Vitamins & Minerals

Exactly why do we need vitamins?


Introduction


Do you have a checklist of all the healthy things you know you should be doing? Standing desk, taking movement breaks during the workday, sleeping 7-8 hours etc. Its overwhelming. We all have different priorities and what we place importance on, but there are some things that are just plain and simple easy to do. Educating and understanding the reason why they are important helps you stick to them.

The importance on a whole food, rainbow diet is the best way to get vitamins and minerals. But often we fall short of those requirements even if you have the perfect diet. Supplementing with these essential vitamins is one of the least time invasive health boosts you can do. The following includes why and how to get those through food.




Calcium and Sodium

Calcium and sodium and electrolytes that we often associate with intense or prolonged exercise (think Gatorade, choked full of them) However, these minerals are essential for any type of muscle contraction. In fact, the smallest muscle groups- smiling, blinking eyes, hand dexterity are prioritized. The reason for cramping is still ambiguous, but one of the possible explanations is a lack of sodium. We all know cramping can ruin movement on any level. The ability to efficiently contract muscle is important regardless of your level of activity and of increasing importance the greater that level is.

Why? One of the bodies complex systems called the sliding filament theory is what allows a sarcomere (the most basic unit of muscle) to shorten and product a contraction. The brain sends a signal to the body to move, this signal attaches to the muscle cell and activates channels that are lined with sodium and calcium. These minerals are then dumped into the cell. Calcium binds with troponin (a protein that is interfering with two other proteins actin and myosin). It is the attachment of actin and myosin that allows the sarcomere to shorten and therefore allow the muscle to contract. We can see that a lack of sodium and calcium in these channels reduces the efficiency of muscles contracting.

How do we get them? A great way to reduce cortisol is to start the day with a glass of room temperature water with a squeeze of lemon juice and a dash of high-quality Himalayan see salt. We will take about calcium later with its association with vitamin D.


Antioxidants

A hot buzz word particularly in the beauty industry. But why are they important and why do we need them? Antioxidants stabilize free radicals which are produced from: extensive aerobic exercise, environmental exposures: carcinogen (found in a lot of almond milks- make sure you choose a brand without them- Trader Joes has an option!), mental stress (cortisol), alcohol, inflammation and radiation.

Why are free radicals harmful? They can damage the cells lipid bilayer, proteins and DNA (and yes this does increase skin aging hence the focus in the beauty industry).

Antioxidants stabilize these and particularly vitamin c and e. Vitamin E reacts 1000x faster with free radicals, and vitamin C helps to reproduce vitamin e. Wheat germ and oranges are great sources of both of these vitamins. Other foods high in antioxidants are: berries, cherries, olives, citrus, prunes and green and black tea.


Vitamin D

You can get vitamin D through food or sun exposure. The skin absorbs the sunlight and sends vitamin D receptors to receptors in the blood and kidneys. They stimulate the parathyroid hormone which stimulates the release of serum calcium. Hence the connection between ensuring adequate levels of vitamin D to produce calcium.

The problem with relying exclusively on sunlight is that in some cultures that is not easy to find! We don’t often get the required exposure to absorb the amounts we need. Vitamin D is prevalent in fatty fish (salmon, mackerel) and eggs. However, it is usually a vitamin I recommend to supplement with due to its relationship to calcium, particularly essential to the aging population and women at risk of osteopenia.


Vitamin B

The magic supplement to enhance energy! Vitamin B shots will supercharge you temporarily and it is for good reason. However, a constant steady flow will provide enhanced energetic processes for the long haul. They enhance energy by binding to proteins in the body and converting them into glucosyl units to be used for glycolysis. *Read vitamin B can covert protein to a substrate that is easy for the body to produce energy. They also pump hydrogens through the electron transport chain to enhance energy. *Read they make producing energy easier by suppling the processes that do so with an accelerated rate.

The controversy behind a lack of vitamin B in a vegetarian diet stems from the fact that animal protein is the only way to get this vitamin in a bioavailable form. This means that when you ingest it, the body can use it. That is not to say you can’t get vitamin B as a vegetarian, just that there has to be a greater focus on obtaining it. Plants that were exposed to vitamin B12 by producing bacteria containing substances (soil) or fortified with B12 can provide that. Chlorella and nori are two great examples for vegetarians to include in their diet.

For meat eaters obtaining vitamin B in a readily available form is much easier: dairy products, liver, meat, shellfish and fish are all great sources. However, each product varies in percentage of bioavailable vitamin B: 24-36% in eggs and in 25-47% in trout.


Conclusion

In the long list of healthy practices, ensuring levels of calcium, sodium, vitamin c, e, d and b are essential for enhancing basic efficiency for the body. *Read: less stressed, more energy and decreased aging skin. There are great ways to get these through foods, but these are a few vitamins that should likely be supplemented with, especially with the decreased quality of foods these days. Always have blood work done to ensure your levels if there are any chronic conditions. Taking too many vitamins is not necessarily harmful, but you will be peeing money down the toilet!

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