Vitamins and other Nutrients
Vitamin A is famous for its effects on the health of our eyes, helping our night vision. It is also important to protecting the integrity and resiliency of skin and mucus membranes (eyes, nose, mouth, GI tract), protecting us from infection. It belongs to a class of compounds called the carotenoids, an important group of anti-oxidants which are helpful in preventing many different kinds of cancer. Vitamin A is fat-soluble. Therefore, it can accumulate in body tissues and is considered toxic if > 50,000 IU/day are ingested. Pregnant women should not exceed more than 10,000 IU/day.
Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
Thiamine is a B complex vitamin required by all cells of the body, in order to utilize cellular energy sources. It is especially important to the nervous system. It is found naturally in whole grains or brown rice, but may be enriched in other grain sources.
Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
Niacin helps our bodies metabolize fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. It aids our circulation and can help reduce cholesterol levels. However, large doses (>1000mg/day) can be toxic to the liver.
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
Pyridoxine is crucial to the developing nervous system (brain and nerves). It has also been used to reduce symptoms of morning sickness and PMS. However, doses of more than 300mg/day may lead to nerve damage.
Vitamin B12 is crucial to the production and repair of our cellular DNA and RNA, and also aids in the utilization of iron. Plants do not produce Vitamin B 12 therefore, it is only found naturally in animal products (meat, eggs, dairy, fish).
Folic Acid (Folate)
Folate is an essential nutrient for helping with cell division (such as occurs in the developing fetus). It is therefore, VERY IMPORTANT for pregnant women, as it helps to prevent birth defects. It is also helpful in reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure, as well as osteoporosis (brittle bones).
Pantothenic acid is an important part of our cells’ energy cycle and is also used in the synthesis of certain hormones. Food processing destroys much of pantothenic acid’s activity.
Biotin helps metabolize fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. It can also help lower blood sugar in type 2 diabetes. Biotin deficiency can result in fatigue, decreased appetite, dermatitis, hair loss, anemia, nausea, and depression.
Choline and Inositol
Both are considered B complex vitamins and are involved with proper nervous system functioning.
PABA is important to skin health and the health of our intestines.
Vitamin C serves many important functions. It helps in the formation of collagen, connective tissue found in our skin and bones. It is important to wound healing, aids in the formation of red blood cells, and can help prevent bleeding. It is an active part of our immune system, stimulating our white blood cells, while acting as an inhibitor of histamine. It has many protective effects against toxins, heavy metals, and carcinogens (cancer-causing compounds). It is a powerful anti-oxidant, which interacts with many other anti-oxidants found in our food, increasing each other’s effectiveness.
In addition to its crucial role in calcium absorption and bone formation, Vitamin D is also involved in cell reproduction, blood cell production, and stimulation of our immune system.
Vitamin E also serves many roles at the cellular level, increasing the efficiency of muscles and nerves to operate with less oxygen. It is also a powerful anti-oxidant, protecting our cells from oxidative stress that occurs with metabolism. Topical vitamin E can reduce scar formation.
Bioflavinoids, related to Vitamin C, are a group of compounds with anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-cancer, and anti-histamine effects.
Vitamin K is necessary for proper blood clotting, but also plays a role in our utilization of glucose.
Although calcium’s effects on bone health are well-known, it also plays an essential role in nerve-conduction and muscle contraction. It is also important for cardiovascular health. Most of the calcium in our bones is deposited during years of growth, but calcium intake is important throughout our life. If the body does not get enough calcium, it begins to pull calcium from our bones.
Chromium is a mineral which helps stabilize blood sugars by helping our cells to utilize glucose.
Copper aids in the production of red blood cells, collagen, certain hormones, and metabolic enzymes. Excess copper, however, can lead to anemia and cause mental or emotional problems.
Fluoride protects against tooth decay and minimizes bone loss. Excess fluoride can cause mottled teeth
Iodine is essential to production of thyroid hormone, which in turn helps regulate our metabolism.
Iron is an essential component of hemoglobin, the molecule in red blood cells that transports oxygen. Vitamin C aids in the absorption of iron… but excess iron can accumulate in organs and become toxic.
Magnesium serves a synergistic role with calcium and is essential to proper functioning of our nervous system and muscles. It is also involved in insulin secretion, may help lower blood pressure, and may improve vision in glaucoma patients. It may also be a factor in chronic fatigue and hyperactivity.
Manganese serves many roles in the body including connective tissue formation, stabilization of glucose levels in the blood, and stimulation of anti-oxidant enzymes.
Potassium and Sodium
A proper equilibrium between these two minerals helps regulate water balance throughout the body. They are directly involved in the regulation of blood pressure and are also responsible for transmission of nerve impulses from nerves to muscles (including the heart). The typical American diet contains a disproportionately high level of sodium, which may contribute to high blood pressure.
This mineral is a natural anti-oxidant that benefits our immune system and helps protect us from cancer.
This important mineral serves many roles throughout the human body. It is a constituent of insulin as well as many metabolic enzymes. It is also an anti-oxidant, helping to support our immune system and protect against cancer. It aids in wound healing and helps keep our skin healthy. Excess zinc, however, is toxic … especially to our immune system!
Although not typically thought of as a mineral, water truly is essential for life. Almost all of our bodily functions depend on the presence of water… respiration, digestion, metabolism, temperature regulation, and waste removal. We would die much sooner in the absence of water, than we would food. Only oxygen is more essential to our bodies!
Anti-oxidants are not a single vitamin or nutrient, but rather a group of highly varied vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that have similar protective effects on our bodies. Our cells depend on oxygen to help metabolize the food we ingest. During this metabolism, by-products are produced called free radicals. These free radicals are molecules that contain fewer electrons, and can damage cells by scavenging electrons from other molecules, such as DNA. The metabolism of foods high in saturated fats produces more free radicals than the metabolism of other healthier foods. Cigarette smoke and ultra-violet light (from sun exposure) also contribute to the formation of free radicals. Anti-oxidant nutrients include Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium, Zinc, as well as many other phytonutrients (plant-based nutrients).
Also known as phytochemicals, phytonutrients are literally any nutrients found in plants. More specifically, they are groups of compounds found in plants that have been shown through research to have health benefits. They include carotenoids, isoflavones, protease inhibitors, and many other compounds. Many have anti-oxidant abilities and protect against cancer. Other compounds help lower cholesterol levels, decrease inflammation, or protect against coronary artery disease. The effects are as varied as the plants from which they are derived.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Much has been written about Omega-3 fatty acids, but what makes a fat a good fat? Omega-3 fatty acids are long chain, unsaturated fatty acids found in oily fish (such as salmon), certain nuts (walnuts), soybeans, and dark leafy greens. Unlike saturated fats, Omega-3’s have been shown to have a favorable response on cholesterol levels, lowering total cholesterol and raising HDL Cholesterol. They also appear to have anti-inflammatory effects and aid in the body’s ability to fight infection.