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Friday, December 2, 2016

Guest Post: Vitamins in the Apocalypse

by George Groot
George is a member of our Facebook Group and has written for us before.

If you are prepping food, it is easy to get bulk calories in the form of starches. My previous article on proteins focused on ensuring the complete array of amino acids made it into your diet; this article will focus on vitamins.

I prefer to not rely on a daily multi-vitamin for essential nutrition, but in the case of survival it wouldn’t be a bad idea to stock up on a few bottles just in case. But vitamin supplements will eventually run out, and a longer-term solution will be required. The good news is that you can grow most of the vitamins you need from the dirt, and the ones you can’t grow (the B family) you can farm or hunt.

At the cellular level, vitamins are all cofactors and are needed to catalyze necessary chemical reactions. Minerals can also be a specific type of cofactor called a coenzyme. Some vitamins, such as B12, have a mineral component (in this case a cobalt ion) already included. Sometimes they are used whole as a prosthetic group tacked on to a protein, and sometimes they are just a precursor to the actual coenzyme or cofactor. But no matter the terminology, vitamins are important to maintaining your health.

Solubility
Vitamins also come in two main categories, fat soluble and water soluble. Quoting from the linked article:
Water-Soluble Vitamins
All B vitamins and vitamin C are water-soluble. Water-soluble vitamins are easily dissolved in the body. The kidneys remove excess amounts of these vitamins so they can be excreted in the urine. Still, this doesn’t mean that you can take vitamins B and C in unlimited quantities.

There is a misconception that if you consume too much of a water-soluble vitamin, your body will just ‘get rid of it.’ The truth is, there can be problems with excessive amounts of water-soluble vitamins, and upper limits have been set on their consumption.

Fat-Soluble Vitamins
The fat-soluble vitamins are A, D, E, and K. Fat-soluble vitamins are absorbed in the lymph, transported in the blood, and can be stored in the liver and fatty tissues for use as needed.

The fat-soluble vitamins are the ones you really need to be careful about. Because fat-soluble vitamins can be stored in the body, these vitamins can build up to toxic levels when consumed in excessive amounts.
Vitamin A is found in leafy greens like spinach, kale and in carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and butternut squash. As a fat soluble vitamin, feel free to consume it with a little pat of butter or other oil.

The B vitamins are found in the meat of ruminants. If you eat any of the kosher animals (they have cloven hooves and chew the cud), you are not likely to be deficient in any of the B vitamins. If you are a vegetarian, your only real option is vitamin supplements.

Vitamin C is the cofactor for the collagenase enzyme, which puts specific bonds on the collagen proteins to make connective tissue stronger; this is why lack of vitamin C causes the typical leaky gums and easily cut skin seen with scurvy symptoms. It's generally easy to get enough vitamin C from plants and fruits, but even rare meat can contain enough vitamin C to keep you healthy (animal protein is the main source of vitamin C for some Inuit native diets). If you are worried about getting enough vitamin C in winter, grow boxes with kale or spinach; they, and tubers like potato, sweet potato, turnips, and rutabaga, are all rich in vitamin C.

Vitamin D is something your body can create through exposure to sunlight. Ultraviolet B rays cause a tight ring structure to form and you are good to go -- for a while, at least.

Vitamin E, another fat soluble vitamin, is found in large quantities in spinach and in sunflower seeds. Sunflower oil is a decent cooking oil that stores relatively well when not exposed to oxygen.

Vitamin K is another vitamin that I don’t worry about much. If you are eating enough spinach or other greens to get your vitamins E, C, and A, then you are already getting more than ten times the vitamin K you require.

Growing Your Own
Now if you want to grow fresh greens year-round to take care of your A, C, and E needs (getting B from meat and D from sunlight if necessary), a cold frame system will work very well in the temperate regions. Since these plants have little in the way of calorie content, they are less likely to be a target for thieves than crops of squash, root vegetables, or fruits (in their seasons).

I know eating greens can have all the flavor of "blah" mixed with "yuck" to some people, but they are a great source of vitamins that can be grown year round.


Next: Carbs and Fats!

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