Vitamins and Minerals: what you need to know

I apologize now for the length of today’s special post on vitamins and minerals, but we have a lot to cover and I’m keeping it pretty basic. Later we’ll look at whether to supplement or not, but vitamins are a variety of complex compounds that work together in the body. We’re going to look at several different vitamins and minerals, but keep in mind that these different vitamins come in many different forms (look at vitamin B that has as many as 17). Before we look at them, there are several factors that can influence foods content:

  • farming and the use of nitrogen fertilizers have tarnished the vitamin content of today’s fruits and vegetables, which is why it’s important to buy organic when available
  • processing: heating can effect some vitamins differently, although steaming seems to be better than rapid boiling. Cold and freezing seem to have little effect and sun/air drying can preserve/enhance the nutrients of fruits and vegetables
  • oxidation is the main culprit of vitamin loss
  • sugar, refined flour, hydrogenated fats, alcohol, and tobacco zap nutrients, and actually require more intake of vitamin
  • stress (physical and mental=aka all stress) can deplete your body of nutrients quicker, as well

Vitamin A

Importance: antioxidant, stimulate gastric juices vital to protein digestion, role in building strong bones and rich blood, production of RNA, needed to see purple. It is best in natural sources and things like antibiotics, laxatives, fat substitutes and cholesterol lowering drugs can mess with absorption. There is retinol (preformed A) found in yolks, liver and other organs, butterfat, seafood and fish liver oil. Carotene (provitamin A) can be converted to vitamin  A (not without the presence of fat-another reason low-fat is erroneous). Carotenes can be found in fruits and vegetables that are yellow, red, orange, and dark green.

B-Complex

Just so you can grasp the importance, virtually every organ and gland is susceptible to enlargement or malfunction if deficient in B vitamins. Uses: promote healthy nerves, skin, eyes, hair, liver, muscle tone, cardiovascular function, protect against mental disorders, depression and anxiety. Where to find? Fresh fruits and vegetables, seafood, nuts, organ meats (intestinal bacteria can produce B vitamins as well). There are over 17 different B vitamins!

Vitamin C

Important: common cold, tissue growth and repair, strengthen capillary walls, lactation, adrenal function, collagen formation (structure within the body), healing wounds, powerful antioxidant (decrease free radical damage, unwanted inflammation and disease). Vitamin C is destroyed by heat, and alcohol and common drugs (like aspirin and oral contraceptives) can diminish vitamin C stores.

Vitamin D

Importance: calcium and phosphorus absorption, strong bones, healthy teeth, normal growth. Also your body can make D3 from cholesterol when exposed to sunlight, ingestion is still a good idea. Sources: butterfat, eggs, liver, organ meats, fish oils, seafood (notably shrimp and crab).

Vitamin E

Important: circulation, tissue repair, healing, retard aging process, antioxidant, work in conjunction with selenium and zinc in prevention of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Sources: unrefined vegetable oils, butter, organ meats, nuts, seeds, dark leafy greens.

Vitamin K

Important: blood clotting and bone formation. Sources: liver, yolks, butter, dark leafy greens, vegetables within the cabbage family.

Vitamin P

(Bioflavonoids) important: absorption vitamin C, protect capillaries structure, bile production, menstrual flow, prevention of cataracts, antibacterial. Sources: peppers, grapes, the peels of citrus fruits.

Coenzyme Q10

Importance: found in every cells, needed for energy production, powerful antioxidant. It can be found in foods, but most of your body’s need are provided by the body’s own synthesis, but this can be affected by: deficiency in the vitamins to synthesis, cholesterol-lowering drugs or hormone replacement therapy.

Wew! Done with vitamins (we’ll be taking a closer look at most of these in the near future), let’s move on to minerals. There are 7 macrominerals (just like you have macronutrients-can you name them?): calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and sulfur. There are several trace minerals that your body requires as well, even though you only need tiny amounts, their absence can lead to disease (such as iron and the likes that we are about to cover). We either get our minerals in the forms of salt or as a part of the foods that we eat. There are several things that can affect the absorption of minerals:

  • require fat-soluble vitamins and dietary cholesterol to maintain proper transportation
  • they may compete over receptor sites
  • lack hydrochloric acid, over-alkaline environment or enzyme deficiencies may muck with release
  • phytic acid (grains) prevent absorption

How should one get their minerals: mineral-rich water, nutrient-dense foods and beverages, bone broths, unrefined sea salt, small amounts of clay or mud (check out our post on the Benefits of Dirt). Without any further banter here are both the big-dogs of the mineral world, and some of their just as important trace minerals!

Calcium

Important: bones and teeth, heart and nervous system, muscle growth and contraction. Best sources are bone broths and dairy, although they won’t do you much good if: eating grains (phytic acids make calcium less available), you’re not getting vitamin D, consuming sugar or stressed (these last 2 take calcium away from your bones, wicked thieves!)

Chloride

Important: acid/alkaline balance, fluid movement across cell membranes, protein digestion, amylase needed for carbohydrate digestion, brain growth and function. Sources: lacto-fermented beverages, bone broths, celery, coconut, salt.

Magnesium

Important: enzymes, calcium and potassium uptake, nerve transmission, bone formation, metabolism of carbohydrates, acid/alkaline balance. Deficiency can lead to: coronary heart disease, chronic weight loss, obesity, fatigue, epilepsy, and impaired brain function (interestingly chocolate cravings can be a sign of deficiency). Sources: dairy, nuts, vegetables, fish, meat and seafood. Things that can detour from intake: a diet high in carbs, oxalic acid (raw spinach), and phytic acid (again with the grains!) can lead to deficiency.

Phosphorus

Important: bone growth, kidney function, cell growth, acid/alkaline balance. Sources: animal products and nuts. Things that effect: lack of magnesium or calcium, excess soft drinks that can lead to calcium loss and cravings for sugar and alcohol.

Potassium

Important: works with sodium (potassium is high inside the cell fluid), chemical reactions. Sources: nuts, vegetable. Effected too much salt and inadequate fruit and vegetables.

Sodium

Important: water regulation, fluid distribution, muscle contraction, nerve stimulation, acid/alkaline balance, adrenal gland function. Sources: meat broths and zucchini.

Sulphur

Important: chemical structure of several amino acids, protect against infection, block harmful radiation and pollution, slow aging process, sulphur-containing proteins are the building blocks of cell membranes. Sources: cruciferous vegetables, eggs, milk, and animal products.

Trace Minerals: Boron

Important: bones. Found in fruits (note apples), leafy greens, nuts.

Chromium

Important: glucose metabolism, blood sugar regulation, synthesis of fats, cholesterol and protein. Sources: animal products, molasses, nuts, eggs, vegetables.

Cobalt

Important: works with copper to assimilate iron. As it is found in B12, animal products are a good source.

Copper

Important: bone formation, hemoglobin and red blood cells, healthy nerves and immune system, collagen formation, work to zinc and vitamin C, work in conjunction with manganese, magnesium and iodine for memory and brain function. Sources: nuts, molasses, liver (this is the best and most easily assimilated).

Germanium

Important: fight against rheumatoid arthritis, food allergies, fungal overgrowth, and viral infection. Sources garlic, ginseng, mushrooms, and onions.

Iodine

Important: fat metabolism, thyroid function, production of sex hormones, and essential for mental development. Sources: seafood, unrefined sea salt, kelp, fish broth, butter, artichokes, asparagus, dark greens. Things they may interfere: cabbage and spinach raw can block absorption, require sufficient amounts of vitamin A fund in animal fats to be properly utilized.

Iron

Important: part of hemoglobin (healthy blood), form essential parts of enzymes. Sources: eggs, fish, liver, meat (absorbs more readily), and leafy greens.

Manganese

Important: healthy nerves, immune system and blood sugar regulation, formation of milk, and growth of healthy bones. Sources: nuts (pecans!), seeds and butterfat.

Molybdenum

Important: nitrogen metabolism, iron absorption, fat oxidation and normal cell function. Sources: liver, legumes, dark greens.

Selenium

Important: antioxidant, works with vitamin E to protect the immune system and keep a healthy heart function, pancreatic function and tissue elasticity, protect against radiation and toxic minerals. Sources: butter, Brazil nuts, seafood.

Silicon

Important: strong, but flexible bones and healthy cartilage, connective tissue, skin, hair and nails, helps prevent atherosclerosis, protect toxic aluminum. Sources: green vegetables and homemade broths (especially with calf or chicken feet included).

Vanadium

Important: cellular metabolism, formation bones/teeth, role in growth and reproduction, and helps keep cholesterol levels in check. Sources: unrefined vegetables and olives.

Zinc (Last one!)

Important: mental development, healthy reproductive organs, protein synthesis and collagen formation, blood sugar control. Sources: red meat, oysters, fish, nuts, seeds, and ginger. Interfere: need vitamin E to maintain, phytic acid again messes with absorption, and oral contraceptives can diminish levels.

More to come this week on supplementation (here’s a hint I tend to favor natural as often as possible). For more on our fat-burner weight loss programs check out our blog at bodychange.net.

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18 Responses to Vitamins and Minerals: what you need to know

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