Daily vitamin and mineral intake is not usually a hot topic and yet millions of people are vitamin and mineral deficient. Many people have no idea which vitamins and minerals their body needs or how much is required to maintain balanced wellness. There are also a lot of misconceptions as to the proper sources of essential vitamins and minerals. It’s time to set the record straight and educate!
Supplements can be fine as nutritional insurance, but eating a healthy and well balanced diet is the best way to feed the body vitamins and minerals for optimal health. So what are essential vitamins and minerals the body requires to function? Vitamin A, B Complex (B’s 1, 2, niacin, 6 and 12), C, D, E, K and, Folic Acid. Not too hard to remember. The mineral list is just as easy and even shorter naming Calcium, Chromium, Iodine, Iron, and Zinc.
A common question asked is “what is the difference between vitamins and minerals?” According to Helpguide.org vitamins are organic and can be broken down by heat, air, or acid. Minerals are inorganic and hold on to their chemical structure. There are two classes of vitamins; water-soluble and fat-soluble. They are classed by how they dissolve in the body. For instance, all vitamin Bs, C and folic acid are water-soluble, so the body uses what it needs and discards the rest through urine. It is important to get these vitamins through diet. The remaining vitamins are fat-soluble and these are absorbed in the body’s fat and many minerals need both types to fully absorb.
Just like vitamins, minerals also have two classes; trace and macro. Trace minerals are only required in small amounts whereas macrominerals are needed large quantities. All of these essential nutrients work together to feed the body for optimal health and function.
All of this is great information, but the real learning is knowing what each nutrient provides the body, identifying the deficient signs and knowing which foods contain these vitamins and minerals. To simplify this, below are tables naming the vitamins and minerals along with their benefits, deficiencies and their natural food sources.
|Vitamin & Benefits||Deficiency Signs||Natural Food Sources|
|Vitamin A: eyesight, growth, appetite and taste||Poor night vision, dry eyes or skin; lack of taste, hearing and smell; slow healing and nerve damage||Dark leafy greens, carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, lettuce, cantaloupe, paprika, red pepper, and chili pepper|
|B vitamins: healthy metabolism, nervous and immune systems, and iron absorption – Click here for a breakdown by vitamin||Anemia, depression, fatigue, lack of appetite, upset stomach and numbness in fingers and toes – Click here for a breakdown by vitamin||Dark leafy greens, lentils, legumes, milk and milk products, poultry, fish, selfish, nuts, red meat – Click here for a breakdown by vitamin|
|Vitamin C: immune boaster, aids in growth and repair of blood vessels and body tissues, helps reduce cholesterol, helps heal wounds||Fatigue, scurvy (bleeding gums; tooth loss; nosebleeds; bruising; painful or swollen joints; shortness of breath; increased susceptibility to infection; slow wound healing; muscle pains; skin rashes)||Guava, kiwi, red and green bell peppers, oranges, grapefruits, strawberries, brussel sprouts, cantaloupe, kale, broccoli and papaya|
|Vitamin D: strong bones and teeth||Rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults (soft or weakening bones, skeletal deformity)||Sunlight, salmon, tuna, milk and milk products, eggs, mushrooms, flounder|
|Vitamin E: antioxidant, helps fight toxins, good circulation||Inability to absorb fat, weak muscle and fertility issues||Nuts, broccoli, eggs, sunflower seeds, turnip greens, pine nuts, tomatoes, peanut butter, avocado, sprouts, spinach|
|Vitamin K: blood clotting||Extreme bleeding; blood does not clot||Most greens (like spinach and kale), broccoli, parsley, romaine lettuce, and brussel sprouts|
|Folic Acid (B9): prevents birth defects and anemia||Fatigue, birth defects or infertility||Dark leafy greens, asparagus, broccoli, beans and lentils, carrots, eggs, squash, citrus fruits, seeds and nuts, avocado, okra, celery, beets, cauliflower|
|Mineral & Benefits||Deficiency Signs||Natural Food Sources|
|Calcium: strong bones and teeth, essential for muscle contraction and heartbeat||Muscle cramping, dry skin, brittle nails, bone breakage or fractures||Yogurt, cheese, sardines, milk, salmon, tofu, collard greens, molasses|
|Chromium: reduces food cravings, aids in converting blood sugar into energy, regulates fat and cholesterol, prevents hypertension||Anxiety, decrease in energy level, fatigue, weakened muscles, mood swings, increased chance of diabetes, obesity||Whole grains, brown rice, broccoli, mushrooms, Green beans, chicken breast, cheese, eggs, fish, sea food, corn, potatoes, diary, fresh vegetables.|
|Iodine: thyroid function||Enlarged thyroid, Hypothyroidism||Cheese, cow’s milk, eggs, ice cream, saltwater fish, seaweed, shellfish, soy sauce, yogurt|
|Iron: transports oxygen through the blood and organs, reduction of iron deficiency anemia||Fatigue, weakness, brittle nails, enlarged spleen, infections, unusual cravings for non-food foods||Legumes, lentils, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, spinach, turnip, sprouts, broccoli, dried fruits|
|Zinc: immune booster, antioxidant, aids in preventing infertility, maintains hormones levels, helps preventing cancer||Ringing in the ears, diarrhea, chronic fatigue, infertility, poor immunity, poor memory, low energy, unable to focus, ADD symptoms, slows wound healing, nerve dysfunction||Lamb, scallops, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, oats, yogurt, turkey, shrimp, peas|
Knowledge is power, so arm the mind with information that helps make the best health decisions possible. When we take care of our bodies, our bodies will take care of us!