Vitamins and minerals are imperative compounds for the human body. The purpose of vitamins and minerals is to assist with growth and function.
Unfortunately the body cannot make the essential nutrients it need by itself and needs to be procured via food. On the other hand, supplements are an alternative to acquiring these compounds without the need to ingest various food sources.
Although taking vitamins and minerals in a capsule/tablet form is convenient, keep in mind the likelihood of exceeding the recommended dose which may lead to harmful side effects. Therefore, it cannot be contested that the best form of nutrients, derives from good quality fruit, vegetables and poultry.
Type of Vitamins
There are two main categories of vitamins fat soluble and water soluble.
Fat soluble vitamins – Vitamin A, D, E and K
The fat soluble vitamins are stored in the liver and fatty tissues. Some examples of fat soluble foods are dairy, oily fish, vegetable oils, butter and animals fats, because these compounds stay in the body for a significant amount of time, it is not necessary to take them on a daily basis. Bi weekly to three times a week should suffice, as the body functions on the stored fat soluble vitamins.
- Essential for bone growth and tissue development
- Maintenance of immune system again bacteria and viruses
- Protects the skin and mucous membrane (nose, throat, eyes etc)
- Helps to enhance vision, especially dim in locations or at nighttime
Good sources of vitamin include fish, beta carotene (a form of vitamin A) enriched fruit and vegetables i.e carrots, mangoes, melon, spinach, kale, butternut squash, pumpkin.
Classified as a “vitamin” when in reality, it replicates a hormone, since it regulates phosphorus and calcium. Vitamin D is crucial for bone development, without it can result in deformities like rickets in children and/or osteoporosis in adults. We get most of our vitamin D from the sun, due to being packed with an abundance properties. People who live in colder climates that tend to stay indoors, black people and Asians are more susceptible to a deficiency in this vitamin.
- Contains an abundance of antioxidants (fight free radicals which harm cells)
- Reduces the risk of inflammation
- Lowers the risk of heart disease and promotes HDL healthy fats
- Helps to maintain the cell structure and protect against skin damage
Vitamin E can be found in avocados, nuts, seeds, squash, oily fish (salmon, tuna etc..)
Important for the formation of blood clotting. Thrombocytes are cells which assist with the development of a clotting agent which aids in the healing of wounds. The richest source of vitamin K can be found in vegetable oils and dark leafy vegetables.
Water soluble vitamins – B and C
These vitamins are a stark contrast in the respect that they need to be taken quite regularly, as the body does not store them. Once the body has absorbed the nutrients it needs, the excess is discarded through urine. Interestingly as the body does not store vitamin B and C, this eliminates the possibility of potential side effects. Water soluble vitamins can be found in grains, fruit and vitamins and can be easily destroyed during heat/cooking (where most nutrients are lost).
There are several types of B vitamins and they are responsibility for different bodily functions.
Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)
- Assists the body with breaking down carbohydrates and releasing food for energy
- Processes fats and alcohol
- Ensures tissue, muscles and nerve are working correctly
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
- Helps to absorb iron and procedure red blood cells
- Maintain the skin, eye and nervous system
- Breakdowns by carbohydrates from food to utilise as energy
Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
- Helps to breaks down food into energy
- processes cholesterol (fats that form part of the cardiovascular system)
- Maintain the digestive and nervous system
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)
- Plays a crucial role in how the body metabolises food to yield energy
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
- Processes and uses carbohydrates, fats and protein as energy and stores accordingly
- Assist with the formation of red blood cells
Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid)
- Produce and maintain the function of blood cells (important during pregnancy and infancy)
- Reduces the risk of defect/disease caused by the nervous system.
Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)
- B12 works in union with Folic acid, ensuring the body produces healthy red blood cells
- Releases energy from the body
- Maintains nervous system
Biotin (Vitamin H or B7)
- Metabolises proteins, fats and carbohydrates and processes glucose (blood sugar)
- Promote cell growth for healthy hair, skin and nails
Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)
Vitamin C is a crucial part of the producing collagen. Collagen is an essential structural protein which is needed to ensure connective tissue for joints, organs etc… are positively maintained. Ascorbic acid has good level of antioxidants which protect cells from any long term damage and assists with the healing of wounds. Fruits such as Strawberries, tomatoes, orange and other citrus fruit are enriched with vitamin C.
Minerals – what are they and why do we need them?
Minerals are another important component that is essential for the body. We obtain minerals from eating food (Fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, poultry and grains) and drinking water. There are a large number of different minerals, which play a role in the development and maintenance of a healthy human body. In a nutshell minerals are used for;
- Covert food we ingest into energy
- Building strong teeth, skin, bones and other organs
- Regulating body fluids into and outside of the cells
Chloride, potassium, magnesium, sodium and calcium are all electrolyte minerals. Electrolyte minerals disintegrate in water, forming an electrical charged fragment known as a “ion”. Electrical impulses are transmitted to the body, sending messages to the nerves to coordinate muscle movement, sight and even the ability to think.
Sodium is needed to keep water retention at bay. Excess levels of sodium forces the cardiovascular system to work harder which can lead to high pressure and permanent damage to the blood vessels. Similarly potassium is necessary for stabilising blood pressure and regulating the bodies fluid.
Other minerals include Iron which helps produce red blood cells, Zinc & Copper which repair tissue and produces new cells/enzymes, Copper, Selenium & Phosphorus – Maintains bones/immune system and healthy red and white blood cells against damage, Iodine – functions the thyroid hormone/metabolism, Chromium – insulin regulation, Cobalt & Molybdenium – breakdown and activate enzymes and finally, Sulphur – promote healthy nails, skin and hair.