Vitamins are organic compounds that the body needs to sustain life. These compounds are essential for life in very small amounts. Since our bodies cannot synthesize vitamins quickly enough to meet its needs, we must derive vitamins from our diets.
Vitamins have three basic characteristics:
• They are present in natural compounds in food in very small amounts.
• They are essential for normal growth and function of the body.
• If a vitamin is absent from the diet, it will cause a specific deficiency in the body.
Vitamins are characterized as either Fat soluble or Water soluble.
Fat soluble vitamins– These types of vitamins are stored in the lipids in the body and need not be replenished every day. Examples of fat soluble vitamins are vitamins A, E and D and K.
Water soluble vitamins– These types of vitamins dissolve in water. Because they are flushed out of the body every day, they need to be replenished on a daily basis. Examples of water soluble vitamins are vitamins C and the B complex vitamins.
Minerals are nonorganic substances found in nonliving things of the earth such as rocks and ore. Minerals required for the human body are normally supplied by the plant foods we consume. Plants provide these minerals from the soli in which they grow.
The following minerals are essential for health:
Other minerals called Trace Elements are present in much smaller amounts but are still essential for health. Trace minerals include:
MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT VITAMINS AND MINERAL SUPPLEMENTATION
As a nutrition major, one of the most common misconceptions I hear when speaking with those new to vitamin supplementation is that you can skip eating healthy foods and just replace it with a multivitamin. This is false. Vitamins do not replace a healthy diet. In fact, vitamins act as catalysts in the body which means they need food in order to do their job. The vitamins themselves are either coenzymes or form an integral part of a coenzyme- small organic molecules required for catalytic function of enzymes. Enzymes are necessary for health in that they aid in digestion of carbohydrates, starches, and also in detoxifying our body. In addition, they play a crucial role in blood sugar regulation and weight maintenance.
WHAT VITAMINS PROVIDE FOR THE BODY
Below is a list of the 13 essential vitamins needed by the body:
• Vitamin A- Helps form and maintain healthy teeth, gums and soft tissue, mucus membranes and skin.
• Vitamin B6- also called pyridoxine. Needed for proper formation of red blood cells and and to maintain brain function.
• Vitamin B12- Like the other vitamins in the B family, B12 is needed for proper metabolism. It helps form red blood cells and is necessary for a healthy functioning nervous system.
• Vitamin C- also called ascorbic acid. This vitamin helps the body absorb iron. It is an antioxidant that promotes healthy teeth and tissues. It is also necessary for the healing of wounds.
• Vitamin D- helps the body absorb calcium needed for healthy teeth and bones. Also known as the “Sunshine vitamin” vitamin D can be manufactured by the body from direct sunlight. This vitamin also maintains healthy blood levels of phosphorous and calcium in the body.
• Vitamin E- also known as an antioxidant. Vitamin E, often called tocopherol, can be used externally and taken in pill form. Vitamin E plays a role in the formation of red blood cells and works in conjunction with vitamin K.
• Vitamin K- this is often excluded as an essential vitamin but this vitamin is crucial for proper coagulation of blood.
• Biotin- a B vitamin that is essential for metabolism of proteins and carbohydrates.
• Niacin- A member of the B family that helps maintain healthy skin and nerves. Niacin is also used to help lower cholesterol.
• Folate- works with B12 to help form red blood cells. Also need for the production of DNA which controls tissue growth and function.
• Pantothenic Acid- necessary for metabolism of food.
• Riboflavin- also known as vitamin B2. Works with other B vitamins and is important for body growth and the production of red blood cells.
• Thiamine- Also known as vitamin B1. Helps with the metabolism of carbohydrates. Specifically what it does is help the body cells change carbohydrates into energy. Also essential for healthy heart function and healthy nerve cells.
These are the essential vitamins I have listed although there are many more vitamins which can be beneficial to the health of the body. I encourage you to research and learn more about what vitamins and minerals do for the body and why we need them. Two excellent resources are Earl Mindel’s The Vitamin Bible and The Nutrition Almanac. Both books provide in-depth information on vitamins and minerals and what they do for the health of the body. I especially recommend The Vitamin Bible since this book will provide information on every vitamin and mineral such as dosage, toxicity, and what it can do for the body. If you follow a nutritionally sound eating regimen such as juicing fresh organic produce, eating healthy plant based fats, and healthy low-to- medium glycemic carbs and consume chemical free clean animal flesh, you should be getting all the required nutrients you need in your foods; thus, you should not need to take a great deal of supplements. Look at vitamin supplementation as insurance: if you feel you are not getting all the nutrients you need from your everyday diet, then embarking on a supplementation program may prove beneficial. Here is the supplementation program I currently follow. Remember, we all have different needs nutritionally and you should always consult a nutritionally oriented doctor if you feel you may be deficient in certain vitamins and /or minerals.
Daily regimen I currently follow:
• Flaxseed Oil – two capsules a daily
• Omega Fatty Acids- three capsules daily
• Vitamin C – 2000 milligrams daily
This is all I take on a daily basis and I always take them after meals. My 70-20-10 nutritional plan each week (70% plant based, 20 % dairy, 10% clean animal flesh) provides all the vitamins, minerals, trace elements and nutrients I need. If you follow a similar plan to mine, you will not need to go overboard on vitamin supplementation.
I have gone over the basics on vitamin and mineral supplementation in this blog but a word of caution: do not research this subject simply in the hope of finding a supplement to replace eating healthy: you will be sabotaging your efforts in your quest for better health (not mention you will also be wasting your money). Rather, a good rule of thumb when learning about vitamins and minerals is to research the different vitamins and minerals that are needed for the body so you can discover how to obtain these substances naturally in organic, chemical/processed free foods and then incorporate these foods into your daily nutritional regimen before deciding to use vitamin supplements.
eMedicine Health. (2014, n.d n.d). Vitmains: Their Functions and Sources. Retrieved from eMedicine Health: http://www.emedicinehealth.com/vitamins_their_functions_and_sources-health/article_em.htm
Hart, Z. V. (n.d, n.d n.d). All About Vitamins. Retrieved from Spark People: http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/nutrition_articles.asp?id=116
Helderman, D. (2014, January 14). What Is the General Function of Vitamins? Retrieved from Livestrong.com: http://www.livestrong.com/article/246782-what-is-the-general-function-of-vitamins/