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Vitamins and Minerals

Micronutrients

Both vitamins and minerals are micronutrients. Most UNprocessed foods have both of these necessary factors "built in" so to speak. But processed foods often do not. It is important to realize that these micronutrients play a vital role in our health.


Vitamins

Vitamins are all organic compounds that will each aid or is necessary for various physiologic functions and processes. Vitamins are NOT and energy source like our macronutrients - but they often play a role in the break down of those nutrients in order for our body to utilize them. Vitamins come in two varieties or classifications: water-soluble vitamins and fat-soluble vitamins.

Fat-Soluble Vitamins are stored in your body's cells that are rich in lipids (fats). Remember that "likes dissolve likes" for solubility rules and fat-soluble vitamins are almost completely hydrocarbons made up of just carbon and hydrogen. The main vitamins that are in this class are vitamins A, D, E, and K. Your body does not readily "dispense" with these compounds in that the hydrophobicity and non-polar nature allows them to harbor in your lipid-rich tissues. Therefore they CAN be taken in excess and your body will build to unhealthy levels leading to very unpleasant symptoms like fatigue, headache, and blurred vision - too much of a good thing here. Too much can also be taxing on your liver. Too much vitamin D can lead to heart and kidney damage.

Water-Soluble Vitamins are easily dissolved in your aqueous fluids and any excess is easily excreted in the urine. They are not stored in the body in any significant way. Because of this high solubility, you must constantly eat foods that provide these vitamins (or take supplements). The water-soluble vitamin set are vitamin C and the whole set of B-vitamins, know as the vitamin B complex which includes B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B7 (biotin), B9 (folic acid), and B12 (cobalamins). Also, vitamin A (fat-soluble) is converted to beta-carotene which is water-soluble.


Minerals

Minerals is another way to really just say ionic compounds. In general, minerals are really the way we get essential elements into our diet. All these elements eventually get incorporated into various physiological pathways and like vitamins, play a crucial role. We break this category down into 3 sub-classifications.

  • Macrominerals: Ca, P, Cl, K, S, Na, and Mg. You will need about 1-2 grams of these each day. Remember, I list this as elements, but they exist and enter your body as the common ions of these elements in the form of a salt or ionic compound.
  • Microminerals: Fe, Cu, and Zn. You need iron to have healthy and functioning blood - specifically your red blood cells that are rich in hemoglobin which depends on iron in order to function. Quantity-wise, you only need 10-100 mg of these each day.
  • Trace Minerals: I, F, Se, V, Cr, Mn, Co, Ni, Mo, B, Si, and Sn. Trace means that only a trace is needed - like in the microgram (µg or mcg) range.

Below is a little periodic table that highlights all the elements (minerals) that are essential for proper health.



The biggest of all the minerals is Ca and P. Why? Those are the primary elements that make your bones. So percentage-wise, Ca and P are in your body in the highest weight percent compared to all the other elements.



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