Vitamins and the Plants You Can Find Them In

By Marni Wasserman

The vitamins you get from plant sources are essential for growth, vitality, and health. They’re the cornerstones of proper digestion, elimination, and resistance to disease. Here are some of the top ones:

  • Vitamin A: Great for eyesight and night vision. It’s found in a variety of yellow and orange fruits and vegetables, as well as leafy green vegetables.

  • B vitamins: The family of B vitamins includes B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, and B12. B vitamins have many functions, which means your body needs a constant supply of them. They’re helpful for managing stress, fatigue, anxiety, nervousness, and insomnia. The main food sources are the germ (the nutrient-dense component of grains) and bran of wheat and rice husks, and the outer portion of whole grains.

    • B12: Has an important role in aiding the nervous system and helps with energy and longevity. It’s one of the few vitamins for which you need to take supplements when you’re on a plant-based diet because it’s not all that abundant in plant-based foods.

      Fermented foods such as tempeh and miso are sources, but unless you’re eating those by the truckload, you probably aren’t getting enough vitamin B12 naturally, so be sure to take your B12 supplement.

    • B9 (folate or folic acid): Essential for bodily functions and the formation of red blood cells. It’s also essential for brain development and function. You can find it in green leafy vegetables in abundance — especially in spinach, kale, and beet greens.

  • Vitamin C: Helpful to the immune system, the building of connective tissue, and adrenal support. It can be found in citrus fruits, cantaloupe, peppers, strawberries, cabbage, tomatoes, and green leafy vegetables.

  • Vitamin D: An essential vitamin for the immune system and overall bone health. It’s mostly found in animal-based foods, but fear not. This is the “sunshine vitamin,” so just get a good 15 to 30 minutes of sunlight a day depending on your skin type, and that should replenish your stores of vitamin D. In the darker, colder months, you may want to consider taking a supplement.

    If you get adequate sun exposure in the spring and summer, your body’s reserve of vitamin D should supply your needs during the winter, so you may not need supplements.

  • Vitamin E: An antioxidant that is helpful in protecting cells from oxidation and preventing aging and chronic disease. The best sources are grains, nuts, and seeds.

As long as you eat a well-balanced, colorful, and varied diet that is rich in plant-based foods, you should get your daily supply of these nutrients. However, in some cases additional supplementation may be required under the care of your health practitioner.

As a general guideline, as long as you’re eating at least two to three servings of whole grains, more than four servings of green vegetables, and two or more servings of colorful fruits each day, you should be more than on your way to meeting your vitamin doses.