We all want to eat healthy and know we are getting the most out of our food, right?
Well, I don’t know about you, but I find it pretty hard to figure out how I can get all the ‘things’ I need from what I eat everyday. These ‘things’ are vitamins and minerals, and boy is there a lot of ‘em! I don’t even know which vitamins and minerals I need, let alone how much, or what to eat in order to get them. Sometimes I’ll give in and take a multi-vitamin, but I can’t help but think feeding and fueling my body should be done using real food, and not just supplementation.
So…that leaves me sitting here wondering, “How the heck do I decipher the ABCs of vitamins and minerals?” I decided to do a little research and find out the basics about some of the main vitamins and minerals we may need. The amount that we need, or Recommended Daily Allowance, will be different based on our age, gender, activity level, overall health, etc. Your physician is the best person to talk to about this, but for general recommendations you can check out www.mypyramid.gov.
To get you started:
Biotin is important for cell growth and the metabolism of fats, sugar and some amino acids. It helps to release energy from carbohydrates. Good sources of biotin include: eggs, liver, yeast breads and cereals.
Boron is a mineral present in the diet and in the human body in trace amounts. Boron may promote bone and joint health particularly in women. Sources of boron include: raisins, peanuts, juices, fruits (other than citrus), leafy vegetables, legumes and nuts.
Calcium is crucial in forming strong bones and teeth, and is essential for muscle contraction and the transmission of nerve impulses. Good sources of calcium include: milk, yogurt and most cheeses. Additionally, dark green leafy vegetables (like kale, broccoli, bok choy) and fish with edible bones.
Chloride is a mineral generally consumed as sodium chloride or table salt. There is a high correlation between the sodium and chloride contents of the diet. Chloride serves as an electrolyte helping to preserve the fluids in our body and plays an important role in nerve function. Good sources of chloride include: table salt and some fruits and vegetables.
Chromium, in combination with B-vitamins, helps the body regulate fuel stores for energy. Good sources of chromium include: meat, eggs, whole-grain products and cheese.
Folic acid is essential for the manufacture of DNA( the substances necessary for cell reproduction). It also promotes normal red-blood cell formation. An adequate intake of folic acid is important in reducing the risk of certain birth defects. Good sources of folic acid include: leafy vegetables, some fruits, legumes, liver, yeast breads, wheat germ, and vegetable oils such as soybean, corn, cottonseed and safflower.
As blood passes through the tiny air sacs in the lungs, oxygen attaches itself to the iron in the blood and is carried to all parts of the body. In general, pre-menopausal women need more iron than men do because menstruation depletes the body of iron. Good sources of iron include: meat, raisins, green leafy vegetables and nuts.
Magnesium is necessary for glucose metabolism, the synthesis of proteins and nucleic acids, muscle contraction, transmission of nerve impulses and the delicate electrical balance of cells. Good sources of magnesium include: legumes, nuts, whole grains and green vegetables.
Another name for vitamin B3, niacin is found in every cell of the body and is necessary for energy production. It is also needed for DNA formation and to maintain normal function of skin, nerves and the digestive system. Good sources of niacin include: poultry, fish, beef, peanut butter and legumes.
Phosphorus teams with calcium to aid in cell growth, bone and tooth formation, kidney function and the contraction of the heart. Good sources of phosphorus include: milk, meat, poultry, fish, eggs, legumes and nuts.
Potassium is essential for making all muscles (including the heart) function properly. It is vital for the transmission of nerve impulses, digestion and the release of insulin. It helps to maintain the fluid level inside and outside cells. Good sources of potassium include: fruits, many vegetables, fresh meat, poultry and fish.
Another name for vitamin B2, riboflavin is found in every cell of the body and is necessary for energy production. It is also needed to maintain metabolism and the function of skin and nerves. Good sources of riboflavin include: milk and other dairy foods, enriched bread and other grain products, eggs, meat, green leafy vegetables and nuts.
In combination with vitamin E, selenium works as an antioxidant. Good sources of selenium include: seafood, liver and kidney, as well as other meats.
Also known as vitamin B1, thiamin participates in the body’s ability to use protein and carbohydrates to produce energy. It also aids metabolism, especially with the breakdown of carbohydrates. It is important for normal functioning of the nervous system. Good sources of thiamin include: whole-grain and enriched grain products, such as beans, rice, pasta and fortified cereals.
Vitamin A is important for the growth and development of bones, teeth and gums. It is also essential for night vision, healthy skin, hair and mucous membranes. Good sources of vitamin A include: liver, fish, oil, eggs, and vitamin A fortified foods.
Vitamin B6 influences many body functions including regulating blood glucose levels, manufacturing hemoglobin and aiding the utilization of protein, carbohydrates and fats. It also aids in the function of the nervous system. Good sources of vitamin B6 include: chicken, fish, pork, liver and kidney. It may also be found in whole grain, nuts and legumes.
Vitamin B12 is essential for normal growth, healthy nerve tissue and blood formation. It is also a crucial element in the reproduction of every cell in the body. Good sources of vitamin B12 include: meat, fish, poultry, eggs, milk and other dairy foods.
Vitamin C serves as an antioxidant and plays a role in collagen formation, neurotransmission and tissue repair. Good sources of vitamin C include: oranges, grapefruits and tangerines, many other fruits and vegetables including berries, melons, peppers, dark green leafy vegetables, potatoes and tomatoes
Vitamin D helps the body properly utilize calcium and phosphorus so it can build strong bones and teeth. Good sources of vitamin D include: fortified milk, cheese, eggs and some fish (sardines and salmon).
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that can prevent a chemical reaction called oxidation, which can sometimes result in harmful effects in your body. It is also important for the proper function of nerves and muscles. Good sources of vitamin E include: vegetable oils such as soybean, corn, cottonseed, and safflower, as well as nuts, seeds and wheat germ.
Vitamin K helps the blood clot when the body is injured and is important in bone metabolism. Good sources of vitamin K include: green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and broccoli.
Zinc is needed for cell growth, reproduction and repair. It helps regulate the body’s immune response and insulin metabolism and aids the healing of wounds. Good sources of zinc include: meat, seafood and liver.
By Lori Bednarchik, MPH, CHES
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