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Which Vitamins Are Essential to Your Health?

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Which Vitamins Are Essential to Your Health?

The key to healthy living is a diet full of whole, nutrient-rich foods combined with a proper exercise routine. The nutrients in the foods we eat have a powerful effect on our physical and mental health. What we eat is essentially “our doctor prescription“ to help us prevent lots of disease and also help us feel better overall. We can not ignore that our food is like our delivery system for all the nutrients that keep us alive and well functioning. We also must not forget that our food creates a powerful foundation for our health and can have very special healing powers on our body.

Whole foods contain several essential vitamins, minerals (micronutrients) and phytonutrients (antioxidants) as well as our valuable macronutrients (proteins, fats and carbohydrates); all which are beneficial to our health. Those powerful nutrients have something to say regarding how strong our immune system is, how healthy our cardiovascular system is, how strong our vision, mental health and nervous system are, how good our skin looks or feels, the level of inflammation we hold into in our body, just to name a few. Sometimes we can not get all the essentials our bodies need in our diet and we need something to help fill the gaps, that is where supplements such as vitamins and minerals come into play.

Vital vitamins help our macronutrients do their jobs in the body. Macronutrients perform lots of important roles that are necessary to sustain life such as participating in all metabolic processes like growth, repair, digestion, energy transfer, nervous system function and immunity. We need them in our diet because our bodies can not make most of them ourselves. Mighty minerals are important for a variety of functions like bone health, carrying oxygen in the blood, hormone secretion, cell metabolism, nerve transmission, regulating bodily fluids and more. Minerals must bind to amino acids for us to absorb them properly. We need mineral based electrolytes such sodium and potassium to contract and relax our muscles, regulate our body fluids and send proper signals to our nerve cells. A vitamin and mineral balance is very important. We can not have too much or too little.

Below is a list of vitamins/minerals we find the most essential to healthy living:

Vitamin A: 

  • Acts like a antioxidant, protects cell membranes and cell differentiation, immune function, wound healing
  • Assists in fighting chronic diseases
  • Can be found in red, orange, red vegetables and fruits, green leafy vegetables, meat, liver

Vitamin B2/Riboflavin:

  • Involved in our energy metabolism and cell function maintaining a healthy nervous system 
  • Helps red blood cell production and iron metabolism
  • Helps metabolize drugs and toxins in the liver maintaining a healthy skin and GI tract
  • Can be found in whole grains , almonds, soybeans, mushrooms, spinach , eggs, beef liver, dairy, nutritional yeast

Vitamin B3/Niacin:

  • Required for proper function of fats and sugars in the body and to maintain healthy cells
  • Has beneficial effects on regulating blood clotting and triglycerides controlling cholesterol levels and helps DNA repair
  • Helps maintain the health of our skin, nerves and digestive system
  • Can be found in whole grains, fish, meats, poultry, nuts, enriched foods

Vitamin B6/Pyridoxine:

  • Works like a co-enzyme to form a compound we need for more than 100 enzymes involved in protein metabolism,
  • Needed by the body to use & store protein and carbohydrates from food and breaks down glycogen
  • Known for it’s role in regulating our sleep, appetite and mood
  • Important for keeping the immune system and nervous system healthy
  • Can be found in beans, meat, fish, poultry, whole grains, nuts, potatoes, bananas, starchy vegetables, fortified foods

Vitamin B9/Folate/Folic Acid:

  • Crucial for proper brain function, mental and emotional health
  • Helps the production of DNA and RNA & the growth of cells & tissues
  • Works with Vitamin B12 to help make red blood cells & help iron work properly in the body
  • Works with Vitamin B6 and other nutrients to control blood levels of amino acids which protects us from heart disease 
  • Can be found in beef liver, oranges, peanuts, spinach, beans, lentils, peas, mustard greens, brussels sprouts, asparagus, enriched foods

Vitamin B12/Cobalamin:

  • Important for energy metabolism & heart, nerve and muscle function
  • Supports fatty acid & amino acid metabolism, bone & blood cell health, creation of DNA
  • Helps break down DNA
  • Can be found in found in fish, meat, poultry ,eggs, milk, some cereals

Vitamin C:

  • Acts like a antioxidant & protects cells from free radicals and repairs tissues
  • Required for the functioning of several enzymes & our immune system
  • Helps build collagen, a valuable and foundational protein throughout the body
  • Can be found in most fruits and vegetables; especially citrus fruits and cruciferous vegetables

Vitamin D:

  • Acts like a hormone working with the parathyroid glands and has many roles in the body like bone growth, absorption of calcium in the gut 
  • Helps prevent infections and immune system disorders, some cancers, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and more
  • We absorb most of it from sun and can be found in fish, egg yolks, mushrooms, dairy products, beef liver, some cereals

Please note being a vegan or vegetarian you will have to be extra vigilant about the quality of your diet. Vegans and vegetarians often will run low in vitamins and minerals like B12, Calcium, Iron, Omega-3 fatty acids as well as essential amino acids. Also note a malabsorption can occur in people with certain diseases such as Crohn’s disease, pancreatitis, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, anorexia, cancer, alcoholism, after bariatric surgeries. This is why it is super important to ensure you are getting the right amount of vitamins, minerals and supplements. More is not always better. 

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