The “What’s It For?” Side Of Food…

I’ve been writing this blog for a few years at this point and I have some posts that I like more than others. And one of the best posts I feel I’ve ever written is one that describes the purpose and use of most vitamins and minerals that we get through our food. People usually focus on what they can eat that’s healthy, can make them lose weight or accommodates certain food allergies or aversions. But very rare is it do people take the time to consider what the actual nutritional aspects of food provide for the human body.

We ultimately consume food for two reasons: for energy, which we obtain through the consumption of calories, and nutrition. As a Type-1 Diabetic, I usually focus on the energy side of things, things carbohydrates are the form of fuel we obtain that affects blood sugars. But the nutritional aspect is important. Because if you’re taking in tons of calories but getting none of the nutrition, you could be causing issues for your body that nobody wants.

So, what do all of these vitamins and minerals do? Each one can serve a purpose and provide something for the body, and I compiled a list about two years ago that walks us through all of them. It’s a bit of a long read, but the good news is the list is mostly in alphabetical order, so you can go straight to the vitamin and/or mineral you’re looking for. And without further ado, here’s the regurgitated list:

Vitamin A: This is an all-around vitamin that provides a number of functions including but not limited to the proper health of various bodily functions, tissues and helps to fight chronic disease and is known to be good for the eyes.

Vitamin B: This one is a bit complicated, as there is a large grouping of enzymes, vitamins and minerals that fall under the “B” category. In general, B-vitamins are used for energy production, immune function and absorbing iron. Some them include B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B9 (folate) and B12. There are a few more that I can’t recall, but B12 is considered amongst one of the most important of vitamins overall because it helps you turn food into energy.

Vitamin C: At some points, this one has been referred to as the sunshine vitamin. I’m thinking that’s mostly because people’s main source of Vitamin C is from citrus fruits. But this vitamin also helps with iron absorption, immune function and is a natural antioxidant that helps with the elimination of free radicals. Eating citrus fruits are also what sailors used to eat on long voyages to prevent scurvy.

Vitamin D: This vitamin helps with the strengthening of bones and teeth. Our bodies are designed to self-generate this vitamin naturally through exposure to sunlight, but obviously that needs to be done in small doses. Modern life has created an environment where more people spend their time indoors, away from the sun. So supplementation becomes important.

Vitamin E: A pretty straight forward vitamin, this one helps with proper blood circulation and clear skin.

Vitamin K: This vitamin is essential for blood-clotting. In order words, if you’re deficient in this vitamin, small cuts or injuries can cause excessive bleeding that can become dangerous.

Folic Acid: We hear people speak about this one as being necessary during pregnancy. And they would be correct! Folic Acid helps to prevent certain complications during childbirth but is important to everyone for proper cell renewal. This one is also known as Folate, or Vitamin B9 (as listed above).

Calcium: Most people should be familiar with this one. Teeth and bones, people! Teeth and bones! Good calcium levels are required to keep those body parts healthy.

Iron: This helps to build muscle tissue naturally and helps with proper health of the blood. As an interesting sidebar, it’s also what makes your blood red through the reflection of light!

Zinc: Immunity and Fertility. I’m a little unfamiliar with this one and haven’t had the opportunity to research it a great deal.

Chromium: This one is near and dear to my heart. Because it helps to control blood sugar levels. Chromium is what helps all the systems of your body to get the energy they need when they need it. Some traditional medicine practitioners will suggest Chromium supplements for Type 1 Diabetics who may have difficulty in maintaining proper levels.

Magnesium: This one helps your body to absorb all the other vitamins and minerals. It also acts as something of a relaxant to muscle tissue and play a role in proper muscle contraction.

Potassium: This mineral helps with the proper hydration of your body and helps to control blood pressure.

These are really just the major ones and there are plenty more. But these are the common ones that you’d be looking for in your food and your multi-vitamin. There’s a lot of mixed opinion about multivitamins, with some believing that you get nothing out of them and some swearing by them. Although we’d like to think we get everything we need out of our daily meals, such is not always the case and a multivitamin can help. My doctor has always sworn by them, so I make a point of taking a daily capsule. This can be of particular importance, especially if you’ve had a lazy day where your meals may not incorporate everything your body may need. ☯

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Shawn

I am a practitioner of the martial arts and student of the Buddhist faith. I have been a Type 1 Diabetic since I was 4 years old and have been fighting the uphill battle it includes ever since. I enjoy fitness and health and looking for new ways to improve both, as well as examining the many questions of life. Although I have no formal medical training, I have amassed a wealth of knowledge regarding health, Diabetes, martial arts as well as Buddhism and philosophy. My goal is to share this information with the world, and perhaps provide some sarcastic humour along the way. Welcome!

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