Confused about your A B C’s? We break down the science behind vitamins
The truth is the best way to get all our necessary vitamins, minerals and antioxidants is through a balanced diet. It’s not a secret – – we’ve all heard this common refrain from doctors, scientists, health experts and even our mothers! What you may not know though is that the average diet can leave gaps in our daily nutritional intake, which means we’re missing out on some vital elements that our bodies require to function.
There are 13 vitamins that are essential for our body’s normal cell function, growth and development. This is where we get into the alphabet of vitamins. The essential vitamins include: A, C, D, E, K, Thiamine (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Niacin (B3), Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, B6, B12 and Folate (Folic Acid). These 13 essential vitamins are further broken down into 2 categories: water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins.
Water soluble vitamins help free the energy found in the foods we eat. Vitamin C and B Vitamins are all water-soluble vitamins, meaning they tend to be in the watery portions of the foods we eat and are directly absorbed in the blood as food is broken down. These water-soluble vitamins are readily and easily available for use by the body. The kidneys are responsible for regulating these water-soluble vitamins. If they are taken in excessive amounts, the kidneys will rid them from the body through the urine. Since our body eliminates excessive water-soluble vitamins there is little chance of becoming toxic from consumption of these vitamins. High doses of vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 are the exception.
Fat-soluble vitamins, on the other hand, are difficult to break down in the bloodstream and require special pathways to enter the blood through the gastrointestinal tract. Vitamins A, Vitamin D, Vitamin E and Vitamin K are all fat-soluble vitamins. These vitamins are stored in the fat tissues and in the liver, which hold the vitamins until they are needed. Our body can store fat-soluble vitamins for long periods of time, which can result in vitamin toxicity.
Major minerals are present in our bodies in large amounts and are responsible for providing proper electrical stability of the cell membranes, healthy bones, hair, skin and nails. It’s important to maintain a balance of these minerals through your diet and supplements. Major minerals include: Calcium, Chloride, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sodium and Sulfur.
Trace minerals are needed in smaller amounts but have significant and essential contributions similar to those of the major minerals. Trace minerals vary in their function ranging from carrying oxygen throughout the body to helping blood clot. Similar to the major minerals maintaining a balance of the trace minerals through diet and supplements is key. Trace minerals include: Chromium, Copper, Fluoride, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Selenium and Zinc.
Antioxidants are used to defend against free radicals that cause harm to cells on a DNA level. These harmful free radicals – when produced in excessive amounts – cause cellular damage. Known antioxidants disarm and neutralize these free radicals providing protection to cells and our bodies. Free radicals are classically created by tobacco smoke, ultraviolet rays and air pollution. An overproduction of free radicals can increase your risk of heart disease and certain cancers. Our body naturally produces antioxidants to protect our body from illness. Additionally, our diet and supplements can provide us with able amounts of antioxidants, which include: Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Beta-carotene and Selenium.
Now that you’ve learned the ABC’s of vitamins, you’re ready to graduate! Get out there and master your body’s daily nutritional needs everyday.