Vitamins and Minerals
These are considered essential nutrients—because acting in concert, they perform hundreds of roles in the body. They help shore up bones, heal wounds, and bolster your immune system. They also convert food into energy and repair cellular damage.
- There is a fine line between getting enough of these nutrients and getting too much.
- Eating a healthy diet remains the best way to get the vitamins and minerals you need.
- Although they are all considered micronutrients, vitamins and minerals differ in basic ways. Vitamins are organic and can be broken down by heat, air, or acid. Minerals are inorganic and hold on to their chemical structure.
- Minerals in soil and water easily find their way into your body through the plants, fish, animals, and fluids you consume.
- Vitamins from food and other sources are harder to get into your body because cooking, storage, and simple exposure to air can inactivate these fragile compounds.
- Vitamin D enables your body to pluck calcium from food sources passing through your digestive tract rather than harvesting it from your bones. Vitamin C helps you absorb iron.
- The interplay of micronutrients isn’t always cooperative; vitamin C blocks your body’s ability to assimilate the essential mineral copper and even a minor overload of manganese can worsen iron deficiency.
These are packed into the watery portions of the foods you eat. They are absorbed directly into the bloodstream as food is broken down during digestion or as a supplement dissolves. Your kidneys continuously regulate levels of water-soluble vitamins; excess goes out in urine.
- B vitamins: Biotin (vitamin B7), Folic acid (folate, vitamin B9), Niacin (vitamin B3), Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), Riboflavin (vitamin B2), Thiamin (vitamin B1), Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12
- Vitamin C
Here are some examples of how different vitamins help you maintain health: Generally, water-soluble vitamins should be replenished every few days.
- Release energy. Several B vitamins are key components that help release energy from food.
- Produce energy. Thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, and biotin for energy production.
- Build proteins and cells. B6, B12, and folic acid metabolize amino acids; help cells multiply.
- Make collagen. One of many roles played by vitamin C is to help make collagen, which knits together wounds, supports blood vessel walls, and forms a base for teeth and bones.
- Can stay in the body for long periods of time; several years’ supply of vitamin B12 in your liver; folic acid and vitamin C stores can last more than a couple of days.
- Very high doses of B6—many times the recommended amount of 1.3 milligrams (mg) per day for adults—can damage nerves, causing numbness and muscle weakness.
These gain entry to the blood via lymph channels in the intestinal wall and travel through the body only under escort by proteins that act as carriers. These include: Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin E and Vitamin K. Together this vitamin quartet helps keep your eyes, skin, lungs, gastrointestinal tract, and nervous system in good repair. Here are some of the other essential roles these vitamins play:
- Build bones. Bone formation is impossible without vitamins A, D, and K.
- Protect vision. Vitamin A also helps keep cells healthy and protects vision.
- Interact favorably. Without vitamin E = difficult to absorb/store vitamin A.
- Protect the body. Vitamin E also acts as an antioxidant.
- Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in your body for long periods; toxic levels can build up most likely when taking supplements, rare to get too much of a vitamin just from food.
These are no more important to your health than the trace minerals; they’re just present in your body in greater amounts. Travel through the body in various ways. Potassium, for example, is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, where it circulates freely and is excreted by the kidneys, much like a water-soluble vitamin. Calcium is more like a fat-soluble vitamin because it requires a carrier for absorption and transport. Major minerals include: Calcium, Chloride, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sodium and Sulfur.
One of the key tasks of major minerals is to maintain the proper balance of water in the body. Sodium, chloride, and potassium take the lead in doing this. Three other major minerals—calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium—are important for healthy bones. Sulfur helps stabilize protein structures, including some of those that make up hair, skin, and nails. Having too much of one major mineral can result in a deficiency of another. Here are two examples:
- Salt overload: Calcium binds with excess sodium in the body and is excreted when the body senses that sodium levels must be lowered: too much sodium through table salt or processed foods means losing needed calcium as your body rids itself of the surplus sodium.
- Excess phosphorus: can hamper your ability to absorb magnesium.
Their contributions are just as essential as those of major minerals, they include: Chromium, Copper, Fluoride, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Selenium and Zinc. Trace minerals carry out a diverse set of tasks. Here are a few examples:
- Iron is best known for ferrying oxygen throughout the body.
- Fluoride strengthens bones and wards off tooth decay.
- Zinc helps blood clot, is essential for taste and smell, and bolsters the immune response.
- Copper helps form several enzymes; assists with iron metabolism and the creation of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in the blood.
Too much of one can cause or contribute to a deficiency of another. Here are some examples:
- A minor overload of manganese can exacerbate iron deficiency.
- Too little iodine thyroid hormone production slows, causing sluggishness and weight gain as well as other health concerns. The problem worsens if the body also has too little selenium.
The difference between “just enough” and “too much” of the trace minerals is often tiny. Generally, food is a safe source of trace minerals, but if you take supplements, it’s important to make sure you’re not exceeding safe levels.
A term for any compound that can counteract unstable molecules such as free radicals that damage DNA, cell membranes, and other parts of cells. Your body cells naturally produce plenty of antioxidants to put on patrol. The foods you eat—and, perhaps, some of the supplements you take—are another source of antioxidant compounds. Carotenoids (such as lycopene in tomatoes and lutein in kale) and flavonoids (such as anthocyanins in blueberries, quercetin in apples and onions, and catechins in green tea) are antioxidants. The vitamins C and E and the mineral selenium also have antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are able to neutralize marauders such as free radicals by giving up some of their own electrons.
Are a natural byproduct of energy metabolism and are also generated by ultraviolet rays, tobacco smoke, and air pollution. Free radicals have a well-deserved reputation for causing cellular damage. When immune system cells muster to fight intruders, the oxygen they use spins off an army of free radicals that destroys viruses, bacteria, and damaged body cells in an oxidative burst. Vitamin C can then disarm the free radicals.