Vitamins & minerals
Our bodies need vitamins, they ensure that our cells work properly.
They are called micronutrients because our body needs them in small or very small quantity but they are essential, because they perform essential functions in all the biochemical processes of the organism: in particular they regulate our metabolism, facilitate the release of energy, and perform important functions in the synthesis of bones for example.
Our body rely on our alimentation to get the large majority of vitamins except the vitamin K (synthetised by bacteries in our guts) and vitamin D is produced when the skin is exposed to sunlight.
There are 13 different vitamins, which are classified into two groups.
Vitamin C and group B vitamins (B1, B2, B3 or PP, B5, B6, B8, B9 and B12).
They are so called because they are soluble in water, and therefore disperse in body fluids, without being stored: this factor makes them very little toxic, since even in the event of overconsumption, they are discharged into the urine.
In general, water-soluble vitamins are provided mostly by fruits and vegetables
Fat soluble vitamins
vitamins A, D, E and K.
They are so called because they are dissolved and stored in fat and our body contains a lot of fat, which can make them toxic in high doses. this also means that is more difficult for our body to find them in our alimentation.
In general, fat-soluble vitamins are provided by lipids (oils, fatty fish, egg yolks, organ meats, liver, etc.), with the exception of vitamin D, which is produce by exposing our skin to the sun. In addition, vitamins A, C, E and beta-carotene (pro-vitamin A) act as antioxidants in many body functionsn, they protect us against cellular damage caused by free radicals
There are 22 in total, they represent about 4% of our body mass. They can be differentiated according to the quantity we have to absord every day to maintain healthy body functions:
- Major minerals
Our body needs more than 100 mg per day, they are: calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, sulfur, sodium and chlorine.
- Trace elements
We need only traces of those elements to maintain our body functions: less than 15 g of the total body mass, they include: iron, zinc, copper, fluorine, iodine, chromium and selenium.
Minerals are essential to our body, they enter into the composition of hormones and enzymes, they play a role in the constitution of our teeth, bones, nails, hair etc…
they play a major role on the function of our heart (potassium), muscular fibres contractions, balance of the pH, conductivity between the cells etc..
In theory, a balanced diet should provide all the vitamins and minerals that the body needs.
But, although severe deficiencies are rare today in industrialised countries (scurvy has disappeared a long time ago) deficiencies remain common. Numerous studies have shown that large proportions of the population do not receive the recommended daily intakes for certain micronutrients: for example, the deficit of vitamin D can reach between 80 and 90% of the population in winter!
But as we eat more than before, why is that?
- Industrialised food and intensive agriculture are the two main reasons, mass production, excessively refined food, the use of pesticides and other pollutants in agriculture etc..
- There are other factors in our modern life which have a direct action on our capacity to absorb vitamins and minerals:
Stress: Urinary magnesium elimination is accelerated when we are under stress.
Smoking: tobacco destroys part of our vitamin C, and contributes to the deterioration of our vitamin E, our vitamins B9 and B12, and our carotene.
Pollution: it reduces our ability to synthesise vitamin D.
Sport: it increase our needs for numerous vitamins and trace elements.
Age: our absorption and synthesis capacities decline over the years.
Medication: Hormonal treatments, anticoagulants or anti-epileptics, for example can reduce the absorption of certain micronutrients, interfere with their metabolism, or speed up their catabolism.
What can we do about it?
It is fundamental to tend to a balanced diet by increasing fruits and vegetables, dried oilseeds, seafood, fish, whole bread instead of white bread, whole rice instead of white rice etc…and to avoid processed foods that usually contain tons of sugar, salt and preservatives.
Most often, foods with a high nutritional density will at the same time be rich in antioxidants, in particular plants in which they cooperate to protect them from free radicals, and act the same in our body.