Fruit and vegetables are an excellent source of vitamins. Vitamins are essential to the growth and functioning of our bodies, and the only way of meeting our vitamin needs is to consume them in our diet. There are two main types of vitamins, water soluble vitamins and fat soluble vitamins.A balanced diet consisting of a variety of fruit and vegetables as well as cereals, grains, dairy products, oils, fish, and meat should provide all the vitamins we need – without taking additional dietary supplements.
Vitamins In Fruit & Vegetables
An important difference between water and fat soluble vitamins is that fat soluble vitamins can be stored by our bodies, where as water soluble vitamins cannot and need to be eaten regularly. Fruit and vegetables typically contain water soluble vitamins, and this is one of the reasons why we are advised to eat them daily.
Although vitamins are essential for life, there is research that suggests consuming too many may have detrimental effects for our health. This is particularly relevant for fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, which are stored by our bodies, but can also apply to water soluble vitamins (vitamins B and C) if eaten in large amounts, for example in supplement form.
Described below is an introduction to vitamins with links to the relative levels found in different fruits and vegetables. Fruit and vegetables are good sources for some vitamins, but not for others.
You may also like to see our related sections on fruit and vegetable minerals and nutritional composition (energy sources).
The nutritional information has been compiled* by us from information freely available and published by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) statistics on the nutritional make up of food, and combined* with European Food Information Council (EUFIC) information on Recommended Daily Allowances.
Please note the information shown on this website is for comparison purposes only, and is not intended as dietary or medical advice. Please see our disclaimer for further information.
*Based on information as published on their websites in January 2015
Vitamin A (Retinol) In Fruit & Vegetables
Vitamin A is needed for the immune system, healthy skin, and for low light eyesight. Beta carotene from plant sources is also thought to work as an antioxidant.
Fruit and vegetables contain beta carotene rather than vitamin A itself (that is only found in animal source foods). However, the body can make vitamin A from beta carotene.
There appears some indication that taking beta carotene in supplement form and exceeding recommended daily allowances is not beneficial and may sometimes be harmful. Taking vitamin A supplements whilst pregnant may also harm the foetus.
Vitamin B1 (Thiamin) In Fruit & Vegetables
Along with other B vitamins, thiamin helps break down food and keep nerves and tissues healthy.
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)In Fruit & Vegetables
Riboflavin helps break down energy in carbohydrates, and helps the health of skin and hair, eyes, and nerves.
The best source of riboflavin is in diary products, but it is also found in grains, cereals, meat, and fish.
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) In Fruit & Vegetables
Niacin helps release energy from food during digestion, and sustains the nervous and digestive systems. The two forms of niacin, nicotinic acid and nicotimanide, are both found in food.
Good sources of niacin are flour, dairy, eggs, meat, and fish.
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid) In Fruit & Vegetables
Alongside other B vitamins, pantothenic acid helps metabolise foods. It may also help the body fight infections.
Pantothenic acid is widely found across many food groups.
Vitamin B6 In Fruit & Vegetables
Vitamin B6 helps the body digest protein, helps the nervous system, and the production of haemoglobin.
Taking too much B6 in supplements may be harmful, leading to a loss of feeling in the arms and legs.
Vitamin B9 (Folate) In Fruit & Vegetables
Folic acid in its natural form is called folate. Fruit and vegetables are a good source of this vitamin.
Folate helps with cell division and with the manufacture of red blood cells. During pregnancy it plays an important role in the development of the foetus.
Vitamin B12 In Fruit & Vegetables
Vitamin B12 is important in helping the body process folate. It plays a role in digestion, the production of red bloods cells, and the health of the nervous system.
Dairy products, eggs, fish, meat, and cereals are good sources of vitamin B12. Except for a small amount found in mushrooms, fruit and vegetables typically do not contain vitamin B12.
Vitamin C In Fruit & Vegetables
Vegetables and fruit are excellent sources of vitamin C. Vitamin C supports the health of cells and tissue, the healing of wounds, and generally helps the body fight infection.
Vitamin C cannot be stored in the body, so eating foods containing the vitamin on a daily basis is recommended.
Vitamin D In Fruit & Vegetables
Vitamin D is perhaps best known for keeping bones and teeth healthy.
Except for a small amount found in mushrooms, fruit and vegetables typically do not contain vitamin D. The vitamin can be created by our skin with sunlight, or by eating fish, eggs, dairy, or cereals.
Vitamin E In Fruit & Vegetables
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps our immune system and protects against cell damage.
It is found mainly in plant oils like olive oil, but also in nuts, seeds, and cereals.
Vitamin K In Fruit & Vegetables
Fruit and vegetables can contain high levels of vitamin K. The vitamin is good for blood clotting and helping wounds to heal.