What Do You Know About Fat-Soluble Vitamins? (2024)

When it comes to vitamins, there are two big camps: The fat-soluble types and the water-soluble varieties.

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To keep your body functioning at its best, you need adequate amounts of both.

And when it comes to fat-soluble vitamins, there are some tips and tricks you should consider to ensure you’re getting the most from your daily intake.

The fat-soluble vitamins areA, D, E and K. They tend to come from animal and dairy products but can also be found in some fruits and vegetables. And they’re important for several functions in your body, including your vision, bone health, immunity and blood clotting.

We talked with family physician Matthew Goldman, MD, about each of these fat-soluble vitaminsand how to get the most out of these important nutrients.

Which vitamins are fat soluble?

There are four fat-soluble vitamins:

  • Vitamin A.
  • Vitamin D.
  • Vitamin E.
  • Vitamin K.

Dr. Goldman breaks each down, including what they do, how much you need and where to find them.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is most closely associated with your vision. It also plays a big role in keeping your skin and hair healthy and boosting your immunity.

How much you should get

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends a daily value of 900 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin A for adults and childrenaged 4 and older.

Vitamin A foods

Your body doesn’t naturally create vitamin A. It only comes from the foods you eat. Vitamin A is found in animal products, as well as some fruits andvegetables, particularly orange ones.

FoodServing sizeMicrograms per serving
Sweet potatoes1 potato1,403
Spinach1/2 cup573
Raw carrots1/2 cup459
Pickled Atlantic herring3 ounces219
Cantaloupe1/2 cup135
Sweet red peppers1/2 cup117
Mango1 mango112
Hard-boiled eggs1 large egg75
Black-eyed peas1 cup66
Dried apricots5 apricots63
Food
Sweet potatoes
Serving size
1 potato
Micrograms per serving
1,403
Spinach
Serving size
1/2 cup
Micrograms per serving
573
Raw carrots
Serving size
1/2 cup
Micrograms per serving
459
Pickled Atlantic herring
Serving size
3 ounces
Micrograms per serving
219
Cantaloupe
Serving size
1/2 cup
Micrograms per serving
135
Sweet red peppers
Serving size
1/2 cup
Micrograms per serving
117
Mango
Serving size
1 mango
Micrograms per serving
112
Hard-boiled eggs
Serving size
1 large egg
Micrograms per serving
75
Black-eyed peas
Serving size
1 cup
Micrograms per serving
66
Dried apricots
Serving size
5 apricots
Micrograms per serving
63

Vitamin D

Known as the “sunshine vitamin,” your body creates vitamin D from exposure to sunlight. It’s found naturally in very few foods.

Vitamin D is important for bone and muscle health and can help protect you from osteoporosis. It also supports your immune system and promotes brain health.

How much you should get

The FDA recommends a daily value of 15 mcg of vitamin Dfor adults and childrenage 1and older.

Babies under 1-year-old need about 10 micrograms of vitamin D per day. Vitamin D doesn’t get passed in breast milk, so babies who are breastfed/chestfed should get a daily vitamin D supplement. Formula-fed babies also need vitamin D supplements for their first several months of life, until they drink at least 32 ounces of vitamin D-fortified formula per day. Your child’s pediatrician can best advise you on your baby’s nutritional needs.

Vitamin D foods

You get most of your vitamin D through exposure to sunlight, rather than food. It’s not found in many foods naturally. But some packaged foods may be fortified with vitamin D.

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FoodServing sizeMicrograms per serving
Cod liver oil1 tablespoon34
Cooked rainbow trout3 ounces16.2
Cooked sockeye salmon3 ounces14.2
White mushrooms1/2 cup9.2
2% milk (vitamin D-fortified)1 cup2.9
Vitamin D-fortified soy and oat milks1 cup2.5 to3.6
Vitamin D-fortified cereal1 serving (as listed on nutrition label)2
Food
Cod liver oil
Serving size
1 tablespoon
Micrograms per serving
34
Cooked rainbow trout
Serving size
3 ounces
Micrograms per serving
16.2
Cooked sockeye salmon
Serving size
3 ounces
Micrograms per serving
14.2
White mushrooms
Serving size
1/2 cup
Micrograms per serving
9.2
2% milk (vitamin D-fortified)
Serving size
1 cup
Micrograms per serving
2.9
Vitamin D-fortified soy and oat milks
Serving size
1 cup
Micrograms per serving
2.5 to3.6
Vitamin D-fortified cereal
Serving size
1 serving (as listed on nutrition label)
Micrograms per serving
2

Vitamin D deficiencies are common. And vitamin D supplements can be beneficial for a lot of people, particularly people who have limited exposure to sunlight and people with darker skin. We’ll talk more about vitamin D deficiencies in a bit.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant. That means it helps fight off the free radicals that lead to aging and chronic disease. You’ll often see vitamin E as an ingredient in skin care products, particularly products marketed as “anti-aging” or “softening.”

As part of your diet, research on vitamin E is ongoing. But there’s evidence to show that vitamin E may provide some protection from heart disease, cancer, eye disorders and cognitive decline.

How much you should get

The FDA recommends a daily value of 15 milligrams (mg) of vitaminE for adults and children 4 and older.

Vitamin E foods

Many nuts and oils are natural sources of vitamin E. Some packaged foods may also be fortified with vitamin E.

FoodServing sizeMilligrams per serving
Wheat germ oil1 tablespoon20.3
Sunflower seeds1 ounce7.4
Almonds1 ounce6.8
Sunflower oil1 tablespoon5.6
Safflower oil1 tablespoon4.6
Hazelnuts1 ounce4.3
Peanut butter2 tablespoons2.9
Peanuts1 ounce2.2
Corn oil1 tablespoon1.9
Spinach1/2 cup1.2
Food
Wheat germ oil
Serving size
1 tablespoon
Milligrams per serving
20.3
Sunflower seeds
Serving size
1 ounce
Milligrams per serving
7.4
Almonds
Serving size
1 ounce
Milligrams per serving
6.8
Sunflower oil
Serving size
1 tablespoon
Milligrams per serving
5.6
Safflower oil
Serving size
1 tablespoon
Milligrams per serving
4.6
Hazelnuts
Serving size
1 ounce
Milligrams per serving
4.3
Peanut butter
Serving size
2 tablespoons
Milligrams per serving
2.9
Peanuts
Serving size
1 ounce
Milligrams per serving
2.2
Corn oil
Serving size
1 tablespoon
Milligrams per serving
1.9
Spinach
Serving size
1/2 cup
Milligrams per serving
1.2

Vitamin K

Vitamin K helps build strong bones, regulates blood clotting and keeps your blood pressure in check.

How much you should get

The FDA recommends a daily value of 120 mcg of vitamin Kfor adults and childrenage 4 and older.

People who are taking a blood thinning medication, such as warfarin (Coumadin®), should talk with a healthcare provider about their recommended vitamin K intake. That’s because large quantities of vitamin K can raise the risk of blood clots for people on those medications.

Vitamin Kfoods

There are two types of vitamin K: vitamin K1 and vitamin K2. They do similar things for your body, but come from different food sources.

Vitamin K1 is typically associated with leafy greens and other veggies. Vitamin K2 is mostly found in dairy and animal products.

These foods are high in vitamin K:

FoodServing sizeMicrograms per serving
Nattō (fermented soy)3 ounces850
Collard greens 1/2 cup530
Boiled turnip greens 1/2 cup426
Raw spinach 1/2 cup72.5
Raw kale 1/2 cup57
Cooked broccoli 1/2 cup110
Dry roasted cashews 1/2 cup80
Roasted soybeans 1/2 cup43
Soybean oil 1 tablespoon25
Prepared frozen edamame 1/2 cup21
Food
Nattō (fermented soy)
Serving size
3 ounces
Micrograms per serving
850
Collard greens
Serving size
1/2 cup
Micrograms per serving
530
Boiled turnip greens
Serving size
1/2 cup
Micrograms per serving
426
Raw spinach
Serving size
1/2 cup
Micrograms per serving
72.5
Raw kale
Serving size
1/2 cup
Micrograms per serving
57
Cooked broccoli
Serving size
1/2 cup
Micrograms per serving
110
Dry roasted cashews
Serving size
1/2 cup
Micrograms per serving
80
Roasted soybeans
Serving size
1/2 cup
Micrograms per serving
43
Soybean oil
Serving size
1 tablespoon
Micrograms per serving
25
Prepared frozen edamame
Serving size
1/2 cup
Micrograms per serving
21

How fat-soluble vitamins work

As fat-soluble vitamins, vitamins A, D, E and Kdissolve in fat and oils.

That means the fat-soluble vitamins in the foods you eat get absorbed by the fats you eat. It’s fat that allows them to get into yourbloodstream, circulate all over your body and keep you in tip-top shape.

“Fat-soluble vitamins are best absorbed when eaten with healthy fats,” Dr. Goldman explains.

That means that along with your vitamin-rich foods, you’ll get the most nutritional bang for your buck if you layer on a bit of healthy fat, too. That can be foods like avocados, olive oil, seeds, nuts and vegetable oil.

But you probably don’t need to think about it too hard if you’re already eating a relatively well-balanced diet.

“If you’re eating a variety of whole foods, you’ll most likely get enough healthy fats in your diet to absorb these vitamins,” Dr. Goldman notes.

If you’re relying on supplements to get your fill of fat-soluble vitamins, take them along with a healthy snack or meal.

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They get stored in your body

Unlike water-soluble vitamins, which are quickly passed through your body and excreted in your urine, your body stores up fat-soluble vitamins like a rainy-day fund.

“Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in your body’s fatty tissue and in your liver for a long time,” Dr. Goldman explains.

Because your body holds on to fat-soluble vitamins, most people who have adequate access to nutritious foods get plenty of vitamins A, E and K in their diets without trying too hard.

Vitamin D deficiencies, on the other hand, are pretty common. That’s because vitamin D isn’t readily found in a lot of foods, and many people don’t get enough sunlight for their bodies to make sufficient amounts of vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency has even been called “an ignored epidemic.” More than a billion people across the globe have vitamin D deficiency.

But there’s another side to it. Because fat-soluble vitamins stick around in your body, it’s possible to get too much of a good thing.

“It’s possible for fat-soluble vitamins to become toxic in excess. So, it’s important not to exceed the recommended daily dose,” Dr. Goldman warns. “Generally, it’s best to get fat-soluble vitamins from food sources rather than supplements, unless a healthcare provider has specifically recommended supplements for you.”

In other words, you’re probably not going to get excessive or dangerous amounts of vitamins A, D, E and K from your diet. But if you’re taking supplements, too, you’ll want to be careful about going overboard.

If you have questions about whether you’re getting the right amount of fat-soluble vitamins in your diet, be sure to talk with a healthcare provider.

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What Do You Know About Fat-Soluble Vitamins? (2024)
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