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Articles > Nutrition > Vitamins and Minerals in our Modern Day Foods
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Vitamins and minerals are the two substances known as micronutrients which come from macronutrients –proteins-carbohydrates and fats. We get these essential nutrients from fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, dairy foods and meats—the basic food groups that comprise our diet.

There has been a misconception to obtaining all the vitamins and nutrients that your body needs solely through diet. You don't need to obtain all your vitamins and nutrients just through supplements but they compliment each other well. Below is a table to list the vitamins and minerals and it explains it's functions and sources.

Vitamins

Vitamin

What the vitamin does

Significant food sources

B1 (thiamin)

Supports energy metabolism and nerve function

spinach, green peas, tomato juice, watermelon, sunflower seeds, lean ham, lean pork chops, soy milk

B2 (riboflavin)

Supports energy metabolism, normal vision and skin health

spinach, broccoli, mushrooms, eggs, milk, liver, oysters, clams

B3 (niacin)

Supports energy metabolism, skin health, nervous system and digestive system

spinach, potatoes, tomato juice, lean ground beef, chicken breast, tuna (canned in water), liver, shrimp

Biotin

Energy metabolism, fat synthesis, amino acid metabolism, glycogen synthesis

widespread in foods

Pantothenic Acid

Supports energy metabolism

widespread in foods

B6 (pyridoxine)

Amino acid and fatty acid metabolism, red blood cell production

bananas, watermelon, tomato juice, broccoli, spinach, acorn squash, potatoes, white rice, chicken breast

Folate

Supports DNA synthesis and new cell formation

tomato juice, green beans, broccoli, spinach, asparagus, okra, black-eyed peas, lentils, navy, pinto and garbanzo beans

B12

Used in new cell synthesis, helps break down fatty acids and amino acids, supports nerve cell maintenance

meats, poultry, fish, shellfish, milk, eggs

C (ascorbic acid)

Collagen synthesis, amino acid metabolism, helps iron absorption, immunity, antioxidant

spinach, broccoli, red bell peppers, snow peas, tomato juice, kiwi, mango, orange, grapefruit juice, strawberries

A (retinol)

Supports vision, skin, bone and tooth growth, immunity and reproduction

mango, broccoli, butternut squash, carrots, tomato juice, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, beef liver

D

Promotes bone mineralization

self-synthesis via sunlight, fortified milk, egg yolk, liver, fatty fish

E

Antioxidant, regulation of oxidation reactions, supports cell membrane stabilization

polyunsaturated plant oils (soybean, corn and canola oils), wheat germ, sunflower seeds, tofu, avocado, sweet potatoes, shrimp, cod

K

Synthesis of blood-clotting proteins, regulates blood calcium

Brussels sprouts, leafy green vegetables, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, liver

Minerals


Mineral

What the mineral does

Significant food sources

Sodium

Maintains fluid and electrolyte balance, supports muscle contraction and nerve impulse transmissions

salt, soy sauce, bread, milk, meats

Chloride

Maintains fluid and electrolyte balance, aids in digestion

salt, soy sauce, milk, eggs, meats

Potassium

Maintains fluid and electrolyte balance, cell integrity, muscle contractions and nerve impulse transmission

potatoes, acorn squash, artichoke, spinach, broccoli, carrots, green beans, tomato juice, avocado, grapefruit juice, watermelon, banana, strawberries, cod, milk

Calcium

Formation of bones and teeth, supports blood clotting

milk, yogurt, cheddar cheese, Swiss cheese, tofu, sardines, green beans, spinach, broccoli

Phosphorus

Formation of cells, bones and teeth, maintains acid-base balance

all animal foods (meats, fish, poultry, eggs, milk)

Magnesium

Supports bone mineralization, protein building, muscular contraction, nerve impulse transmission, immunity

spinach, broccoli, artichokes, green beans, tomato juice, navy beans, pinto beans, black-eyed peas,  sunflower seeds, tofu, cashews, halibut

Iron

Part of the protein hemoglobin (carries oxygen throughout body's cells)

artichoke, parsley, spinach, broccoli, green beans, tomato juice, tofu, clams, shrimp, beef liver

Zinc

A part of many enzymes, involved in production of genetic material and proteins, transports vitamin A, taste perception, wound healing, sperm production and the normal development of the fetus 

spinach, broccoli, green peas, green beans, tomato juice, lentils, oysters, shrimp, crab, turkey (dark meat), lean ham, lean ground beef, lean sirloin steak, plain yogurt, Swiss cheese, tofu, ricotta cheese

Selenium

Antioxidant.  Works with vitamin E to protect body from oxidation

seafood, meats and grains

Iodine

Component of thyroid hormones that help regulate growth, development and metabolic rate

salt, seafood, bread, milk, cheese

Copper

Necessary for the absorption and utilization of iron, supports formation of hemoglobin and several enzymes

meats, water

Manganese

Facilitates many cell processes

widespread in foods

Fluoride

Involved in the formation of bones and teeth, helps to make teeth resistant to decay

fluoridated drinking water, tea, seafood

Chromium

Associated with insulin and is required for the release of energy from glucose

vegetable oils, liver, brewer's yeast, whole grains, cheese, nuts

Molybdenum

Facilitates many cell processes

legumes, organ meats

Many years ago, it was possible to obtain all the vitamins and nutrients your body need needs solely through foods; but as you will see in the decline of vitamins and nutrients in our modern day foods it is almost impossible to consume your daily needs and still stay under 2000 calories. Don't get me wrong eating fruits and vegetables are very important. I am not saying to just take supplements to get your nutritional needs. I am saying that you need to let them work together for the highest benefit.

The level of nutrients and vitamins in our foods have decreased dramatically over the last 60 or so years. You would have to eat somewhere in the range of 10-12 modern day apples to compare to one apple 60 years ago. This is because today's agriculture doesn't allow the soil to enrich itself, instead it depends on chemical fertilizers that don't replace the variety of nutrients that humans and plants need. Furthermore, the long shipping and storage time between harvest and selling reduces nutrient content.

The mineral content of milk and popular meats has also fallen significantly in the past 60 years, according to a new analysis of government records of the chemical composition of everyday food. The levels of iron recorded in the average rump steak have dropped by 55%, while magnesium fell by 7%. Looking at 15 different meat items, the analysis found that the iron content had fallen on average by 47%. The iron content of milk had dropped by more than 60%, and by more than 50% for cream and eight different cheeses. Milk appears to have lost 2% of its calcium, and 21% of its magnesium too. Most cheeses showed a fall in magnesium and calcium levels. According to the analysis, cheddar provides 9% less calcium today, 38% less magnesium and 47% less iron, while parmesan shows the steepest drop in nutrients, with magnesium levels down by 70% and iron all gone compared with its content in the years up to 1940.

The research was conducted by David Thomas, a chiropractor and nutritionist who prescribes and sells mineral supplements. He published an earlier historical analysis of the nutrient content of fruit and vegetables in 2000 which showed a similar decline in those foods. He attributes the loss of nutrients to intensive farming and industrial production. (Guardian Feb.2, 2006)

Modern day agriculture is not going to change so the answers are to use supplements along with your food intake; also if possible having your own garden will ensure higher levels of vitamins and minerals in your food. Yes the foods will not last as long because you will not have the preservatives but it is better without the preservatives. You can look up many sites on how to start a garden and many local libraries will hold classes on how to start a garden.

By: Kristy Donathan Bryant

 

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