- Not all vitamins are created equal: Beyond supporting different functions in the body, nutrients can typically be categorized as either fat-soluble or water-soluble.
- So, what’s the difference? It really comes down to the way fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins are metabolized in the body.
We probably don’t need to remind you that multivitamins can be a great way to help fill gaps in your diet and support different functions in the body. But for many, how those vitamins are absorbed and metabolized is a bit of a question mark.
The way your body absorbs different vitamins plays a large role in both efficacy and safety, which is why it can be really helpful to understand the difference between water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins.
So what, exactly, is the difference? Let’s talk about how water-soluble vitamins absorb into the body compared with fat-soluble vitamins, which vitamins are water-soluble vs. fat-soluble, and what’s worth knowing about each category.
As the name suggests, a water-soluble vitamin is one that dissolves in water—and as a result, is easily absorbed into the tissues of the body and metabolized more quickly than fat-soluble vitamins.
- Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
- Vitamin B3 (niacin)
- Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B7 (biotin)
- Vitamin B9 (folate)
- Vitamin B12 (cobalamin)
- Vitamin C
Any excess of water-soluble vitamins, like the Vitamin B complex or Vitamin C, are excreted through the urination process. Many B vitamins and Vitamin C can be found in vegetables (like leafy greens and other green vegetables) and fruits (like citrus fruits).
Fat-soluble vitamins dissolve in—you guessed it—fat. These vitamins are absorbed by fat globules within the body and then carried throughout the bloodstream. There are four fat-soluble vitamins, which include:
Fat-soluble vitamins are found in high-fat food sources like egg yolks, liver, beef, fatty fish, and dairy products. Unlike water-soluble vitamins, any excess of fat-soluble vitamins don’t immediately leave the body. Instead, they’re stored in the liver or fatty tissue for later use (2).