Vitamins are organic compounds essential for our body’s normal growth and maintenance. Most vitamins cannot be synthesized by our body, so we must rely on plant and animal foods and food supplements to maintain adequate amounts of Vitamins for normal body functions. Vitamins can be fat-soluble or water-soluble. Fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, D, E, and K dissolve in fat and are stored in the body. Water-soluble vitamins like the B vitamins (B1, B2, B6, B12) and vitamin C that dissolve in water, cannot be stored by the body for long, pass through the kidneys and lost in urine. Except vitamin B12, which is stored in the liver, water soluble vitamins should be taken daily.
Minerals are inorganic substances that we get from food and water. Minerals form only a small percentage of our total body weight, about 4-5%, yet they are very necessary for human metabolism and for maintaining normal health. Minerals too cannot be synthesized in our body so we must get a healthy measure of minerals from out diet for healthy living.
- Only 1% of the total body calcium is needed for the metabolic functions while remaining 99% is utilized to provide strength and structure for the bones and teeth.
- Calcium is the most abundant mineral found in your body. Natural sources of calcium include milk, yogurt and cheese. It is also found in canned salmon and sardines with bones, and green leafy vegetables like broccoli.
- Phosphorus works in conjunction with calcium to form bones, teeth and nerve cells.
- Potassium is mainly involved in building proteins and muscles, controlling acid-base balance and electrical activity of the heart.
- Potassium is found in meats, fishes like salmon, cod, flounder, and sardines. Some fruits and vegetables are also a rich source of potassium.
- If you have potassium deficiency (hypokalemia), it may cause muscle weakness, abnormal heart rhythms and slight rise in blood pressure.
- Iron is the most important mineral for your body. Major functions of iron include oxygen transport, regulation of cell growth and differentiation.
- Hemoglobin contains about two-third of total iron in the body.
- Heme and non-heme are the two forms of dietary iron. Animal foods such as red meat, fish, and poultry are good sources of heme iron. Sources of non-heme iron include lentils and beans.
- Healthy adults absorb about 15-35% of heme iron while the absorption of non-heme is only 2-20%.
- Infants absorb about 50% of iron in the breast milk while only 12% is absorbed in infant formula. Infants poorly absorb iron in cow’s milk and it may also lead to gastrointestinal bleeding in infants.
- Iron deficiency may restrict the supply of oxygen to cells, which ultimately results in fatigue, poor performance at work and decreased immunity. Too much of iron may also be harmful to your body.
- WHO estimate shows 41.8% of pregnant women worldwide are anemic and at least half of this anemia burden is assumed to be caused by iron deficiency
- Preformed vitamin A and provitamin A are the two different types of vitamin A. Meat, poultry, fish, and dairy products are some of the examples of preformed vitamin A, while the latter is rich in fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based products.
- Vitamin E is essential to boost your immune system, widen the blood vessels and prevent blood clot. It is found in many foods like vegetable oils, nuts and seeds and green vegetables.
- Vitamin B12 plays a major role in forming red blood cells, synthesizing DNA and proper functioning of neurological system. Deficiency of vitamin B12 may lead to megaloblastic anemia, fatigue, weakness, constipation, loss of appetite and weight loss. It can even cause numbness and tingling in the hands and feet.
- Animal based foods like fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk and milk products are the best sources for vitamin B12.
- Vitamin E and vitamin C act as an antioxidant that helps prevent cell damage caused by the action of free radicals.
- Vitamin C is naturally found in fruits and vegetables like citrus fruits (orange and grapefruit), broccoli, strawberry, cantaloupe, baked potatoes, and tomatoes to name a few.
- Vitamin C requirement is increased by 35 mg for smokers and those who are exposed to second hand smoke.