The word vitamin comes from the meaning ‘vital minerals’. This indicates that all vitamins are essential for the survival and health of humans. Vitamins act as co-factors to catalyse reactions in the body. Without vitamins basic bodily processes would not take place and health problems would eventuate.
Vitamins are organic micronutrients that are required in small amounts in order to sustain human life. Vitamins (with few exceptions) cannot be manufactured endogenously (within the body) and must therefore be consumed in the diet. Vitamins can be obtained from supplements in cases of extreme deficiencies.
An essential nutrient is a nutrient (required for normal body functioning) that either cannot be synthesized by the body at all, or cannot be synthesized in amounts adequate for good health (e.g. niacin, choline), and therefore must be obtained from a dietary source.
VITAMINS AND NUTRIENTS
- Essential Vitamins – all vitamins are essential for health and are not produced within the body, with the exception of Vitamin D which can be manufactured in the body and to a lesser degree B12 which is manufactured in small doses.
- Water soluble vitamins (the family of B Vitamins, Vitamin C, Folic acid, Biotin, Choline, Inositol) cannot be stored in the body and therefore intake is required on a frequent basis.
- Fat soluble vitamins (Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin E & Vitamin K) can be stored in the fat stores of the body and therefore are not required on a daily basis.
Some other categories of essential nutrients include dietary minerals, essential fatty acids, and essential amino acids.
- 14 essential Minerals – (Zinc, Calcium, Magnesium, Iron, Iodine, Silica, Potassium, Sodium, Phosphorus, Chloride, Manganese, Copper, Selenium, Molybdenum) required for growth and production of bones, teeth, hair, blood, nerves, skin, vitamins, enzymes and hormones. Also required for fluid regulation, cellular integrity, energy production and muscle contraction.
- Amino acids – essential (must be consumed in the diet) amino acids are Phenylalanine, Valine, Threonine, Tryptophan, Isoleucine, Methionine, Leucine and Lysine.
- Amino acids – non-essential (are manufactured within the body) are Arginine, Cysteine, Glycine, Glutamine, Histidine, Proline, Serine and Tyrosine.
- Essential fatty acids – Omega 3, 6 & 9 – Eicosapentaenoic acid, Docosahexaenoic acid, Linoleic acid, Linolenic acid, Gamma-linolenic acid.
According to Mathew Solan, Executive Editor, Harvard Men’s Health Watch the list of Best food sources of Vitamins and Minerals is as follows:
B-1: ham, soymilk, watermelon, acorn squash
B-2: milk, yogurt, cheese, whole and enriched grains and cereals.
B-3: meat, poultry, fish, fortified and whole grains, mushrooms, potatoes
B-5: chicken, whole grains, broccoli, avocados, mushrooms
B-6: meat, fish, poultry, legumes, tofu and other soy products, bananas
B-7: Whole grains, eggs, soybeans, fish
B-9: Fortified grains and cereals, asparagus, spinach, broccoli, legumes (black-eyed peas and chickpeas), orange juice
B-12: Meat, poultry, fish, milk, cheese, fortified soymilk and cereals
Vitamin C: Citrus fruit, potatoes, broccoli, bell peppers, spinach, strawberries, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts
Vitamin A: beef, liver, eggs, shrimp, fish, fortified milk, sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkins, spinach, mangoes
Vitamin D: Fortified milk and cereals, fatty fish
Vitamin E: vegetables oils, leafy green vegetables, whole grains, nuts
Vitamin K: Cabbage, eggs, milk, spinach, broccoli, kale
Calcium: yogurt, cheese, milk, salmon, leafy green vegetables
Magnesium: Spinach, broccoli, legumes, seeds, whole-wheat bread
Potassium: meat, milk, fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes
Sodium: salt, soy sauce, vegetables
Chromium: meat, poultry, fish, nuts, cheese
Copper: shellfish, nuts, seeds, whole-grain products, beans, prunes
Fluoride: fish, teas
Iodine: Iodized salt, seafood
Iron: red meat, poultry, eggs, fruits, green vegetables, fortified bread
Manganese: nuts, legumes, whole grains, tea
Selenium: Organ meat, seafood, walnuts
Zinc: meat, shellfish, legumes, whole grains