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Water soluble vitamins

vitamins; cholesterol; folate; folic; acid; vitamin C; ascorbic; B1; B2; B6; B12; niacin; thiamine; riboflavin; pantothenic; biotin; pyridoxine; B3; scurvy; water; soluble ;


This topic is about vitamin C and the B group vitamins - the water soluble vitamins. You can find out about the fat soluble vitamins - A, D, E and K in the topic 'More about vitamins'.

B group vitamins

This is a group of 8 vitamins which are called B group vitamins.

The B group are always in a hurry to go places so you need to top up with these vitamins all the time. (Except for B12 which takes life at a slower pace and has been known to stay in the liver for about 5 years!)
the B group of vitamins

B1- Thiamine (say 'thi-a-min')

B1 helps turns carbohydrates (carb-o-hy-drates), fats and alcohol into energy and helps look after the heart and nervous system by preventing the build up of waste which might damage them.

Where do you get it?

  • Bread
  • Milk
  • Meat such as pork
  • Liver, heart and kidneys
  • Leafy green vegetables (eg broccoli)
  • Beans and sweetcorn 
        food group
  • Egg yolk
  • Brown rice
  • Vegemite**.

Thiamine is so good for you that food laws in Australia make sure that it is added to all flour used for baking bread.

B2 - Riboflavin (say 'Ri-bow-flay -vin')

This vitamin helps release the energy from food and works to help other vitamins, B6 and Niacin, to do their jobs.

  • You have to get it from food every day because it is also a very fast little mover.

Where do you get it?

  • milkMilk
  • Dairy products like cheese and yoghurt
  • Eggs
  • Meat and poultry
  • Vegemite**, Marmite**
  • Some breakfast cereals which have added riboflavin

Make sure that you put milk away in the fridge as riboflavin will disappear if it is left in sunlight!

B3 - Niacin (say 'ni-a-sin' )

A very cooperative vitamin. It works with others to get the energy from food and helps make nerves work so that they can act as the message carriers of the body.

Niacin also helps to keep your skin and digestive system healthy.

Humans can make niacin from an amino-acid in protein, called tryptophan (trip-tow-fan).

Where do you get it?

  • foodMeat
  • Fish and seafood
  • Legumes, eg. lentils and dried beans
  • Nuts, including peanut butter
  • Breakfast cereal often has added Niacin

Pantothenic acid (say 'Pan-toe-then-ic')

I know there are some pretty hard words here but they're not so tough if you break them up like this.

This is a Greek word meaning 'on every side'

It helps to release energy from food and works with cholesterol, fat and red blood cells.

Where do you get it?
This vitamin has a good name because you can get it from lots of animal and plant foods, which is good because this vitamin doesn't stay long either.

Biotin (say 'Bio-tin')

bug Works in a similar way to pantothenic acid and you can get it from lots of foods especially liver, butter and egg yolks. Some of the bugs which live in your bowel make it too. Didn't you know you have bugs in your body? Don't worry, there are lots of them working for you. They're good bugs.

Folate - folic acid (say 'fo-late')

This is a really important vitamin because it helps produce more red blood cells and DNA (which is like a map of how each person is going to be made), keeps the nervous system healthy and helps to use protein. It is important for women to take it in early pregnancy because it helps to make sure they have healthy babies.

Where do you get it?

  • Green vegetables , like broccoli , cabbage, spinach and asparagus
  • Nuts and dried beans
  • Oranges and orange juice
  • Wholegrain bread
  • Vegemite** and Marmite**
  • It is added to some cereals
If your mum is having a baby you'll be able to tell her, "Eat up your greens!" She will need lots of folic acid to grow a strong, healthy brother or sister for you. broccoli

B6 - Pyridoxine (say 'pirri-dox-een')

B6 helps the body use protein, send messages through the nerves and make red blood cells a very vital vitamin and a very busy one!

Where do you get it?

  • Meat and fish
  • vegetablesCereals
  • Banana and avocado
  • Nuts
  • Vegemite**
  • Green vegetables

B12 - Cyanacobalamin (say 'Sy-an-a-co-bal-a-min')

(Wow! This had better be a really great project you are doing because some of these special names are really hard aren't they?)

This vitamin helps folate get into the cells so that it can do its work in producing more cells, making DNA and putting a coat, called myelin (my-el-in), around nerve fibres to protect them.

Where do you get

  • chickenMeat and Poultry
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products

There is no B12 in plant foods

And that's the last of the B group vitamins. They're a pretty important bunch aren't they?

Remember that they are also water soluble, which means that they go through your body very quickly, so you need to get some every day (except for B12. Did you remember?) You learnt something about B12 right at the beginning of this topic so check back if you forgot.

Vitamin C - ascorbic acid (say 'ass-cor-bic a-sid')

This vitamin helps to make collagen (coll-a-gen), a protein that the body needs to make healthy skin, blood, bones, cartilage, teeth and gums. It also helps you to fight off infections.

eat lots of vitamin CIt helps to heal cuts and burns, helps your blood to flow properly and helps you to sleep. Because it doesn't hang around in the body for very long you have to make sure that you get a daily supply.

Vitamin C is needed for the immune system to work well (helps you fight germs), but probably taking lots more than usual does not make you any healthier.

Where do you get it?

  • Fresh, raw fruits like strawberries, guavas and kiwi fruit.
  • Vegetables such as green and red peppers, tomato and broccoli, potatoes.
  • Fruit juices .
  • Citrus fruits like oranges, limes, grapefruit and lemons.

Cooking fruits and vegetables can destroy a lot of the vitamin C, so try to have raw fruit and vegetables if you can (some people like raw peas and carrots much more than cooked ones).

Historical note

In the days before fridges and freezers sailors often went for months without eating fresh fruit and vegetables. They got a disease called scurvy in which their gums got infected and their teeth fell out, they got all confused and didn't know what they were doing and their cuts didn't heal up.  teeth

Captain Cook made his sailors suck lemons and limes and had them eat heaps of sauerkraut (with raw cabbage in it) to keep them healthy on their way to Australia. It worked but he wasn't very popular with sailors who thought that their rum ration was more important! (Some people think that British sailors are called 'Limeys' because of them sucking limes to stay healthy). Limes, lemons and sauerkraut both have lots of vitamin C.

Dr Kim says:

Dr Kim

"If you eat some food from each food group every day you will be giving your body all the vitamins that it needs to keep you healthy.

 If people have a well balanced diet they do not need vitamin tablets."


Memory quiz

How to play: Link the foods listed in the right column with the vitamins in the left column. Some of the foods may belong to more than one vitamin, but for this exercise they can only be linked to one. Check out the 'where do you get it' section under each of the vitamins above.

Click here to open the quiz window

**Please Note: Any products referred to in our health topics are usually well-known brands readily available in Australia. The brand names are given as examples only, and do not necessarily represent the best products, nor the full range of effective products on the market.

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We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.


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