The role of vitamins and minerals for our body

Vitamins and minerals

We have discussed in a previous article about the role proteins, carbohydrates and fats play for our body and how to count the calories in order to live a balanced life. Still, our body needs vitamins and minerals as well in order to function properly and assure the vital roles for our life. Vitamins and minerals are not carrying calories but they are vital for absorption and utilization of different nutrients.

We will briefly discuss them in this article with the purpose of giving you a high level overview on what are the vitamins and minerals we need and what is their role. We will also discuss what foods to eat in order to naturally procure these for our body.

Vitamins

Vitamin C

medical (1) Necessary for a healthy skin and in the formation of collagen. Vitamin C is also involved in the formation of blood, hormone production and helps the body absorb iron. It cannot be stored in the body that’s why we need a daily intake of Vitamin C – ideally at every meal.

nutrition (1) Vitamin C is found in mainly in fruits and vegetables, both fresh or frozen, particularly in citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruits), kiwi, strawberries and potatoes with skin. Boiling them will make them lose most of the Vitamin C contained, that’s why it’s best to eat them fresh as much as possible.

Vitamin B

medical (1) There are many Vitamin B types, and they play an important role in the metabolism of fats, carbs and protein, in the manufacture of hemoglobin, RNA and DNA and they also keep our nervous system function normally.

Vitamin B1 – helps process the nutrients from food and release energy. It is found in a variety of foods such as whole grain cereals and breads, pork, legumes, sweetcorn, figs and prunes.

Vitamin B2 – has a similar role to Vitamin B1. We can find it in milk, diary products, white meat, liver, cereals, nuts, mushrooms, broccoli and eggs.

Vitamin B3 – found in meat, especially liver, peanut butter, potatoes, avocado and whole grain cereals.

Vitamin B6 – is vital for for the formation of hemoglobin in the blood. Good sources of it are meat, fish, milk, egg yolks, bananas, avocados, carrots and pineapples.

Vitamin B12 – is important in hemoglobin formation, but it is found only in meat, eggs and diary products. Strict vegetarians need to take an external supplement of this vitamin.

Folic acid – a particular vitamin crucial to the formation of RNA and DNA, it becomes increasingly important during pregnancy. It is found in all foods except sugar and fats. Good sources are meat, liver, green leafy vegetables, nuts and fruits, especially oranges and bananas.

Vitamin D

medical (1) Necessary for maintenance and formation of healthy bone. It is stored in our livers and kidneys.

nutrition (1) The main source of Vitamin D is the sunlight. A healthy 3 to 4 hours of daily exposure supplies the right amount of Vitamin D to the body. In foods, it can be found in oily fish, eggs, liver and kidneys. But careful with adding too much Vitamin D in your body, it can be toxic and dangerous.

Vitamin A

medical (1) Helps our bodies fight infection and strengthens our skin and membranes. It’s also vital to a good eyesight. There are two types of Vitamin A: retinol which is found in animal fat and is toxic if too much. The other type is carotene, this one is not toxic. It is found in green and yellow vegetables, and is best absorbed if these vegetables are cooked or mashed up.

nutrition (1) Good food sources of Vitamin A include full fat milk, dairy products, egg yolks, liver, fish, dark leaves of leafy vegetables and carrots.

Vitamin E

medical (1) Found in all our cell membranes it helps healing and slows ageing of the skin. It also assists our body to use other vitamins.

nutrition (1) Good food sources include vegetable oils, nuts and seeds, avocados, whole cereals, oily fish and spinach.

Vitamin K

medical (1) Essential in the formation of our blood clotting. It can be found in plant foods, but our body produces it as well in our gut.

nutrition (1) Main dietary sources of Vitamin K are the leafy greens, yogurt, egg yolks and polyunsaturated oils (read the “fats” section to understand what these are).

Vitamin C and Vitamin B are water soluble and therefore a daily intake is needed in order for them to properly do their role. While the rest of the vitamins (D, A, E, K) are fat soluble and can be stored in the body to be used on a longer period. Just careful with Vitamin A and D, which are toxic if too much is taken in.

Minerals

Like vitamins, minerals don’t contain calories but they are essential for the proper functioning of our body. We will briefly go through them and see how they make a difference.

Calcium

Is the main mineral found in our body, it helps the growth and regeneration of our bones and teeth. Even when we stop growing, calcium is very much needed for replacement and fixing. Calcium is also needed for blood clotting and nerve and muscle functioning including the beating of our heart muscles.

The primary dietary source for calcium is dairy products, milk being the outstanding one. Other sources are fish, especially the ones with edible bones (tinned sardines), dark green vegetables, potatoes, dried figs, nuts, hard (chalky) water and bread.

We need Vitamin D in order for our body to absorb calcium.

Magnesium

Also necessary for bone formation and the absorption of other minerals and vitamins.

Primary sources of magnesium are: meat, whole grain cereals, green vegetables and nuts.

Iodine

Is essential for the correct functioning of the thyroid gland. It is found in fruits and vegetable, but its depended on the make-up of the soil in which these have grown. In certain areas the soil and water are iodine depleted, so we need to take supplements in these cases.

Besides fruits and vegetables, good iodine sources are fish, shellfish, fish oil and table salt.

Zinc

Zinc is essential in many bodily reactions, in the RNA and DNA formation and helps in the healing process of the body.

Good sources of zinc include meat, dairy products, nuts, lentils, coca, sweetcorn and fresh mango.

Sodium

We take most of our sodium mineral from salt (sodium chloride). It’s impossible not to get the needed amount of it, although we usually eat far more salt than we need. To eat less salt, stop buying prepared or ready cooked meals and add less and less salt to the foods you prepare. This way, your taste will adjust as well.

Iron

Iron is essential for the formation of hemoglobin in our red blood cells. Our body produces iron in the gut, but that is not well absorbed if we’re lacking the right amount of Vitamin C.

Rich sources of iron include red meat, liver and kidney, egg yolks, shrimps and fish, beans, lentils and cereals. Adequate amounts of iron can be found in apricots, peaches, chocolate, spinach and watercress.

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