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Basic Vitamins and Minerals

Posted May 03 2009 12:00am

Vitamins assist the enzymes that release energy from carbohydrates, proteins and fats, but they do not provide energy themselves, unlike protein, carbohydrates and fats, vitamins do not yield usable energy when broken down.

Vitamins are natural organic substances essential for the proper regulation of reproduction, growth, health, and energy production. Humans are unable to manufacture most of the necessary vitamins and these must be obtained from dietary sources, either as whole foods or supplements.Though its essential to get vitamins from food. Supplements should be taken in addition to meals and with meals for their essential and proper absorption.

There are 13 vitamins, 16 minerals, and one additional dietary component that your body needs but cannot manufacture in sufficient amounts. Acting in concert, these essential vitamins and minerals help keep billions of cells healthy and encourage them to grow and reproduce. Some supply the keys to unlocking the energy in the carbohydrate, fat, and protein in the foods you eat. These essentials are often called micronutrients because your body needs only tiny amounts of them. Yet failing to get even those small quantities virtually guarantees disease. Old-time sailors learned that living for months without fresh fruits or vegetables the main sources of vitamin C causes the bleeding gums and listlessness of scurvy. In some developing countries, people still become blind from vitamin A deficiency. And even in the United States, some children develop the soft, deformed bones of rickets because they don’t get enough vitamin D.

While the absence of key micronutrients hampers good health, their presence in sufficient quantities promotes it. Getting a full complement of iron helps proteins in your blood and muscles pick up and release the oxygen that’s vital to all of your cells. It also fends off the absorption of lead, a heavy metal that can cause widespread damage. The B vitamin folic acid can be a powerful agent in protecting against birth defects and may help ward off heart disease and some forms of cancer. And a combination of calcium, vitamin D, vitamin K, magnesium, and phosphorus protects your bones against fractures.

vitamin and minerals Basic Vitamins and Minerals

Many of these micronutrients interact with one another. Vitamin D enables your body to pluck calcium from food sources passing through your digestive tract. Vitamin C helps you absorb iron. Vitamins and minerals differ in basic ways. Vitamins can be broken down by heat, air, or acid. Minerals are chemical elements that do not change. That means the minerals in soil and water easily find their way into your body through the plants, fish, animals, and fluids you consume. But it’s tougher to shuttle vitamins from food and other sources into your body because cooking, storage, and simple exposure to air can inactivate these more fragile nutrients.

Vitamins and minerals are widely available from the natural foods we eat.  So, before you reach for the vitamin jar, try eating your vitamins from natural foods.   Here are some of the best sources for each:

  • Vitamins
  • Minerals

Vitamin What the vitamin does Significant food sources
B1 (thiamin) Supports energy metabolism and nerve function spinach, green peas, tomato juice, watermelon, sunflower seeds, lean ham, lean pork chops, soy milk
B2 (riboflavin) Supports energy metabolism, normal vision and skin health spinach, broccoli, mushrooms, eggs, milk, liver, oysters, clams
B3 (niacin)
Biotin Energy metabolism, fat synthesis, amino acid metabolism, glycogen synthesis widespread in foods
Pantothenic Acid Supports energy metabolism widespread in foods
B6 (pyridoxine) Amino acid and fatty acid metabolism, red blood cell production bananas, watermelon, tomato juice, broccoli, spinach, acorn squash, potatoes, white rice, chicken breast
Folate Supports DNA synthesis and new cell formation tomato juice, green beans, broccoli, spinach, asparagus, okra, black-eyed peas, lentils, navy, pinto and garbanzo beans
B12 Used in new cell synthesis, helps break down fatty acids and amino acids, supports nerve cell maintenance meats, poultry, fish, shellfish, milk, eggs
C (ascorbic acid) Collagen synthesis, amino acid metabolism, helps iron absorption, immunity, antioxidant spinach, broccoli, red bell peppers, snow peas, tomato juice, kiwi, mango, orange, grapefruit juice, strawberries
A (retinol) mango, broccoli, butternut squash, carrots, tomato juice, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, beef liver
D Promotes bone mineralization self-synthesis via sunlight, fortified milk, egg yolk, liver, fatty fish
E Antioxidant, regulation of oxidation reactions, supports cell membrane stabilization polyunsaturated plant oils (soybean, corn and canola oils), wheat germ, sunflower seeds, tofu, avocado, sweet potatoes, shrimp, cod
K Synthesis of blood-clotting proteins, regulates blood calcium Brussels sprouts, leafy green vegetables, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, liver

Mineral What the mineral does Significant food sources
Sodium Maintains fluid and electrolyte balance, supports muscle contraction and nerve impulse transmissions salt, soy sauce, bread, milk, meats
Chloride Maintains fluid and electrolyte balance, aids in digestion salt, soy sauce, milk, eggs, meats
Potassium Maintains fluid and electrolyte balance, cell integrity, muscle contractions and nerve impulse transmission potatoes, acorn squash, artichoke, spinach, broccoli, carrots, green beans, tomato juice, avocado, grapefruit juice, watermelon, banana, strawberries, cod, milk
Calcium milk, yogurt, cheddar cheese, Swiss cheese, tofu, sardines, green beans, spinach, broccoli
Phosphorus all animal foods (meats, fish, poultry, eggs, milk)
Magnesium Supports bone mineralization, protein building, muscular contraction, nerve impulse transmission, immunity spinach, broccoli, artichokes, green beans, tomato juice, navy beans, pinto beans, black-eyed peas,  sunflower seeds, tofu, cashews, halibut
Iron Part of the protein hemoglobin (carries oxygen throughout body’s cells) artichoke, parsley, spinach, broccoli, green beans, tomato juice, tofu, clams, shrimp, beef liver
Zinc A part of many enzymes, involved in production of genetic material and proteins, transports vitamin A, taste perception, wound healing, sperm production and the normal development of the fetus spinach, broccoli, green peas, green beans, tomato juice,lentils, oysters, shrimp, crab, turkey (dark meat), lean ham, lean ground beef, lean sirloin steak, plain yogurt, Swiss cheese, tofu, ricotta cheese
Selenium Antioxidant.  Works with vitamin E to protect body from oxidation seafood, meats and grains
Iodine salt, seafood, bread, milk, cheese
Copper Necessary for the absorption and utilization of iron, supports formation of hemoglobin and several enzymes meats, water
Manganese Facilitates many cell processes widespread in foods
Fluoride fluoridated drinking water, tea, seafood
Chromium Associated with insulin and is required for the release of energy from glucose
Molybdenum Facilitates many cell processes legumes, organ meats

Note that physical attributes of Eating Disorders are caused by a variety of factors such as vitamin and mineral deficiencies, hormone loss, electrolyte imbalances, continued strain on the body and fatigue.

Nutritional requirements are often slightly different for young children, adolescents, and during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you are concerned about your vitamin intake.

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