Vitamins and Minerals – Facts About Important Micronutrients

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Vitamins and minerals are the two substances known as micronutrients which come from macronutrients which include proteins, carbohydrates and fats. We get these essential nutrients from fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, dairy foods and meats-the basic food groups that comprise our diet.

There has been a misconception to obtaining all the vitamins and nutrients that your body needs solely through diet. You don’t need to obtain all your vitamins and nutrients just through supplements but they compliment each other well. Below is a table to list the vitamins and minerals and it explains its functions and sources.

VITAMINS

VitaminWhat the Vitamin DoesSignificant Food Sources
B1 (thiamin)Supports energy metabolism and nerve functionspinach, green peas, tomato juice, watermelon, sunflower seeds, lean ham, lean pork chops, soy milk
B2 (riboflavin)Supports energy metabolism, normal vision and skin healthspinach, broccoli, mushrooms, eggs, milk, liver, oysters, clams
B3 (niacin)Supports energy metabolism, skin health, nervous system and digestive systemspinach, potatoes, tomato juice, lean ground beef, chicken breast, tuna (canned in water), liver, shrimp
BiotinEnergy metabolism, fat synthesis, amino acid metabolism, glycogen synthesiswidespread in foods
Pantothenic AcidSupports energy metabolismwidespread in foods
B6 (pyridoxine)Amino acid and fatty acid metabolism, red blood cell productionbananas, watermelon, tomato juice, broccoli, spinach, acorn squash, potatoes, white rice, chicken breast
FolateSupports DNA synthesis and new cell formationtomato juice, green beans, broccoli, spinach, asparagus, okra, black-eyed peas, lentils, navy, pinto and garbanzo beans
B12Used in new cell synthesis, helps break down fatty acids and amino acids, supports nerve cell maintenancemeats, poultry, fish, shellfish, milk, eggs
C (ascorbic acid)Collagen synthesis, amino acid metabolism, helps iron absorption, immunity, antioxidantspinach, broccoli, red bell peppers, snow peas, tomato juice, kiwi, mango, orange, grapefruit juice, strawberries
A (retinol)Supports vision, skin, bone and tooth growth, immunity and reproductionmango, broccoli, butternut squash, carrots, tomato juice, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, beef liver
DPromotes bone mineralizationself-synthesis via sunlight, fortified milk, egg yolk, liver, fatty fish
EAntioxidant, regulation of oxidation reactions, supports cell membrane stabilizationpolyunsaturated plant oils (soybean, corn and canola oils), wheat germ, sunflower seeds, tofu, avocado, sweet potatoes, shrimp, cod
KSynthesis of blood-clotting proteins, regulates blood calciumBrussels sprouts, leafy green vegetables, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, liver

MINERALS

MineralWhat the Mineral DoesSignificant Food Sources
SodiumMaintains fluid and electrolyte balance, supports muscle contraction and nerve impulse transmissionssalt, soy sauce, bread, milk, meats
ChlorideMaintains fluid and electrolyte balance, aids in digestionsalt, soy sauce, milk, eggs, meats
PotassiumMaintains fluid and electrolyte balance, cell integrity, muscle contractions and nerve impulse transmissionpotatoes, acorn squash, artichoke, spinach, broccoli, carrots, green beans, tomato juice, avocado, grapefruit juice, watermelon, banana, strawberries, cod, milk
CalciumFormation of bones and teeth, supports blood clottingmilk, yogurt, cheddar cheese, Swiss cheese, tofu, sardines, green beans, spinach, broccoli
PhosphorusFormation of cells, bones and teeth, maintains acid-base balanceall animal foods (meats, fish, poultry, eggs, milk)
MagnesiumSupports bone mineralization, protein building, muscular contraction, nerve impulse transmission, immunityspinach, broccoli, artichokes, green beans, tomato juice, navy beans, pinto beans, black-eyed peas, sunflower seeds, tofu, cashews, halibut
IronPart of the protein hemoglobin (carries oxygen throughout body's cells)artichoke, parsley, spinach, broccoli, green beans, tomato juice, tofu, clams, shrimp, beef liver
ZincA part of many enzymes, involved in production of genetic material and proteins, transports vitamin A, taste perception, wound healing, sperm production and the normal development of the fetusspinach, broccoli, green peas, green beans, tomato juice, lentils, oysters, shrimp, crab, turkey (dark meat), lean ham, lean ground beef, lean sirloin steak, plain yogurt, Swiss cheese, tofu, ricotta cheese
SeleniumAntioxidant. Works with vitamin E to protect body from oxidationseafood, meats and grains
IodineComponent of thyroid hormones that help regulate growth, development and metabolic ratesalt, seafood, bread, milk, cheese
CopperNecessary for the absorption and utilization of iron, supports formation of hemoglobin and several enzymesmeats, water
ManganeseFacilitates many cell processeswidespread in foods
FluorideInvolved in the formation of bones and teeth, helps to make teeth resistant to decayfluoridated drinking water, tea, seafood
ChromiumAssociated with insulin and is required for the release of energy from glucosevegetable oils, liver, brewer's yeast, whole grains, cheese, nuts
MolybdenumFacilitates many cell processeslegumes, organ meats

Many years ago, it was possible to obtain all the vitamins and nutrients your body need needs solely through foods; but as you will see in the decline of vitamins and nutrients in our modern-day foods it is almost impossible to consume your daily needs and still stay under 2000 calories. Don’t get me wrong eating fruits and vegetables are very important. I am not saying to just take supplements to get your nutritional needs. I am saying that you need to let them work together for the highest benefit.

The level of nutrients and vitamins in our foods have decreased dramatically over the last 60 or so years. You would have to eat somewhere in the range of 10-12 modern-day apples to compare to one apple 60 years ago. This is because today’s agriculture doesn’t allow the soil to enrich itself, instead it depends on chemical fertilizers that don’t replace the variety of nutrients that humans and plants need. Furthermore, the long shipping and storage time between harvest and selling reduces nutrient content.

The mineral content of milk and popular meats has also fallen significantly in the past 60 years, according to a new analysis of government records of the chemical composition of everyday food. The levels of iron recorded in the average rump steak have dropped by 55%, while magnesium fell by 7%. Looking at 15 different meat items, the analysis found that the iron content had fallen on average by 47%. The iron content of milk had dropped by more than 60%, and by more than 50% for cream and eight different cheeses. Milk appears to have lost 2% of its calcium, and 21% of its magnesium too. Most cheeses showed a fall in magnesium and calcium levels. According to the analysis, cheddar provides 9% less calcium today, 38% less magnesium and 47% less iron, while parmesan shows the steepest drop in nutrients, with magnesium levels down by 70% and iron all gone compared with its content in the years up to 1940.

The research was conducted by David Thomas, a chiropractor and nutritionist who prescribes and sells mineral supplements. He published an earlier historical analysis of the nutrient content of fruit and vegetables in 2000 which showed a similar decline in those foods. He attributes the loss of nutrients to intensive farming and industrial production. (Guardian Feb.2, 2006)

Modern day agriculture is not going to change so the answers are to use supplements along with your food intake; also if possible having your own garden will ensure higher levels of vitamins and minerals in your food. Yes the foods will not last as long because you will not have the preservatives but it is better without the preservatives. You can look up many sites on how to start a garden and many local libraries will hold classes on how to start a garden.

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Kristy Donathan Bryant

Kristy Donathan Bryant has been a fitness professional for over 12 years. She has been an athlete all her life from gymnastics to playing college basketball. She offers boot camp classes and 3 day fitness retreats for men and women of all fitness levels. See my profile page for more information!

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