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Food is fuel. Food is medicine.
Just like how gasoline powers up a vehicle’s engine, food is needed to keep the human body up and running. Food contains vitamins and minerals, which are essential in ensuring that the body is in good working condition and protect you from illnesses.
First, let’s learn the difference between vitamins and minerals:
Vitamins and minerals, while both “micronutrients,” are two different things.
Vitamins are organic. These are essential to bodily functions but can’t be produced by the body, hence these must come from food. There are 13 essential vitamins which further categorized as fat-soluble or water-soluble.
Water-soluble vitamins are those that are used by the body immediately. What it cannot absorb gets expelled so it has to be taken regularly. These are the 8 B vitamins and vitamin C. Fat-soluble vitamins are vitamins A, D, E, and K. These are absorbed more easily and are stored in the body’s fatty tissues and liver for future use.
Minerals, on the other hand, are inorganic substances that can be found in soil, water or rocks. These can either be macro minerals or trace minerals.
Naturally, macrominerals are required in large amounts. These are calcium, sulfur, phosphorus, chloride, magnesium, potassium and sodium. Trace minerals are iron, selenium, manganese, fluoride, copper, cobalt, iodine and zinc.
While trace minerals don’t mean they are less important, they are called so because they are needed in smaller amounts but are equally essential for proper bodily functions.
The best food sources to get those much-needed vitamins and minerals
- Dark leafy vegetables are great sources of vitamins A for healthy bones and teeth, E for red blood cell formation, and K for blood coagulation.
- While citrus fruits are the most common sources of Vitamin C, this vitamin can also be found in broccoli, cauliflower, and potatoes. This vitamin aids iron absorption and boosts immunity.
- Aside from being a great source of Vitamin C, oranges also contain Vitamin B9, more commonly known as folate, which is important for pregnant women. Have you noticed how it’s often brought as a gift during hospital visits? That’s because this wonder fruit is known to aid the immune system and even helps lower cholesterol and control blood sugar levels.
- Avocado has become extremely popular in diets these days because of its high nutrient value. It’s been dubbed as one of the world’s healthiest foods and contains Vitamin E, B3, and B6. Vitamin B3 helps maintain healthy skin and lowers cholesterol, while B6 produces red blood cells and helps maintain brain function.
- While the sun is most famous for providing the human body with Vitamin D, fatty seafood is also a great source. Consumption of Vitamin D-rich foods whether through food or supplements are important for people living in countries that don’t get enough sunlight.
- There are a lot of B vitamins, magnesium, and copper that can all be found in legumes such as lentils, peas, beans, and nuts. Peanut butter and nut-based milk options are easily found in supermarkets.
- Dairy products such as milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, and cream are common pantry items that pack Vitamins A, B2, B5, B7, and B12. These can be incorporated in many recipes with sauces such as pasta and stews.
- Meat such as beef is rich in vitamins and minerals and contains more iron than chicken or fish. Apart from being a good source of protein, it also contains zinc, selenium, phosphorus, and vitamins B12 and B3. One healthy beef recipe that you can try is this London Broil recipe.
- Of course, sodium can be found in table salt which is used in many food recipes. Another type of salt called iodized salt contains iodine, which is used by the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormones.
- A common ingredient in stir fry dishes is soy sauce. This has large amounts of chloride, which is needed to maintain a balance of fluids in and out of the cells.
- Poultry contains phosphorus which keeps bones and teeth healthy, vitamin B12 which supports metabolism.
- Even desserts have nutrients. Chocolates, especially dark ones, are known to contain vitamin B9 and magnesium. It’s considered as a powerful source of antioxidants that can help prevent heart diseases, diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s.
- Fluoride is very popular in toothpaste, but in some countries, water is also considered a source. It’s sometimes treated with fluoride or can be naturally occurring. So drink up!
- Whole grains are high in nutrients. It contains fiber, protein, potassium and vitamin B1 which helps convert carbohydrates into energy.
- A superfood that deserves its own mention is Kale. It’s a nutrient-dense vegetable that’s considered as the king of all dark leafy vegetables. This vegetable alone contains vitamins A, K, C, B6, manganese, calcium, copper, potassium, magnesium and smaller amounts of B1, B2, B3, iron, and phosphorus. Now, that’s healthy!
- Sunflower and corn oil have vitamin E and can be used as healthier alternatives to common cooking oils. Sunflower oil is good for the heart and makes for a great cooking oil as it can withstand high cooking temperatures. Corn oil has a high smoke point and is often used for frying.
- Liver is hands down one of the best sources of iron.
- But if liver is not in your food list, soybean and tofu are amazing alternatives, especially if you’re vegetarian.
Vitamins and minerals come in various forms. Of course, it’s best to take them from natural foods but there are also supplements available when natural sources are not available.
Most of the sources mentioned are part of common household grocery lists and shows that living a fit and healthy life, not to mention, nutritionally balanced, doesn’t mean making big changes.
The body needs to function, and it needs to function well. Nutrients coming from food ensure that this happens so we should also make sure that we give our body what it needs.
As with everything, inadequate and excessive consumption of both vitamins and minerals may lead to health problems so it’s best to check with your healthcare provider on recommended amounts.