Micronutrients; Vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals play a significant role in maintaining a healthy body. Deficiencies can have a detrimental impact.
Vitamins are organic compounds required for optimal health. There are of two types. Fat Soluble (Vitamins A, D, E and K) which can be stored by the body, and Water Soluble, which are not and are therefore required to be obtained daily (an exception to this is B12). They can also be classified into function;
Vitamins play an important role within the body, and are involved in a variety of functions. Deficiencies will have a detrimental affect on the body as a whole.
Although there is an accepted Recommended Daily Amount RDA for each Vitamin and Mineral, it is worth bearing in mind that there will be individual differences which will influence requirements. For example; present state of health, and specific individual needs as a result of underlying conditions.
ENERGY METABOLISM: Vitamins involved; B1,B2,B3,B5,B6, BIOTIN, B13
HEMATOPOIESIS: Vitamins involved: B3, B5,B6, B12,FOLIC ACID, PAPA, VIT C
ANTIOXIDANTS: Vitamins involved: VIT E, VIT C, VIT E
VISION: Vitamins involved; A, B2
IMMUNE SYSTEM: Vitamins involved; VIT A, VIT D, VIT C
METABOLIC ACTIVITIES: Vitamins involved; B1,B2,B3,B5,B6, B12, BIOTIN, FOLIC ACID
GROWTH; hair and skin: Vitamins involved; VIT A, B2, B5, BIOTIN PAPA
BONE DEVELOPMENT: Vitamins involved; VIT A, VIT D, VIT K
DETOXIFICATION: Vitamind involved ; B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, B13, FOLIC ACID VIT A, VIT C, VIT E, CHOLINE
CLOTTING FACTORS: Vitamins involved; VIT K, VIT E
NERVOUS SYSTEM: Vitamins involved; B1, B5, B12, CHOLINE, FOLIC ACID, INOSITOL
CONVERSION OF CARBOHYDRATES TO FATS: Vitamins involved; VIT C, B1, BIOTIN, CHOLINE, INOSITOL
NORMAL CELL GROWTH: Vitamins involved; B2, VIT A, FOLIC ACID
GLYCOLOYSIS: Vitamins Involved; B3
FORMATION OF STEROIDS: Vitamins involved; B3, B5 (SUPPORTS ADRENAL GLANDS)
RNA, DNA SYNTHESIS: Vitamins involved; B3,B6,BIOTIN, FOLIC ACID, OROTIC ACID (REGULATING VIT A)
SODIUM AND POTASSIUM LEVELS: Vitamins involved; B6, VIT D
BREAKDOWN AND UTILISATION OF PROTEIN: Vitamins involved; FOLIC ACID, B12, VIT C
WOUND HEALING: Vitamins involved ; VIT C, VIT A
METABOLISM OF AMINO ACIDS: Vitamins Involved; B6, PAPA, OROTIC ACID, VIT C
Minerals are required by the body for optimal health. They are inorganic minerals that have a physiological impact on the body, and are essential for life. They facilitate a number of biochemical reactions, aid in the synthesis of hormones, and play a significant role in enzymatic reactions, and are also involved in the transport of nutrients. They are important within numerous systems in the body, and have a variety of functions. Deficiencies will have a detrimental affect on the body as a whole. However some minerals are toxic to the body.
Minerals work harmoniously with each another. An excess of one may lead to a deficiency of another. They may also act antagonistically regarding their absorption.
99% of the total Calcium in the body is found in bone, however it also plays a critical role in nervous system functioning and muscle contraction. Calcium activates insulin, calcitonin and the thyroid hormone release. Involved in blood clotting, and bone and tooth formation, and the regulation of heart beat. It suppresses the parathyroid hormone and vitamin D action on vascular smooth muscle. Calcium levels are monitored by the body by the Thyroid and parathyroid glands and the involvement of Vitamin D. Calcium absorption may be impaired by excess dietary fat, caffeine and fibre. Also excess dietary protein may increase calcium loss through the urine.
Sources: Broccoli, green leafy vegetables, soybeans, turnips, almonds, buckwheat, molasses, tofu, soya drinks. Phytic acid in foods can impair the absorption of Calcium. When seeds sprout phytic acid is degraded. Soaking and fermentation of the foods can also reduce phytic acid content.
Bone and teeth bind up to 85% of the body's phosphate as calcium–phosphate salts. Phosphate is found in phospholipids such as those that make up the cell membrane, and in ATP which is the energy currency used within the body. Phosphate is also part of the structure of nucleotides, and one of the buffer systems within the body which helps maintain blood pH. Excess phosphorous intake, as in the form of soft drinks, can reduce calcium absorption. Conversely deficiencies may arise due to excessive calcium intake. Calcium-phosphate levels in the body are regulated.
Sources; Almonds, cashews, chickpeas, garlic, nuts, seed grains, sesame, soy beans.
The balance of sodium within the body is regulated through the kidneys. It is found in every cell of the body and works closely with potassium. Support the acid base balance of he body, cell permeability, glucose absorption, elevated serum lipids, homeostasis of digestive and nervous system, maintenance of blood pressure, maintains water balance with potassium, muscle homeostasis, and regulation of osmotic pressure.
Sources: Celery, peas, pickles, potato chip, pickled olives, anchovies, table salt, softened water, table salt
Chloride is a major contributor of the osmotic pressure between the Internal Cellular Fluid (ICF) and the External Cellular Fluid (ECF) of the cell. It helps maintain osmotic pressure, balances sodium, blood pH, and kidney function. Required for the production of stomach acid and the transmission of nerve impulses, and activates amylase.
Sources Brewers yeast, whole wheat bread, potatoes, wheat germ, green pepper, parsnips, banana, spinach, carrots.
Potassium is well absorbed but can easily be lost in cooking and processed foods. It is an important electrolyte in that It helps establish the resting membrane potential in neurones and muscle fibres after membrane depolarisation and the action potential has be initiated. Magnesium helps to maintain potassium in the cells. Potassium also plays a supportive role in; Adrenal stress, energy production, membrane excitability, nerve transmission, muscle contractions, blood pressure control, osmotic pressure regulation, regulation of cell permeability and pH. It is also required for protein synthesis.
Sources: All vegetables, parsley, potato, apricots, avocado, banana, citrus fruit, dates, nuts (almonds, cashews, pecans), raisins, sunflower seeds, bread.
Plays a significant role in the formation of enzymes and Energy metabolism, also the oxidation of glucose, fats and proteins. It is an important electrolyte. Aids in the regulation of Calcium triggered contraction of heart and muscle cells, and the Vasodilation of coronary and peripheral arteries. Involved in Nerve depolarisation and transmission. Improves immune competence, regulation of body temperature and pH balance. Helps to make the parathyroid glands work properly.
Sources: Lima beans, parsnips, soy beans, kelp, leafy green vegetables, spinach, figs almonds, barley, cashews, wholegrain cereals, seeds, brewer’s yeast, cocoa, mineral water, molasses
Important in Thyroid hormone production, which is also dependent upon Selenium for conversion of T4 to the more active form T3 in the liver. Iron is also required for this process. It is part of Thyroid hormone and therefore important throughout the body for; Cell division, endocrine modulator, mast cell immunoglobulin homeostasis, myelination and synaptogenesis, physical and mental development. Deficiency can lead to hypothyroidism and formation of Goiters. Goitrogenic foods which include cruciferous vegetables such as; broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, and turnips can interfere with iodine absorption
Sources: Asparagus, garlic, Irish moss, Lima beans, mushrooms, sunflower seed, iodised salt
Absorption of Iron is increased as needed and excess iron is stored rather than excreted. Its primary function is in the formation of haemoglobin, but it is also important in energy metabolism, and plays a role within the immune system and also collagen synthesis. Non-heme iron, found is plants, is not well absorbed, however Vitamin C can facilitate its absorption. Deficiency will lead to anaemia. Functions include; Oxygen transport as haemoglobin and storage as myoglobin in muscle cells. Helps make red blood cells. Involved in energy production in mitochondria, Cofactor for multiple enzymes, including; cytochrome P450 in liver, antioxidant peroxidases. It is also important for the production of neurotransmitters and the thyroid hormone, Immune resistance, skin and nail formation, synthesis of neurotransmitters and DNA.
Sources: Parsley, soybeans, beans, dark green leafy vegetables apricots, avocado almonds, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, wheat germ, brown rice red wine, yeast. Phytic acid impairs it absorption. When seeds sprout phytic acid is degraded. Soaking and fermentation of the foods can also reduce phytic acid content.
Cofactor for multiple enzymes, synthesis of new proteins, neurotransmitter metabolism, metabolism of growth hormone, sex hormones, insulin, thyroid hormone, cell growth and differentiation, production and regulation of cellular and humoral immune response, and is an antioxidant. Helps with the healing of woods. Aids in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fat and protein. Deficiencies will manifest as skin changes, hair loss, and recurrent infections.
Sources: Zinc through plant sources are not as absorbable due to the presence of phytic acid which impaired it absorption. When seeds sprout phytic acid is degraded. Soaking and fermentation of the foods can reduce phytic acid content. Sources are; sunflower and pumpkin seeds, legumes, whole grains, brewer’s yeast, ginger. Iron and Zinc compete for absorption, also copper and zinc.
Necessary for the synthesis of certain key proteins, and to produce Glutathione, which is the body's main antioxidant. It is an important element in liver detoxification.
Sources; Occurs in foods as part of protein, legumes, nuts.
Has antioxidant properties, is a cofactor a number of enzymes, improve sperm motility, facilitates the recycling of vitamins C and E, increases HDL:LDL balance, and supports thyroid hormone metabolism.
Sources; Alfalfa, Barley, broccoli, Brazil nuts, cashew, celery, garlic, peanuts, whole-grain cereals,, yeast, onions, turnip. However if sold content is poor may lead to deficiency.
Part of many enzymes, needed for iron metabolism. Plays a role in making red blood cells and maintaining nerve cells. Also plays an important role in energy production. Due to its role in supporting iron in red blood cells Copper deficiency may result in iron deficiency anaemia. Excess copper can lead to kidney disease and brain damage. Wilson's disease is a condition where excess copper accumulates in the brain and vital organs and needs to be treated to facilitate removal of the excess copper from the body.
Sources; Almonds, avocado, beans, broccoli, buckwheat, chocolate, legumes, mushrooms, pecans, prunes, sunflower seeds, whole-grain cereals. Excess zinc and calcium can impair copper absorption.
Helps with carbohydrate metabolism and bone development, fatty acid and protein synthesis. Competes with iron for absorption so high manganese intake may reduce levels of iron. Also a co-factor in many enzymes and important in energy metabolism and antioxidants.
Sources; Almonds, avocado, beans, buckwheat, coconuts, corn, kelp, olives, pecans, pineapple juice, sunflower seeds, walnuts, whole grains, turnips, carrots, broccoli, legumes. Phytic acid, found in plants may impair its absorption. When seeds sprout phytic acid is degraded. Soaking and fermentation of the foods can also reduce phytic acid content.
Involved in the formation of bones and teeth, helps prevent tooth decay.
Sources; drinking water, and most teas.
Works closely with insulin to regulate blood sugar levels and deficiency may result in elevated levels.
Sources; Whole grains. Asparagus, apples, beer, Brewers yeast, grape juice, molasses, mushrooms, nuts, peanuts, pepper, potato, prunes, raisins, wheat, yeast.
Part of a number of enzymes, involved in fat, iron and copper metabolism.
Sources; Beans, buckwheat, Black Eyed Peas, legumes, lentils, lima beans, navy beans, oats, peas, soy beans, sunflower seeds, sweet peas, wheat germ, yeast.
Vanadium is believed to be important in bone development and plays a role in glucose metabolism.
Sources; Mushrooms, black pepper, parsley, dill weed, wine and grain.
Important for maintaining healthy bones.
Sources Found in a variety of fruits and vegetables
Phytonutrients are not classified as nutrients, but they do have protective or disease preventative properties. The main sources can be found in Fruits and Vegetables, Pulses, Nuts and Seeds, and in smaller quantities in Grains. They can also be acquired through drinking Teas. They are responsible for producing the colours that we see within the foods. There are a large number of phytonutrients. Their actions are less specific but act synergistically, that is , they work together to produce their beneficial actions. That is one reason why studies that focus on the effects of one isolated phytonutrient can often produce conflicting results. Some research that look into the effects of one specific phytonutrient in the Laboratory may use quantities in excess to what is normally found in the diet and can often report conflicting results.
Some of their beneficial properties appear to be that of having antioxidant qualities, and promoting the synthesis of the enzymes required for detoxification. Indirectly they support the immune system. They can also be influential in lowering cholesterol. They can exert oestrogen-like effects which may be beneficial in controlling the excessive production of oestrogen. Phytonutrients can protect against cellular damage.
Their mode of actions are;
- Protection again the development of cancers
- Stimulate the immune system
- Possess hormonal actions
- Anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties
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