Estimated Reading Time 7 Minutes 9 Seconds
The concept of vitamins and minerals contained in food is instilled in each and every one of us as soon as we start schooling. From then on, we have been aware that all food items that we eat on a daily basis give us essential nutrients that nourish and fuel our body, enabling us to go about our day-to-day routine.
Our bodies are comparable to machines that operate every hour of the day to sustain life. Day in and day out, the different systems that make up our body work hand in hand to circulate blood in our bloodstream, digest food, and process different stimuli around us. Like all types of machines, we need raw fuel to ensure that we function efficiently – and this is where vitamins and minerals come in.
Vitamins and minerals are regarded as vital nutrients, each having a specialized function to aid a specific bodily function. When put together, a powerhouse is formed, and a great number of roles are performed by these substances.
Definition and Types of Vitamins
Medical News Today defines vitamins as natural substances obtained from food which are needed by the human body in small amounts for growth and maintenance of good health. We need to ingest food in order to get vitamins because the human body either does not produce enough amount of vitamins, or does not produce them at all.
Medical experts consider an organic chemical compound as vitamin if a living thing cannot produce enough amounts of this substance and has to rely on food to have in his system. To date, there are 13 universally recognized vitamins, which are categorized as fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins.
A study by Colorado State University Extension emphasizes that the categorization of vitamins as fat-soluble and water-soluble is important, since this explains the behavior of each specific vitamin when inside the human body.
The water-soluble vitamin category is comprised 9 vitamins under the vitamins C and B-complex group. Based on its category name, water-soluble vitamins are dissolved by water inside the body. Furthermore, the body needs to utilize water-soluble vitamins right away, because unused vitamins under this category are eliminated by the body through excretion of urine. Daily supply of water-soluble vitamins are highly-recommended to replenish the amount excreted in urine.
The main function of Thiamine or Vitamin B1 is to aid the body in transforming carbohydrates from food into usable energy. Moreover, Thiamine promotes healthy nerve cells and optimum heart function. Vitamin B1 deficiency may cause a condition called beri-beri which causes loss of muscle strength and nerve damage.
Riboflavin or Vitamin B2 is essential for production of healthy red blood cells and overall growth. Like other components of Vitamin B-Complex, Riboflavin also aids in transforming carbohydrates from food into energy. Meeting the required intake of Vitamin B2 is beneficial in fighting free radicals and metabolizing Iron, per The George Mateljan Foundation.
Apart from its contribution on the overall function of the Vitamin B group, Vitamin B3, also known as Niacin, also plays a part in blood circulation and in the production of certain stress-related and sex hormones in the body’s adrenal glands.
Based on the study of University of Maryland Medical Center, it has been shown that Niacin suppresses inflammation.
Niacin has also been used to lower the body’s LDL or bad cholesterol and triglyceride. Other conditions in which Vitamin B3 deems beneficial are diabetes, atherosclerosis and osteoarthritis.
Pantothenic Acid is important in the production of hormones and good cholesterol, in addition to its role in food metabolism.
Pyridoxine or Vitamin B6 plays a role of great importance in overall brain function. It is also important in regulating proteins from food when it is being metabolized by the body.
Vitamin B7, more commonly known as Biotin, is often attributed to strengthening hair and nails. A study by Providence Saint John’s Health Center in California also states that Vitamin B7 is required for the generation of glucose and important fatty acids in the body.
Vitamin B9 or Folate is required for the production of DNA which serves as the body’s blueprint. Folate deficiency in pregnant women is linked to birth defects in infants.
Vitamin B12, also known by its chemical names hydroxycobalamin, methylcobalamin and cyanocobalamin is important in the process of DNA synthesis. Unlike its other counterparts in the Vitamin B Complex formulation, our livers can store Vitamin B12, which in turn lessens the chances of deficiency. Lack of Vitamin B12 may cause certain types of anemia that is more likely to occur in the elderly.
Ascorbic Acid, more commonly known as Vitamin C, promotes the overall health of teeth and gums. In addition to these benefits, this antioxidant aids the human body in absorbing iron, maintaining healthy tissues, and healing of wounds. Lack of Vitamin C in our system may lead to megaloblastic anemia or scurvy, which is characterized by fatigue, sudden weakness and aching limbs, according to Dermnet New Zealand.
Vitamins A, D, E and K are essential nutrients which fall under the fat-soluble category. Colorado State University describes fat-soluble vitamins as substances that are easily absorbed when dietary fat is present. Unlike their water-soluble counterparts, Vitamins A, D, E and K are not easily eliminated from the body as they are stored in fatty tissues and in the liver.
Beta carotene or Vitamin A, promotes good eyesight, healthy bones and teeth, and maintains the softness of tissue, mucus membrane, and skin. Lack of this vitamin may cause night-blindness and kerotomalacia or dryness of cornea in some individuals.
Vitamin D, famously known as the “sunshine vitamin”, aids the body in absorbing calcium for the development of teeth and bones. Unlike majority of vitamins that are acquired from food, Vitamin D is acquired by the body through exposure to sunlight.
Vitamin K is one of the lesser known vitamins with a very significant function. Without it, blood in the body would not be able to coagulate or stick together, leading to incontrollable bleeding.
Definition and Types of Minerals
Same as vitamins, minerals are important substances acquired from food that are required for normal bodily functions. Minerals are categorized as macrominerals and trace minerals, which corresponds to the amount required by the body.
The US Department of Health and Human Services define macrominerals as minerals that are needed by the human body in large amounts to function properly.
Sodium ensures that the various nerves and muscles in the body is functioning properly. Moreover, Sodium promotes fluid balance to keep the right amounts of water in various parts of the body.
Like Sodium, Chloride is also important in fluid balance in the body. Furthermore, Chloride also regulates stomach acids which aid in the digestion process.
In addition to its role in fluid retention and muscular function, Potassium ensures that our nerves are functioning seamlessly in transmitting signals to various receptors.
Most of us are quite familiar with Calcium due to its role in maintain teeth and bone health. Other than this, Calcium aids muscle contraction, blood clotting, and regulation of blood pressure.
Also called trace minerals, microminerals are substances that are required by the body only in small amounts.
Iron is one of the components that make up hemoglobin, which is found in red blood cells. This trace mineral helps transmit oxygen throughout the body, thereby aiding metabolism of energy.
Zinc helps the body in warding off infections and healing wounds. Other than this, this trace mineral is needed in generation of protein and development of the fetus in pregnant women.
Iodine is one of the components that make up the thyroid hormone. This hormone plays a role in regulation of development, growth, and metabolism.
Given the important roles that they play in most bodily processes and functions, meeting the daily requirement of these essential vitamins and minerals will help ensure that we are at our best forms and that our bodily systems are working hand-in-hand in promoting overall health.
Aside from taking vitamin and mineral supplements, a great way to make sure that we are acquiring the nutrients that we need is to eat a balanced diet which is comprised mainly of meat, fruits, and vegetables paired with healthy amounts of carbohydrates and fats.
Have you seen The 8 Week Clean Eating Challenge?
Our 8 week program take you through building and creating your very own tailored food plan. What does this mean for you?. Well you get to pick and choose what you like and what you don’t like. Say you don’t like fish or eggs or mushrooms. You can simply exclude them and still be confident your meal plan will be balanced, nutritious and help you acheive your weight loss goals. Find out more about the next 8 week challenge below.