Which Vitamins and Minerals are Essential for the Body?
Updated: Jan 8
How to supplement a vegan or plant-based diet?
Let's get one thing straight before we continue. There is no substitute for the real deal. Fruit, vegetables, berries, protein, and carbs.
Research has shown that vitamin usage has increased exponentially over the past few decades and yet people continue to contract more and more lifestyle diseases. Why is that?
Supermarket shelves are packed full of lines and lines of colourful fruit and vegetables all waiting patiently to be plucked from the shelves. Yet they stay there as shoppers aim for the vitamin aisle which is lined with bottles full of products labeled as vitamins which are stripped of their nutrients.
Studies have shown that sugar, particularly high-fructose corn syrup, is worthless as far as good nutrition goes; but as a sugar is an actually anti-nutrient which robs the body of vitamins. This can trigger an inflammatory insulin response which can impair nutrient absorption.
Are Synthetic Vitamins the Solution?
Supplements which have been made in a laboratory are inferior to actual vitamins from whole foods and whole food sources.
Whole foods supply an array of vitamins and minerals and contribute to a healthy lifestyle much more than their synthetic cousins especially in isolation.
Vegetables contain a host of phytochemicals, complimentary enzymes and nutrients that make vitamins and minerals more available.
It doesn't actually take a scientist to confirm that synthetic vitamins are inferior to whole food vitamins. Rule number one, nature made in abundance everything that we need to be and stay healthy. If man has touched it, as in, it's processed then stay away from it and choose a product that is superior in quality. e.g. Why take an Omega 3 capsule when you can eat flaxseed or fish?
Some of my favourite sources of vitamins and minerals are below.
Good sources of Vitamins
Kale (and Other Leafy Greens)
A 100g of raw kale delivers over 600% percent of the daily value of Vitamin K, 200% daily value of Vitamin A, plus vitamins C and B. Kale also contains lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids which could protect you against macular degeneration.
You can put kale in smoothies, steam it, boil it, roast it, make crisps from it and obviously put it in your salads. I've always been anemic even since I was a small child. However, since my Kale intake has shot up exponentially I am no longer anemic. As such I ensure I eat Kale at least four times a week.
If you are not keen on Kale like me you might like some of the alternatives. Spinach, Swiss chard, and mustard greens have a very similar nutritional constitution to Kale but are milder in taste.
I have a strong preference for root veg. I love it roasted, boiled, mashed, casseroled and stewed. Which ever way you can, I love them. Sweet potatoes, parsnips, potatoes, squash, pumpkin and beetroot fall under this category. They are loaded with potassium which is an important mineral that plays a role in the muscular system, digestive system, and the cardiovascular system. Root Vegetables such as beetroot can also help to regulate blood pressure in overweight adults.
The nitrates in beets are different from those found in processed meats so don't be put off by anything that you read on the internet about nitrates and attach it to beets it's just not true.
Broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, arugula, radishes, and brussels are the most common vegetables in the cruciferous category. Broccoli sprouts in particular are my favourite and are a concentrated source of sulforphane. Cruciferous vegetables are rich in Vitamins C, E, K, and folate.
I love my Broccoli, cauliflower, and kohlrabi boiled, mashed or roasted. I seem to like my vegetables pretty much the same no matter what they are but you can be far more adventurous if you like. You can make soups, or quiches, frittatas, and salads.
Legumes and Pulses
Pulses which include beans, peas, and lentils have been consumed by humans for at least
10 000 years. Pulses provide protein and fibre, as well as being high in vitamins and minerals. They include iron, zinc, folate, and magnesium, in consuming half a cup of beans or peas per day can enhance the quality of your diet.
Lets not forget that Pulses and legumes are also high in protein. Just one cup of beans each day can improve your diet dramatically and can lead to weight loss.
Phytochemicals, saponins, and tannins are also found in pulses and have antioxidant and anti-carcinogenic effects. This suggests that eating pulses and legumes daily could reduce the risk of some cancers.
Pulses are also high in fibre and have a low glycemic index, making them particularly beneficial to people with diabetes by assisting them in maintaining healthy blood glucose and insulin levels.
From the list above it can be seen that there is, after all, a healthy alternative to the vitamins? Synthetic vitamins can not measure up to the benefits of eating the real deal. As my gran used to say, 'Eat your greens young lady, and you'll live another day'!
Vitamins and Minerals Vital for Optimal Functioning
The list of vitamins and minerals below can give you an understanding of how particular different types of vitamins and minerals work in your body. Source: Harvard.edu
THIAMIN: (vitamin B1)Helps convert food into energy. Needed for healthy skin, hair, muscles, and brain and is critical for nerve function.
RIBOFLAVIN: (vitamin B2)Helps convert food into energy. Needed for healthy skin, hair, blood, and brain.
NIACIN: (vitamin B3, nicotinic acid)Helps convert food into energy. Essential for healthy skin, blood cells, brain, and nervous system.
PANTOTHENIC ACID: (vitamin B5)Helps convert food into energy. Helps make lipids (fats), neurotransmitters, steroid hormones, and hemoglobin.
PYRIDOXINE: (vitamin B6, pyridoxal, pyridoxine, pyridoxamine)Aids in lowering homocysteine levels and may reduce the risk of heart disease. Helps convert tryptophan to niacin and serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays key roles in sleep, appetite, and moods. Helps make red blood cells Influences cognitive abilities and immune function.
COBALAMIN (vitamin B12)Aids in lowering homocysteine levels and may lower the risk of heart disease. Assists in making new cells and breaking down some fatty acids and amino acids. Protects nerve cells and encourages their normal growth Helps make red blood cells and DNAM
BIOTIN: Helps convert food into energy and synthesize glucose. Helps make and break down some fatty acids. Needed for healthy bones and hair.
ASCORBIC ACID: (vitamin C)Foods rich in vitamin C may lower the risk for some cancers, including those of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, and breast. Long-term use of supplemental vitamin C may protect against cataracts. Helps make collagen, a connective tissue that knits together wounds and supports blood vessel walls. Helps make the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine Acts as an antioxidant, neutralizing unstable molecules that can damage cells. Bolsters the immune system
CHOLINE: Helps make and release the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which aids in many nerve and brain activities. Plays a role in metabolizing and transporting fats.
CALCIFEROL: (vitamin D)Helps maintain normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus, which strengthen bones. Helps form teeth and bones. Supplements can reduce the number of non-spinal fractures.
ALPHA-TOCOPHEROL: (vitamin E) Acts as an antioxidant, neutralizing unstable molecules that can damage cells. Protects vitamin A and certain lipids from damage. Diets rich in vitamin E may help prevent Alzheimer's disease.
FOLIC ACID: (vitamin B9, folate, folacin)Vital for new cell creationHelps prevent brain and spine birth defects when taken early in pregnancy; should be taken regularly by all women of child-bearing age since women may not know they are pregnant in the first weeks of pregnancy. Can lower levels of homocysteine and may reduce heart disease risk May reduce risk for colon cancer. Offsets breast cancer risk among women who consume alcohol.
PHYLLOQUINONE, MENADIONE: (vitamin K)Activates proteins and calcium essential to blood clotting. May help prevent hip fractures.
CALCIUM: Builds and protects bones and teeth. Helps with muscle contractions and relaxation, blood clotting, and nerve impulse transmission. Plays a role in hormone secretion and enzyme activation. Helps maintain healthy blood pressure.
CHLORIDE: Balances fluids in the body. A component of stomach acid, essential to digestion.
CHROMIUM: Enhances the activity of insulin, helps maintain normal blood glucose levels, and is needed to free energy from glucose.
COPPER: Plays an important role in iron metabolism and immune system. Helps make red blood cells
FLUORIDE: Encourages strong bone formation. Keeps dental cavities from starting or worsening..
IODINE: Part of thyroid hormone, which helps set body temperature and influences nerve and muscle function, reproduction, and growth. Prevents goiter and a congenital thyroid disorder.
IRON: Helps hemoglobin in red blood cells and myoglobin in muscle cells ferry oxygen throughout the body. Needed for chemical reactions in the body and for making amino acids, collagen, neurotransmitters, and hormones.
MAGNESIUM: Needed for many chemical reactions in the body Works with calcium in muscle contraction, blood clotting, and regulation of blood pressure. Helps build bones and teeth. The majority of magnesium in the body is found in bones. If your blood levels are low, your body may tap into these reserves to correct the problem.
MANGANESEHelps form bones. Helps metabolize amino acids, cholesterol, and carbohydrates.
MOLYBDENUMPart of several enzymes, one of which helps ward off a form of severe neurological damage in infants that can lead to early death
PHOSPHORUS: Helps build and protect bones and teeth. Part of DNA and RNA. Helps convert food into energy. Part of phospholipids, which carry lipids (fats) in blood and help shuttle nutrients into and out of cells
POTASSIUM: Balances fluids in the body. Helps maintain steady heartbeat and send nerve impulses. Needed for muscle contractions. A diet rich in potassium seems to lower blood pressure. Getting enough potassium from your diet may benefit bones
SELENIUM: Acts as an antioxidant, neutralizing unstable molecules that can damage cells. Helps regulate thyroid hormone activity
SODIUM: Balances fluids in the body. Helps send nerve impulses. Needed for muscle contractions. Impacts blood pressure; even modest reductions in salt consumption can lower blood pressure.
SULFUR: Helps form bridges that shape and stabilize some protein structures. Needed for healthy hair, skin, and nails.
ZINC: Helps form many enzymes and proteins and create new cells. Frees vitamin A from storage in the liver. Needed for immune system, taste, smell, and wound healing.
If your plate is not full of colour then you are not eating the right foods. A beige food plate is an unhealthy plate, look at pie and chips for example. If every colour of the rainbow is present you can guarantee that you are eating the right minerals and nutrients.
To address this issue try to change your diet to primarily a plant-based diet. To assist in achieving the optimal vitamins and minerals try taking a vegan supplement such as Wild Harvested Sea Moss and Bladderwrack Capsules|.