well. For vegetables consider carrots, spinach, sweet potato and kale. Fruits high in vitamin A include cantaloupe, papaya and mango. Vitamin A deficiency can cause night blindness and a weakened immune system.
Many foods in the United States and Europe, such as milks and cheeses, are fortified with extra vitamin D. If you are unable to eat dairy, consider fortified cereals and oatmeals. The highest density of vitamin D per 100g serving comes from cod liver fish oil, herring and salmon. Low levels of vitamin D can lead to rickets in children and osteomalacia (bone weakness) in adults.
Vitamin E primarily comes from nuts, grains and green leafy vegetables. Wheat germ oil is the most concentrated source of vitamin E available. Consider almonds, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts and peanut butter as well. Various oils are naturally high in vitamin E including sunflower, safflower, corn and soybean. Vitamin E deficiency manifests as neurological problems (difficulty with balance or sensation) and immune system dysfunction.
Green leafy vegetables are the best source of foods high in vitamin K. Kale, spinach, turnip greens and collards are the four most concentrated sources. Vitamin K deficiency can cause clotting abnormalities. Be aware that if you are taking coumadin, a diet high in vitamin K can cause problems with the periodic INR blood tests. Let your doctors know if you have changed your daily vitamin K intake so they can make the proper adjustments.
- National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements
- "Adams & Victor’s Principles of Neurology, 9e;" Allan H. Ropper, Martin A. Samuels; 2009
- "Gastrointestinal Physiology;" Kim E. Barrett; 2006