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Vitamins and Minerals: Functions, What They Are Useful for, Best Sources


  • Vitamins and Minerals: Functions, What They Are Useful for, Best Sources

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    Most of us eat poorly (do not even doubt it), not receiving important nutrients that are vital for the normal functioning of the body.

    For many, the state of acute and persistent vitamin and mineral deficiency lasts for years. The consequences of a lack of important vitamins and minerals can be disastrous, up to death.

    The main goal of this article is to explain what vitamins and minerals are, their functions in the body, and what natural products contain them.


    Vitamins are natural components of food necessary for the normal functioning of the body. One of their most important functions is their role in the synthesis of enzymes, which are catalysts for chemical reactions, including digestive ones.

    Vitamins are vital, but unlike macronutrients (fat, protein, and carbohydrates), they are not a source of energy.

    In general, all vitamins are divided into water-soluble and fat-soluble, depending on what they are better dissolved in.

    Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble. To be absorbed, they must be pre-dissolved in dietary fat.

    In the body, fat-soluble vitamins are stored and accumulated in those cells that contain fat particles in one form or another. Due to this unique storage capacity, vitamins of this type do not need to be consumed every day.

    Partially fat-soluble vitamins of this type are removed from the body with feces.

    B vitamins and vitamin C are water-soluble. They are transported in the body by protein molecules.

    Since the body has a constant water cycle, water-soluble vitamins are not stored in it in large quantities but are usually excreted in the urine along with their decomposition products. That is why it is important that they enter the body with food every day.

    Short-term deficiency of fat-soluble vitamins is not dangerous, water-soluble vitamins should be ingested every day.

    Interestingly, water-soluble vitamins can be washed out of food during cooking and storage. Therefore, they are best preserved when cooking in a microwave oven, steaming, baking.

    During the cooking process, some of the water-soluble vitamins migrate into the water and are lost if the water is drained afterwards.

    Frozen and canned vegetables are usually very rich in vitamins.

    There are no universal recommendations for taking vitamins, and there can not be, since so many factors determine an individual's need, including:
    • gender
    • state of the gastrointestinal tract
    • medications used
    • psychological state
    • physical activity level
    • age-related changes


    Like vitamins, minerals are not direct sources of energy but are vital. They serve as building blocks of various cells, including teeth and bones, enzymes, and are also involved in the transmission of nerve impulses from cell to cell, etc.

    Minerals do not require digestion, as they are the simplest elements. They do not break down when heated, remaining in the products during cooking.

    Minerals do not break down when heated, remaining in products even after cooking

    In plant foods, minerals come from the soil and water, in the process of plant growth. They migrate to animal meat during the process of feeding animals with plants. That is, whether you eat plant products or dairy products - in both cases, natural minerals enter your body.

    Minerals are involved in the creation of enzymes (digestive enzymes that speed up the digestive process) inside the body or can play their own role.

    They are also components of intercellular electrolytes (solutions of charged electric particles), they are used to transport electric charges in the body, nerve impulses: the brain works, the heart beats, and limbs move.

    Plant foods often contain other substances, such as phytates and oxalates, which interfere with the absorption of minerals.

    This is a serious problem primarily for vegetarians, especially those who eat mainly only foods with a high content of them (only rice, corn, soy, etc.), as the risk of developing a mineral deficiency increases. In the case of a mixed and varied diet, there is nothing to worry about.

    Synthetic vitamins and minerals that you can buy at the pharmacy are different from those found in natural foods.

    Microelements in natural products go together with each other, in combinations that are optimal for assimilation, causing cascading reactions in the body and therefore are most useful.

    It is almost impossible to model something similar in the complexes of vitamins and minerals that are produced in the laboratory.


    Like vitamins and minerals, phytonutrients are not energy carriers but perform a variety of health-promoting functions.

    Scientists do not stop discovering new substances of this class. At the moment, there are about 10,000 of them known. But you need to understand that they only give names to those substances that have always been in the composition of plants.

    Phytonutrients not only give plants a certain color (green, red, yellow, etc.): the color is a kind of indicator of what kind of disease the plant is useful in fighting. A lack of certain phytonutrients in the diet can lead to an increased risk of chronic diseases.

    In one statistical study, it is noted that approximately 31% of people consume insufficient amounts of green vegetables, 22% - red, 21% - yellow and orange, 14% - white, 12% - purple and blue.

    Phytonutrients act through various mechanisms:
    • they are antioxidants
    • affect hormonal function
    • protect DNA from carcinogens
    • they have antibacterial and antiviral effects
    • reduce inflammatory processes
    • they affect blood clotting
    • prevent the synthesis of fat cells

    The variety of mechanisms is huge. Some of them can be very complex in nature.

    For example, some phytonutrients can even affect certain cells in the body, exposing them to light stress, training them in this way and making them stronger by creating an internal defense mechanism (in scientific terms, this is called “hormesis").

    Conclusion: eat plants of different colors, as they are rich in phytonutrients. Do not replace them with special phytonutrient supplements.

    Table of vitamins and minerals
    Vitamin A
    What vitamin A is good for: eyes, bones, immunity, reproductive function
    Which foods contain vitamin A: liver, carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes (sweet potato), spinach, cabbage, egg yolk, beetroot, mustard, zucchini
    Vitamin B1
    What vitamin B1 is good for: helps digestive enzymes digest and absorb carbohydrates and amino acids
    Which foods contain vitamin B1: sunflower seeds, pork, peas, barley, beans, lentils, oatmeal, asparagus, beef liver, sesame seeds
    VitaminB B2
    What vitamin B2 is good for: helps digestive enzymes digest and absorb carbohydrates and fats
    Which foods contain vitamin B2:beef liver, cottage cheese, yogurt, soy, white mushrooms, milk, spinach, whole grains, almonds, eggs, shrimp
    Vitamin B3
    What vitamin B3 is good for: metabolism of carbohydrates and fats, DNA copying and recovery
    Which foods contain vitamin B3: beef liver, tuna, chicken breast, pork loin, salmon, swordfish, whole grains, buckwheat, mushrooms, tomatoes
    Vitamin B5
    What vitamin B5 is good for: helps in the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats, synthesis of cholesterol, hair, skin, eyes, liver, nervous system, reproductive function, creation of red blood cells, adrenal adrenaline and digestion
    Which foods contain vitamin B5: avocado, trout, yogurt, chicken, lobster, peas, crab, sweet potatoes (sweet potatoes), potatoes, lentils, egg yolk, beef liver, tuna, turkey
    Vitamin B6
    What vitamin B6 is good for: Helps digestive enzymes in the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates and amino acids, creating blood cells
    Which foods contain vitamin B6: tuna, turkey, beef, chicken, salmon, sweet potatoes (sweet potato), sunflower seeds, chickpeas, potatoes, pork, bananas, swordfish, spinach, plantain
    Vitamin B7
    What vitamin B7 is good for: helps digestive enzymes digest and absorb carbohydrates, fats and proteins
    Which foods contain vitamin B7:nuts, egg yolk, sweet potatoes (sweet potato), onion, liver, salmon, peanuts, mushrooms, pork, chocolate, oatmeal, tomatoes
    Vitamin B9
    What vitamin B9 is good for: helps digestive enzymes in the digestion and absorption of amino acids, DNA synthesis
    Which foods contain vitamin B9:spinach, lentils, beans, chickpeas, asparagus, broccoli, lettuce, cow peas, red beans, chicken liver
    Vitamin B12
    What vitamin B12 is good for: blood, nervous system, helps digestive enzymes in digestion and absorption of individual amino acids
    Which foods contain vitamin B12:shellfish, beef liver, beef, sardines, salmon, tuna, cod, dairy products
    Vitamin C
    What vitamin C is good for: synthesis of collagen (bone, cartilage, tendons), immunity, hormone synthesis, neurotransmitter synthesis (they transmit nerve impulses), DNA synthesis, improves iron absorption, antioxidant
    Which foods contain vitamin C:sweet peppers, citrus fruits, broccoli, strawberries, kiwi, papaya, Brussels sprouts
    Vitamin D
    What vitamin D is good for: bone health, blood calcium levels, cell growth, immunity, teeth
    Which foods contain vitamin D:rainbow trout, salmon, swordfish, tuna, halibut, sea urchin, egg yolk, mushrooms, shrimp, beef liver
    Vitamin E
    What vitamin E is good for: antioxidant, protects cell membranes and other fatty acids from oxidation, protects white blood cells, immunity
    Which foods contain vitamin E:almonds, sunflower seeds, spinach, chard, avocado, peanuts, turnip leaves, hazelnuts
    Vitamin K1
    What vitamin K1 is good for: blood clotting, bone creation
    Which foods contain vitamin K1:leafy cabbage, spinach, turnip shoots, beetroot shoots, dandelion shoots, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, asparagus
    Vitamin K2
    What vitamin K2 is good for: bone creation, calcium build-up, growth and development
    Which foods contain vitamin K2:cheese, egg yolk, vegetable oil, chicken liver, chicken breast, beef, dairy products
    What is Calcium good for?: healthy bones and teeth, acid balance in the body, transmission of nerve impulses, muscle contraction
    Which foods contain Calcium: green vegetables, soy, nuts and seeds, fish, dairy products
    What chlorine is good for: fluid balance, transmission of nerve impulses, digestive system health, antibacterial action
    Which products contain Chlorine: Salt
    What Choline is good for: cell membranes and transmission of nerve impulses, liver function, nutrient transport
    Which foods contain Choline: shellfish, beef and beef liver, eggs, salmon, pork, chicken, tomatoes
    What Chrome is good for: transport of glucose, creation of DNA, immunity
    Which foods contain Chromium: broccoli, barley, oats, onions, green peas, tomatoes, potatoes, plums, nuts, beer yeast
    What Copper is good for: digestive enzymes, iron transport, immunity
    Which products contain Copper: sesame, cashews, mushrooms, barley, soybeans, sunflower seeds, beans, lentils, walnuts, liver, marine products
    What Fluoride is good for: dental and bone health
    Which products contain Fluoride: seafood, legumes, whole grains, drinking water, green tea
    What Iodine is good for: creation of thyroid hormones, regulation of body temperature, reproductive health, nervous system health
    Which products contain Iodine: seafood, dairy, eggs, strawberries
    What Iron is good for: oxygen transport, hemoglobin, myoglobin, digestive enzymes
    Which foods contain Iron: soy, lentils, spinach, beans, olives, raisins, brown rice, broccoli, sesame, tuna, chicken, pork, beef
    What Magnesium is good for: more than 300 digestive enzymes, bone health, muscle contraction, immunity, regulates blood sugar and blood pressure
    Which foods contain Magnesium: legumes, spinach, nuts, seeds, whole grains, fruits, avocados, poultry
    What is Manganese good for?: involved in the creation of enzymes, bone health and cartilage
    Which foods contain Manganese: whole grains, nuts, legumes, seeds, tea, green leafy vegetables
    What Molybdenum is good for: Helps enzymes involved in the cycle of carbon, nitrogen, sulfur, participates in the metabolism of drugs and toxins
    Which products contain Molybdenum: legumes, nuts, whole grains
    What Phosphorus is good for: fluid balance, bone health, is part of ATP energy molecules
    Which foods contain Phosphorus: dairy products, soy, sardines, beef liver, lentils, sesame seeds, eggs, almonds, peanuts, peanut butter
    What Potassium is good for: fluid balance, transmission of nerve impulses, muscle contraction
    Which foods contain Potassium: vegetables, fruits, dairy products, fish
    What is Selenium good for?: metabolism of carbohydrates and fats, antioxidant, immunity
    Which products contain Selenium: tuna, shrimp, sardines, salmon, poultry, cod, chicken, Brazilian nut, mushrooms, barley, whole grains, hazelnuts, eggs
    What is Sodium good for: fluid balance, acid balance, transmission of nerve impulses, muscle contraction
    Which foods contain Sodium: salt, greens, most foods contains in some quantities
    What Sulfur is good for: it is part of some B vitamins and amino acids, acid balance, liver detoxification
    Which foods contain Sulfur: food rich in protein
    What is Zinc good for: helps in the functioning of more than 100 enzymes, immunity, growth and puberty, genes
    Which foods contain Zinc: beef, sesame, pumpkin seeds, lentils, chickpeas, cashews, whole grains, oats, oysters, turkey, shrimp
    Let’s sum up:
    • Short-term deficiency of fat-soluble vitamins is not dangerous, water-soluble vitamins should be ingested every day
    • Vitamins are best preserved when cooking in a microwave oven, steamed; when cooking, water-soluble vitamins are washed out. Frozen and canned vegetables are usually very rich in vitamins
    • Minerals are not destroyed by heat treatment
    • Plant foods often contain substances that prevent the absorption of minerals; vegetarians have an increased risk of mineral deficiency
    • Synthetic vitamins and minerals that you can buy at the pharmacy are less useful than those found in natural foods: their amounts and combinations are not balanced
    • Lack of phytonutrients can lead to the development of chronic diseases
    • Phytonutrients are found in plant foods; it is better to give preference to it, rather than special additives

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    Last edited by Penny Katic; 09-14-2020, 11:33 AM.

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