Nutrition and Health: What are the Essential Vitamins and Minerals?
Importance of Nutrients on Health
Our body is a complex machine, it needs a sufficient supply of nutrients from different food sources to be able to achieve optimum health. Healthy foods contain many types of nutrients that can provide the body with energy and supports the body organs to function properly. These nutrients include carbohydrates protein, fats, vitamins and minerals. Yes, vitamins and minerals are essential because each has its own unique role to play to maintain good health. The best way to get enough vitamins and minerals is to eat a well-balanced and healthy diet from a wide selection of foods.
Vitamins are organic substances that we need to include in our diet, they could either come from a plant or animal source. There are two types of vitamins:
- Fat-soluble vitamins - vitamins A, D, E and K that dissolve in fat.
- Water-soluble vitamins - B-complex vitamins and vitamin C, which dissolve in water.
Vitamins help in the metabolism of carbohydrates, protein and fats. Also, they help produce healthy blood cells, hormones and genetic material, as well as chemicals for the nervous system. Eating variety of foods can ensure you get all the vitamins you need.
Minerals are inorganic elements that should also be supplied in the diet. They are classified into two categories:
- Macro minerals – calcium, potassium, magnesium, and sodium are needed by the body in larger amounts. These minerals promotes teeth and bone health, heart health, and fluid-electrolyte balance.
- Trace minerals – iron, zinc, iodine, manganese, fluoride, selenium, and chromium are needed in smaller amounts so that our body organs will function well.
If you think you are not getting enough and need a boost, here is a more detailed list of essential vitamins and minerals with their food sources:
Vitamin A is a potent antioxidant that strengthens our immune system, improves vision, lowers risk of developing degenerative diseases, and has the ability to slow down skin aging.
Food Sources: carrots and other orange foods, liver, kidney, eggs, and fish liver oil.
The most essential in more than 10 complex of vitamins are B1 (Thiamine), B2 (Riboflavin), B3 (Niacin), B6 (Pyridoxine), B9 (Folate or Folic Acid), and B12 (Cyanocobalamin). These vitamins are vital in body’s energy production, immune system, nervous system and the absorption of iron.
Food Sources: whole grains, potatoes, beans, lentils, bananas, chili peppers, molasses, lean meat, chicken, milk, and dairy products.
Vitamin C is essential in the formation of some enzymes, antioxidant function, collagen formation, iron absorption and also helps heal wounds faster.
Food Sources: citrus fruits, guava, red and green peppers, kiwi, strawberries, mango, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.
Vitamin D is vital for bone health. Studies show that vitamin D can also reduce risk of breast cancer and may protect from ovarian cancer and diabetes.
Food Sources: eggs, mushroom, oily fish, milk, liver, and cod liver oil.
This antioxidant helps improve blood circulation, remove wound scars and gives protection from free radicals.
Food Sources: almond, peanut, sunflower seeds, tomatoes, and wheat germ oil.
Vitamin K is essential for blood coagulation, which is the process where in blood clots to prevent our body from bleeding.
Food Sources: broccoli, spinach, kale, Brussels sprouts, eggs, and meat.
Folic Acid is needed in the prevention of birth defects during pregnancy, cell renewal and formation of RNA and DNA.
Food Sources: dark leafy vegetables, broccoli, asparagus, beans, peas, lentils, nuts, seeds, cauliflower, beets, corn, and citrus fruits.
Calcium is an important mineral in the formation of bones and teeth. It also promotes cardiovascular health.
Food Sources: dairy products - such as milk, yogurt and cheese; black molasses and tofu
Iron is a mineral that is essential for red blood cell formation and building muscles naturally.
Food Sources: clams, oysters, liver, fish, soybeans, cereals, spinach, beans, and lentils.
Zinc aids in normal growth and development especially in children. It increases fertility, enhances immune function, and speeds up wound healing.
Food Sources: seafood, spinach, beans, cashews, and dark chocolate.
This mineral is needed for growth and development, and promotes thyroid function.
Food Sources: iodized salt, milk, and shellfish or seafood.
It assists in glucose function assuring every cell in the body gets energy when needed.
Food Sources: whole grains and nuts.