“If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have the safest way to health.” – Hippocrates
In our last post we covered what the macronutrients are and what they do for our bodies besides act as a source of energy. Their name, macronutrients, sums up their function in our diet. They are what makes up the largest part of what we eat, they are the base of any healthy eating plan because they provide us with the energy needed to live. But we need more than just calories to function, we need vitamins and minerals too.
Vitamins and minerals are the micro-nutrients in our diet. We need them to function and they are used to perform many important tasks in the body, but we do not need as much of them as we do proteins, carbohydrates and fats. There are too many vitamins and minerals to cover in one blog post but we will cover the basics.
The first type of vitamins to discuss are the water-soluble vitamins. This means that these vitamins will dissolve in water. This covers the B-vitamins and vitamin C. Their chemical make-up determines how our body will digest, absorb and then get rid of them. The water-soluble vitamins are absorbed in the gut using carrier proteins for active transport out of the GI system. Because we consume and excrete a lot of water we don’t store water soluble vitamins for very long, therefore we need to consume them more often.
The other type of vitamin is fat-soluble. These vitamins are passively absorbed in the intestines, usually bound to a fat molecule. This means that if we are not eating enough fat we may not be able to absorb, transport or utilize these vitamins. Because these vitamins are fat-soluble they can be stored in lipid-based or fat structures like our cell membranes or fat droplets. This also means that we do not need to consume them as often because they will stay in our body for a longer period of time. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are considered fat-soluble vitamins.
Then we have minerals. Like vitamins, minerals do not provide us with energy but we still need them for many different functions in our body. Minerals are chemical compounds that we get through from the earth via the foods that we eat. Minerals help build our bones and teeth, regulate the fluid balance in our body and help perform many other functions vital to our health and well-being. Some common minerals that we all need are calcium, sodium, potassium, magnesium, iron, and copper.
The best way to get all your vitamins and minerals is to a wide variety of whole or minimally processed foods. Many nutrients are designed to work together to maximize their absorption and function. Much like we need to have fats in our diet to get the most out of fat-soluble vitamins the same is true for minerals. Our body will get the most benefit when we eat a variety of foods, for example, when eat foods rich in vitamin C with foods containing iron we are better able to absorb and use the iron. Supplements can help to bridge any gaps in our nutrition but they cannot replace whole foods due to the synergistic relationship we have with the foods we need.
Keep checking back for more nutrition information and if you have any questions or would like to get started on the path to a healthier you give us a call at 822-BACK or visit our website drzwny.com.
Written by: Dr. Marshall Dornink