Vitamins and minerals are vital to life and to the optimum functioning of our bodies. We need the correct nutrients to fight illnesses, boost our immune system, slow aging and allow a healthy growth for our bodies.
Read on to learn more about vitamins and minerals; their properties, benefits, and functions.
Vitamin A and Beta-Carotene
Vitamin A (also known as Retinol) is originated from preformed retinoids & provitamin carotenoids.
Retinoids are noticed in animal sources such as kidney, liver, dairy produce, and eggs, while carotenoids (beta-carotene) are found in plant sources e.g. dark or yellow vegetables, carrots.
Found in? Yellow and orange fruit and vegetables (spinach, carrots, parsley, yams), egg yolk.
Functions? Vitamin A is essential for healthy skin and good eyesight. It is also said to aid cellular growth and development, prevent some types of cancer and enhance the immune system.
Good for? Colds, healthy skin, acne, good eyesight, growth in children, cancer prevention.
Deficiency symptoms, adverse effects? Overdose in Vitamin A is toxic. Any excess Vitamin A not used by the body is stored in body fat and liver, which if accumulated, can become toxic. Excess Beta-carotene is eliminated by the body so it is not so toxic.
Too little vitamin A causes skin problems. Too much beta-carotene causes orange skin!
Vitamin B Complex Group
The following vitamins belong to the Vitamin B complex group. All these nutrients have their own unique properties and biological roles, yet they depend on each other to function efficiently. They work as a group in the body and are found in the same foods.
Vitamin B is essential for the body, in maintaining healthy skin, hair, eyes, liver, and mouth. They also give us energy and work in enhancing the nervous system.
Vitamin B-1 (thiamin)
Found in? Main sources are whole grains such as wheat germ, brown rice, oats, liver, pork, peas, soybeans, and peanuts. Vegetables such as broccoli, Brussel sprouts, and asparagus contain moderate amounts. Alcohol deletes B1 supplies, so if you consume alcohol, Vitamin B supplementation is required.
Functions? This vitamin is essential in keeping the nervous system healthy, metabolizing carbohydrates (important for providing energy to our cells), maintaining healthy skin and ensuring proper growth.
Good for? Thiamin is used to treat nervous system disorders (e.g. multiple sclerosis, Bell’s palsy), skin conditions and tissue healing (after surgery). It has been found that low intakes of Vitamin B1 may result in mental illness. Thiamin has also been researched to help prevent and slow Alzheimer’s disease.
Deficiency symptoms, adverse effects? Serious deficiency will lead to beriberi (a disease affecting gastroin_calendarinal, cardiovascular and peripheral nervous system, causing fatigue, weight loss, and swelling). There is no known adverse effect of thiamin.
Vitamin B-2 (Riboflavin)
Found in? Cheese, yogurt, eggs, liver, kidney, fish, poultry, spinach.
Functions? Riboflavin is used in energy production (oxidization of amino acids, fatty acids, and glucose), for tissue repair, and is essential for healthy eyes. Research has shown that riboflavin might be helpful in treating neurological problems.
Good for? Vitamin B2 is used in the formation and maintenance of eye tissues, in treating stress and fatigue and in skin conditions. It may help protect against bowel cancer.
Deficiency symptoms, adverse effects? Lack of riboflavin is shown in flaking of skin around lips, eyes, and nose. Vision also decreases, and behavioral changes are common. Deficiency is common in the elderly.
There is no known adverse effect of riboflavin.
Vitamin B-3 (Niacin, niacinamide)
Found in? Peanuts, organ meats, poultry and fish, broccoli, tomatoes, carrots.
Functions? Niacin is used in metabolizing fats. It helps to lower the bad LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels and increase the good HDL – (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels in the blood. It also is used in maintaining healthy skin, prevention of cancer and ensuring the correct function of the nervous system.
Good for? Lowering cholesterol in the blood, enabling sugar metabolism. Niacin, in conjunction with other medications, can be used to treat mental disorders.
Deficiency symptoms, adverse effects? A serious deficiency of niacin induces development of pellagra, (a disease characterized by dermatitis, dementia, and diarrhea).
Adverse effects in healthy people taking niacin supplements may be a temporary flush – an effect which may be prevented if taking the supplement after a meal.
Vitamin B-5 (Pantothenic Acid)
Found in? Pantothenic acid is found in most foods, important sources including egg, potatoes, beef, pork, whole wheat, peas, beans and fresh vegetables.
Functions? Pantothenic acid is the agent that stimulates growth. When ingested, it is converted by the body to a substance called “coenzyme A”, which is used for several biological processes. This includes the metabolism of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. Pantothenic acid is also used in nerve transmissions and is therefore also known as an “anti-stress” vitamin.
Good for? Treating stress and fatigue, acne, Vitamin B5 with Vitamin C can help strengthen tissue and heal cuts. It is also used to help lower blood cholesterol levels and treat similar problems.
Deficiency symptoms, adverse effects? There is no known toxicity of Vitamin B-5, and deficiency of this nutrient may lead to fatigue, adrenal weakness and premature graying of the hair.
Vitamin B-6 (Pyridoxine)
Found in? All foods contain a small amount of Vitamin B6, but major sources of Vitamin B6 are found in eggs, fish, spinach, carrots, peas, chicken, walnuts, sunflower seeds and wheat germ.
Functions? This vitamin is the most widely used nutrient in the body and is needed for the proper growth and maintenance of the body’s structure and to enable its proper functioning. The nervous system is dependent on this vitamin, as is the production of red blood cells and antibodies (pyridoxine is required to turn iron into hemoglobin).
Good for? Vitamin B6 helps reduce Premenstrual Syndrome symptoms and those with sickle cell anemia, anemia and diabetes may benefit from this nutrient. Vitamin B6 also helps in reducing nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.
Deficiency symptoms, adverse effects? B6 deficiency is associated with low energy nervous system problems (e.g. depression, confusion, dizziness, irritability, etc.), as well as changes in the skin (sores and cracks around the mouth).
Vitamin B6 is, generally speaking, non-toxic, but very large doses may cause neuritis (nerve inflammation)
Vitamin B-12 (Cobalamin)
Found in? The presence of B12 in foods is small and all sources are of animal origin (lamb, beef). Other sources are found in egg yolk, cheese, crab, clams, herring, mackerel, and sardines. It is also found in tempeh – a fermented soy product. Strict vegetarians should pay special attention to their vitamin B12 intake.
Functions? This vitamin is required by the body to form red blood cells in the marrow. It is also necessary for the correct functioning of the nervous system.
Good for? Encouraging growth, red blood cell production and boosting energy levels.
Deficiency symptoms, adverse effects? B12 deficiency includes fatigue, pernicious anemia (whose symptoms are weight loss, weakness, pale skin, and neurological problems):
There is no known toxicity for Vitamin B12.
Found in? Good sources of folic acid are beef liver, lamb liver, pork liver, chicken liver, green leafy vegetables (spinach), broccoli, whole wheat.
Functions? Folic acid works together with Vitamin B12 in cell replication and division and is also vital to tissue growth. It also is needed for the correct formation of red blood cells.
Good for? Folic acid is used to treat dysplasia (abnormal tissue growth) and is essential for correct fetus development during pregnancy (due to rapid cell multiplication). Folic acid is vital in preventing birth defects.
Deficiency symptoms, adverse effects? Deficiencies of folic acid may cause anemia, lack of appetite, fatigue, depression and mental problems.
There is no known toxicity for folic acid.
Found in? Good sources of biotin are beef, lamb, pork, chicken, soybeans, milk, cheese, whole wheat flour and rice bran. Biotin is not considered to be a true vitamin as it is made in the body by our in_calendarinal bacteria.
Functions? Biotin’s main function is in helping in the production of fatty and amino acids and is also involved in several biological processed within the body.
Good for? Biotin helps to maintain healthy hair and skin. It is also taken by diabetics to help enable carbohydrate and fat metabolism.
Deficiency symptoms, adverse effects? Biotin deficiencies are not common but may result in lack of appetite, nausea, numbness, depression and high blood cholesterol.
There is no known toxicity for biotin.
Choline, Inositol, and PABA
Found in? These nutrients are not strictly considered as vitamins as they are synthesized in the body.
Good sources of choline are egg yolks, peanuts, leafy greens, and yeast. It is also found in lecithin (found in soybeans, cereals, and legumes).
Inositol is found in fruits, vegetables, meats, milk and whole grains.
PABA is found in liver, kidney, molasses and whole grains.
Functions? The uses of these nutrients have not been fully researched. Choline and Inositol are involved in the body’s use of fat and cholesterol, in transporting fats from the liver to cells, and in the metabolism of fats.
PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid) seems to appear necessary for the formation of folic acid and is involved in the metabolism of proteins.
Good for? Choline is taken as a supplement for certain neurologic disorders (e.g. Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s).
PABA is used to maintain, skin and hair.
Inositol is used for healthy hair and skin, helping fat metabolism and preventing cardiovascular disease and viral infections.
Deficiency symptoms, adverse effects? Choline – toxicity is not known, deficiency may result in affecting fat metabolism and fatty growths (in the liver).
Inositol – toxicity is not known, deficiency may affect hair and skin conditions. PABA – In high quantities, PABA may cause irritation, while deficiency symptoms include irritability, digestive upset and fatigue.
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)
Found in? Unlike most animals, humans do not produce Vitamin C in their bodies, so we depend on other foods for this nutrient. It is therefore vital that we ensure we get the correct amount of ascorbic acid from other food supplies.
Citrus fruits, bell peppers, broccoli, parsley, rose hips, strawberries, tomatoes, and many other fruits
Functions? The importance of this vitamin cannot be underestimated. Vitamin C’s main role lies in its antioxidant powers, preventing free-radical damage which contributes to aging and diseases related to aging, such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases. It also helps in the growth and repair of the body’s tissues.
Good for? Vitamin C is advised for the healing of wounds and infections, improving your immune system’s resistance against viral infections and protection from cancer. It is recommended for cardiovascular disease prevention, cholesterol related problems, allergies and asthma.
Vitamin C is good for keeping the common cold and flu at bay.
Deficiency symptoms, adverse effects? Excess Vitamin C is eliminated from the body through your urine, so it is non toxic. However, if large doses (up to 20 grams daily) are taken, common side effects would include diarrhea.
Vitamin C deficiency results in scurvy (advanced symptoms include bleeding gums, loosening of teeth, extreme fatigue).
Found in? Vitamin D is produced in our body upon exposure to sunlight and foods are generally low on this Vitamin. Cod liver oil (and other fish liver oils) is a good source and other food sources include fish, egg yolks and fortified foods like milk.
Functions? Vitamin D’s function lies in the development of bones, protecting our bodies against muscle weakness. Vitamin D combined with calcium is said to have anticancer properties too.
Good for? Strong bones, tooth decay, prevention of osteoporosis (combined with calcium and exercise), high blood pressure.
Deficiency symptoms, adverse effects? Symptoms of too much Vitamin D include nausea, loss of appetite, headache, fatigue, diarrhea and restlessness.
Deficiency of Vitamin D in children leads to rickets (stunted growth, bone deformities, delayed tooth growth) while in adults the following conditions are caused by lack of this nutrient: hypocalcemia (low level of calcium in the blood level), osteomalacia (reduction of mineral content in the bone), and osteoporosis.
Found in? Vitamin E is found in unprocessed vegetable and nut oils, including cottonseed, safflower, wheat germ and soybean oil. Small amounts of this nutrient are found in nuts, dark green leafy vegetables and legumes.
Functions? Vitamin E’s role is vital in promoting anti-aging (antioxidant) functions and preventing cancer and cardiovascular disease. Like Vitamin C, it protects cells and tissues from damage by free radicals. (Free radicals are “free”, or loose, electrons that attach themselves to cell membrane or blood vessel lining, creating inflammation and eventually causing damage. Antioxidants reduce these damaging effects.)
Good for? Treatment of cancers, fibrocystic breast disease, cardiovascular and cancer disease prevention, aging related disorders, menopause symptoms, cholesterol problems, diabetes, circulatory problems and wound healing.
Deficiency symptoms, adverse effects? Symptoms of too much Vitamin E include nausea, flatulence, diarrhea, fainting and heart palpitations.
Vitamin E deficiency – arising from fat malabsorption, include anemia, and premature infants with Vitamin E deficiency may suffer from retina disorders, possibly leading to blindness. It is possible that those with inadequate intakes of Vitamin E may increase their risk of cancer (especially breast cancer).
Found in? Vitamin K is created by the bacteria in our in calendarines and so strictly speaking is not considered a vitamin. Food sources of Vitamin K are tomatoes, broccoli, spinach, liver and green cabbage.
Functions? Vitamin K is important for the blood clotting process.
Good for? Helping newborns in their blood clotting functions and with people with bruising and bleeding disorders. Vitamin K has anti-tumor growth properties and increases patient survival rate when used in conjunction with radiotherapy.
Deficiency symptoms, adverse effects? Toxicity is rare, and deficiency may lead to easy bruising and poor blood clotting.
Minerals are elements not produced by plants or animals. They are inorganic elements, and function similarly to vitamins, as coenzymes enabling chemical reactions to happen and contributing to the healthy functioning of our bodies.
Calcium is one of the most important minerals in our body, and is vital to our bone health. Calcium is essential in the prevention of osteoporosis and tooth decay, and helps reduce high blood pressure, muscle cramps and menstrual cramps.
Where do I find this mineral? Important sources are cheese, yoghurt, sesame seeds, tofu, broccoli, peas, almonds, Brazil nuts, sardines (with bones) and soymilk.
Magnesium is a calming or anti-stress mineral, and works with enzymes to carry out metabolic functions. It relaxes the muscles and blood vessels, and is used for menstrual cramps, anxiety, asthma attacks, high blood pressure and muscle cramps. It is also essential for proper bone growth.
Where do I find this mineral? Magnesium is found in grains, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds.
Phosphorus strengthens bones and teeth. It is also important as it is involved in almost all chemical reactions within the body and is involved in energy production.
Where do I find this mineral? Greater amounts of phosphorus are found in fizzy drinks (soft drinks, soda), nuts, seeds, vegetables, animal products and protein rich foods (fish, eggs, dairy, meat).
Research has linked high blood pressure to potassium deficiency. Potassium assists in muscle contraction, nerve transmission and in maintaining fluid and electrolyte balance in body cells. Potassium is also important in releasing energy from protein, fat, and carbohydrates during metabolism.
Where do I find this mineral? Vegetables and fruits, such as bananas, tomatoes and oranges are good sources of potassium.
Silica (silicon) gives strength and firmness to the body tissues (bones, cartilages, arteries, skin and connective tissues). It helps keep skin, nails and hair strong. Silica helps arteries maintain their flexibility, thus possibly preventing cardiovascular disease.
Where do I find this mineral? Silica can be found in beetroot, cucumbers, onions, lettuce and in the hulls of wheat, oats and rice.
Sodium, together with other mineral ions (potassium and chloride) influence the movement of fluids in and out of your body’s cells. It is vital to cell functioning and electrical conductivity in the body.
Where do I find this mineral? Sodium is found in common salt and is naturally present in seafood, seaweed and many vegetables.
Sulfur is an essential part of several amino acids and is found in every single cell of the body, especially the skin. It is an important part of the structure which supports tissues in the body. Sulfur also participates in the body’s process of eliminating and deactivating many types of toxins. It is used for treating all types of skin problems (eczema, psoriasis), joint problems (arthritis) and allergies.
Where do I find this mineral? Sulfur is found in protein-rich foods (like meat, fish, eggs, dairy), and also garlic, onions, cabbage and Brussel sprouts.
Iron enables transport of oxygen from lungs to the tissues and muscles, and is essential for ensuring the correct functioning of our immune systems. Iron is essential for hair growth and supplements are highly recommended during pregnancy.
Where do I find this mineral? Food sources high in iron are liver, beef, meat, green leafy vegetables (although absorption is lower), pumpkin and sunflower seeds, raisins, prunes. Vitamin C aids iron absorption.
Fluoride is added to water supplies in some US cities and is contained in toothpaste in order to strengthen bones and to prevent tooth decay. However, toxicity is a worldwide concern and fluoride is said to be carcinogenic.
Where do I find this mineral? Toothpaste contains fluoride, and general tap water supplies are fluoridated as well. There is no need for supplements.
Zinc plays an important role in protein digestion, energy production and in ensuring the normal functioning of the immune system. It is essential for wound healing, DNS synthesis and supports healthy growth and development during pregnancy, childhood, and adolescence.
Where do I find this mineral? Zinc is plentiful in dark meats, oysters, seafood, liver, peanuts and eggs.
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