Every article you read, or blog post you see is talking about some nutrients; some vitamin or mineral that you may be deficient in, or that you should be taking, or that is important to supplement or maybe that you’ve never even heard of.
It can be confusing and overwhelming, when you start thinking about all the vitamins people say you should take.
If that’s how you feel, read on to get the lowdown on some common vitamins and minerals and find out what they are used for in the body.
You have probably heard of the importance of calcium, but just as important is the consumption of magnesium. These two minerals work synergistically, and magnesium is required to reduce muscle cramping and to help in muscle-to-muscle communication. It also helps maintain optimal heart function and it is required for energy production and for the synthesis of proteins within our body. Of further importance though, magnesium is the key vitamin necessary when it comes to reducing adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue occurs from chronic stress on the body, and if not addressed can lead to low energy and fatigue. To get adequate magnesium, up your intake of green leafy veggies, eat lots of nuts (hello nut butter) and seeds, reach for whole grains and add avocado to your diet.
Working closely with magnesium, calcium is perhaps one of the most common minerals we often feel we are deficient in or should consume in supplement form. It is essential for healthy bones and is necessary for healthy thyroid function. It is important to note however, that the body does not absorb synthetic calcium (i.e. supplemental form) as well as calcium in foods, and there are a lot of factors which can affect how well your body is able to take it in. One of the most important is that calcium works with magnesium, and often, individuals who are showing low levels of calcium, or signs such as brittle bones, have low levels of magnesium, preventing their body from being able to absorb the calcium. No matter how much you consume, if your body doesn’t have adequate intake of magnesium and Vitamin D, the calcium will simply be excreted and not deposited where it is required. Good sources of calcium include green leafy vegetables, almonds, sesame seeds and Non-GMO tofu.
The B vitamins are the anti-stress vitamins.. Ensuring adequate consumption of B vitamins (B2, B3, B5, B6 and B12) will help with this stress response as well as help in the metabolism of macronutrients, proper regulation of cholesterol and to help in energy production. In fact, adequate levels of B2 and B5 are essential for our body to carry out normal cellular respiration and ensure all your cells get the fuel they need to keep you energized! B6 s also important for females in helping to balance estrogen. To increase your B vitamins through foods, consume leafy greens, mushrooms, bell peppers, broccoli and whole grains.
A powerful antioxidant, and an important vitamin for boosting immunity, Vitamin C is a much talked about vitamin that you are probably quite familiar with. Found in citrus fruits, kiwi and bright orange and yellow fruits and vegetables, the immunity powers of this vitamin come from it’s ability to fight disease-causing free radicals in the body, which hinder our immune system. It does this by either fighting virus cells directly, or by fighting other free radicals within the body that may get in the way of optimal functioning of the immune cells. Inadequate levels of Vitamin C means these free radicals can linger in your body longer, leading to illness or disease later in life.
Another antioxidant, the importance of zinc lies in the fact that it is a vital ingredient in the antioxidants our body makes itself for its own defence. You may not know this, but the body actually produces its own free radicals during the process of cellular respiration and several other bodily functions. Not to worry though, it also produces its own antioxidants to fight these! In order to produce them, it requires zinc (as well as selenium, copper and some vitamins). Another important reason to consume zinc thought is that it is an essential vitamin for tissue and cell formation. Stock up on zinc by consuming pumpkin seeds, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, and mushrooms.
In the simplest form, iron is our oxygen carrier, found in the form of hemoglobin in our red blood cells, helping to transfer oxygen from the lungs to the tissues. It also though is essential for energy metabolism, and is a component of certain proteins. Many people assume it’s hard to get iron from anything other than red meat, but there are lots of plant sources that contain iron, including dark leafy greens, broccoli, beets and cabbage or other cruciferous vegetables. For optimal absorption, consume iron with Vitamin C. Also check out "Iron 101" a comprehensive look at why you need more iron.
One of the electrolytes of the body, potassium is essential in helping to maintain the body’s electrolyte balance. Each of our individual cells has a set point of balance where it has the right amount of salt and the right amount of water to function, when this balance is off (i.e. from exercise, or dehydration), electrolytes are required to help restore the balance and make our cells happy again, and one of those is potassium. Another reason it’s important is because it is a key player in our body’s steps of energy production and is required to make sure our cells can produce the key energy molecules that fuel our body. Bananas are one of the best sources of potassium and consuming coconut water is a great way to boost your electrolytes.
Known as the sunshine vitamin, this vitamin works closely with calcium and magnesium, and it is essential to have adequate vitamin D in order for your body to use and absorb calcium. Low vitamin D levels can also result in low energy and fatigue, and achy muscles. The process of Vitamin D formation however is complicated, and the body needs to convert it to a useable form once it enters your body. Because of this, consuming vitamin D in a supplement is not as effective a method to increase your vitamin D intake, and is better off done via diet in foods such as mushrooms, salmon, eggs and fortified cereals. Of course the best way to get your Vitamin D, is to simply spend 20-30 minutes in the sunshine every day!
It’s important to remember that every one is different, and has different requirements and circumstances, so don’t just start taking vitamins because your friend is. Educate yourself and make the choice that is best for you!