Understanding Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins are essential nutrients your body needs in small amounts for various roles in the human body. Vitamins are divided into 2 groups: Water-soluble (B-complex and C) and Fat-soluble (A,D,E and K). Water-soluble vitamins don’t hang around for long so they need regular replacement.

The fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the liver and fatty tissues, and are eliminated much more slowly. Therefore they pose a greater risk for toxicity when taken in excess, so you should be wary of taking mega-doses of them.

Vitamin A (Retinol) needed for:
* maintaining normal reproduction
* good vision
* formation and maintenance of healthy skin, teeth and soft tissues of the body
* immune function (has anti-oxidant properties).

Found in: Milk, cheese, eggs, fatty fish, yellow-orange vegetables and fruits such as carrots, pumpkin, mango, apricots, and other
vegetables such as spinach and broccoli.

Vitamin B1 (Thiamin) needed for:
* supplying energy to tissues
* breaking down and using the energy and nutrients in carbohydrates, proteins and fats
* nerve function

Found in: Fortified breakfast cereals, baking flour, wholegrains, wheatgerm, yeast, legumes, nuts, pork.

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) needed for:
* obtaining energy from food
* making Vit B6 active in the body
* reducing a key cardiovascular risk factor
* production of red blood cells and body growth

Found in: Milk, cheese, yoghurt, fortified breads and breakfast cereals.

Vitamin B3 (Niacin) needed for:
* obtaining energy from food
* breaking down and using carbohydrates, proteins and fats and their building blocks
* maintaining healthy skin and nerves
* releasing calcium from cellular stores

Found in: Beef, pork, liver, beans, wholegrain cereals, eggs, cow’s milk.

Pantothenic acid needed for:
* making, hormones, vitamin A and D and substances that help make nerves work
* helps make new fats and proteins in the body

Found in: Chicken, beef, potatoes, oat-based cereals, tomatoes, egg yolks, whole grains.

Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) needed for:
* breaking down,using and reforming the building blocks of proteins

Found in: Muscle and organic meats, fortified breakfast cereals, brussel sprouts, green peas, beans, split peas, and fruit.

Vitamin B12 (Cyano-cobalamin) needed for:
* normal nerve function
* normal blood function

Found in: Beef, lamb, fish, veal, chicken, eggs, milk and other dairy products.

Folate needed for:
* breaking down and using the building blocks of proteins
* the processes of tissue growth and cell function
* maintaining good heart health
* preventing neural tube defects in newborns

Found in: Cereals, cereal products, vegetables eg broccoli, legumes and fruit eg oranges.

Biotin needed for:
* breaking down and using the building blocks of fats and proteins

Found in: Meats and cereals.
Note: eating raw egg whites prevents absorption of biotin.

Choline needed for:
* making nerve cell transmitters and cell membranes
* inflammatory and allergic response
* healthy kidneys and liver
* reducing the risk of heart disease
* fat and cholesterol transport and break down in the body

Found in: Milk, eggs, peanuts, wheat germ, dried soybeans.

Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid) needed for:
* protects against oxidative damage
* aiding absorption of iron and copper
* formation of collagen
* healthy bones
* helps fight infection
* helps regenerate and stabilise other vitamins such as vitamin E or folate

Found in: Blackcurrants, orange, grapefruit, guava, kiwi fruit, raspberries, sweet peppers (Capsicum), broccoli, sprouts.

Vitamin D needed for:
* absorption of calcium and phosphorus
* maintenance of calcium levels in blood
* immune function
* healthy skin
* muscle strength

Found in: Sunlight on skin allows the body to produce Vitamin D. Few foods contain significant amounts however main dietary sources are fortified margarine, salmon, herrings, mackerel, and eggs.

Vitamin E (Tocopherol) needed for:
* acts as antioxidant particularly for fats
* keeping heart, circulation, skin and nervous system in good condition

Found in: Oils and margarines, fats of meats, chicken, fish, wheat germ, , spinach, cashews, peanuts, almonds, sunflower seeds.

Vitamin K (phylloquinone) needed for:
* normal blood clotting

Found in: Spinach, salad greens, cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, soybean oil, canola oil, margarines

Calcium needed for:
* development and maintenance of bones and teeth
* good functioning muscles and nerves
* heart function

Found in: Milk, cheese, yoghurt, bony fish, legumes, fortified soy beverages and fortified breakfast cereals.
Note: the body excretes calcium with salt in urine, so eat less salt to retain your calcium.

Chromium needed for:
* enhancing the action of insulin to regulate blood sugar

Found in: Widely found in foods such as yeast, eggs, meat, whole grains, cheese.

Copper found in:
* the functioning of several enzymes
* formation of connective tissue
* iron metabolism and blood cell formation
* nervous system, immune system and cardiovascular system function

Found in: Organ meats, seafood, nuts, seeds, wheat bran cereals, whole grains.

Fluoride needed for:
* healthy teeth and bones

Found in: Fluoridated water, fish, tea.

Iodine needed for:
* normal thyroid function (important in the growth and development of central nervous system)
* energy production
* oxygen consumption in cells

Found in: Salt water fish, shellfish, seaweed, iodised salt, vegetables (if there is iodine in the soil where they are grown).
Note: Severe deficiencies can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, infant mortality, congenital abnormalities etc.

Iron needed for:
* Haemoglobin in red blood cells (important for transport of oxygen to tissues)
* component of myoglobin (muscle protein)

Found in: Red meats – beef, lamb, veal, pork, fish, chicken and wholegrain cereals.
Note: Iron absorption from plant sources eg cereals or green leafy vegetables is much lower than from animal sources so 80% more is required in the food to get the same amount absorbed. Vitamin C helps with absorption.

Magnesium needed for:
* the functioning of more than 300 enzyme systems
* energy production
* regulating potassium levels
* the use of calcium
* healthy bones

Found in: Green vegetables, legumes, peas, beans, lentils, nuts, wholegrains and cereals

Manganese needed for:
* healthy bones
* carbohydrate, cholesterol and protein metabolism

Found in: Cereal products, tea, vegetables.

Molybdenum needed for:
* breakdown of proteins

Found in: Legumes, wholegrain products, nuts.

Phosphorus needed for:
* forms part of DNA and RNA
* buffers the acidity of urine
* protection of acid/base balance of blood
* storage and transport of energy
* helps activate some proteins

Found in: Widely distributed in natural foods eg dairy, meat, dried fruit, eggs, cereals.

Potassium needed for:
* nerve impulses
* muscle contraction
* regulates blood pressure

Found in: Leafy green vegetables, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, eggplant, pumpkin, root vegetables. Also moderately abundant in
beans, peas, bananas, avocados, milk, yoghurt
Note: Potassium has a beneficial effect in offsetting the effects of sodium (salt) on blood pressure.

Selenium needed for:
* antioxidant
* thyroid metabolism
* part of several functional proteins in body

Found in: Seafood, poultry, eggs and to a lesser extent other muscle meats and cereal foods (content varies widely with soil

Sodium needed for:
* maintain water balance throughout the body
* nerve impulses
* transport of molecules across cell walls

Found in: Most take-away and processed foods eg bread, butter, margarine, deli meats, cheese, cereals. It is also a major component of table salt and baking soda.
Note: It is important to use only moderate amounts of salt as recommended in the Dietary Guidelines.

Zinc needed for:
* component of enzymes that help maintain structure of proteins and regulate gene expression
* needed for growth, immunity appetite and skin integrity

Found in: Meats, fish, poultry, cereals, dairy foods.

Note: availability from animal sources is greater than that from plant sources so vegetarians need 50% higher intakes.
Your friend and mentor,


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