The body is an incredibly complex mechanism that is made up of some of the same elements that can be found in stars. It’s, therefore, no wonder that there are so many vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that we need in order to live. Interestingly, different amounts of each are essential in maintaining good health, immune system, and wellness. However, it’s as easy to have too much of one as it is to not have enough of another. This is an easy-to-follow guide on why the body needs certain vitamins and minerals, and how you can get these through diet or supplements. Major minerals include calcium, zinc, magnesium, sodium, and potassium, whereas trace minerals which we need less of are iron, copper, fluoride, and iodine. Essential vitamins are A, B, C, D, E, and K. Some of these are covered below.
Firstly, minerals are used to maintain bone, muscle, heart, and brain function. Here are some essential minerals and how you can integrate more into your lifestyle.
- Magnesium- this is important for nerve functions, heart rhythms, and glucose control. Natural sources of magnesium are almonds, spinach, chicken, dairy products, beans, and potatoes.
- Zinc- this helps with immune function, normal growth, and development during pregnancy and childhood. Foods rich in zinc are red meat, poultry, seafood, dairy products, beans, and nuts. Vegetarians tend to take supplements as there are fewer natural sources of zinc available to them.
- Calcium- structural support is key, 99% of the calcium in the body can be found in the bones and teeth. It is also crucial for metabolic, neurological, and muscular functions. Sources of calcium are dairy products, kale, broccoli, and fortified orange juice.
These can help deliver oxygen through the blood to various tissues in the body. Trace minerals also help the body to produce hormones and regulate metabolism. The body needs smaller amounts of these minerals to function correctly. Some examples are below.
- Iron- although this is considered a trace mineral, the body needs higher amounts of iron than any other trace mineral. This is essential for red blood cell production, and a common side effect of iron deficiency is anemia. Food sources of iron include red meat, beans, nuts, and spinach.
- Copper- this is essential in red blood cell production, maintaining nerve cells, and the immune system. It also helps the body form collagen and absorb iron. Foods high in copper are shiitake mushrooms, leafy greens, dark chocolate, oysters, and liver.
- Fluoride- fluoride plays a role in preventing tooth decay, and stimulates new bone formations. Sources of fluoride include coffee, shrimp, and raisins.
Helping to maintain bodily functions and repair tissues, vitamins are just as essential. Some of the more important ones are highlighted below.
This helps keep the heart, lungs, and liver working properly, and is also important for reproductive, vision, and immune system health. Natural sources of vitamin A are salmon, broccoli, carrots, squash, and mangoes.
There are eight different types of this vitamin, which all help convert carbohydrates, fats, and proteins into energy. Natural sources include whole grains, eggs, poultry, fish, seeds, and legumes.
Vitamin C boosts the immune system, increases iron absorption from plant-based foods, and aids in wound healing. Foods rich in vitamin C are citrus fruits, kiwi, strawberries, brussels sprouts, and tomatoes.
Essential for calcium absorption, vitamin D boosts immune system function and is known as the sunshine vitamin because that is how the body absorbs this vitamin. You can check your vitamin D levels with a simple finger-prick test following the link above. Some foods with vitamin D are salmon, tuna, mackerel, egg yolks, mushrooms, and nut milk.
This protects our cells from free radicals, boosts our immune system, and helps prevent blood clots. Vitamin E can be found in sunflower seeds, spinach, Swiss chard, avocados, and butternut squash.
Vitamin K is essential for blood clotting and healthy bones. Natural sources include spinach, soybeans, lettuce, blueberries, meat, cheese, and eggs.
In summary, the body needs a wide variety of vitamins and minerals in order to function correctly. When the body cannot absorb something on its own, it is important to check that levels are normal and that everything is working as it should be. Make sure to eat a nutrient-rich diet with lots of greens and variety. Consult a doctor if you have any health concerns or want a more general view of your health. Ask your doctor what to integrate into your diet, and about supplements where necessary.