Vitamins are substances necessary for the proper functioning of the human body. We are alerted to their importance every day by the media and doctors. Nevertheless, many of us suffer from a lack of them.
This problem is further exacerbated by the numerous information that always speaks of a different vitamin or mineral as very important.
We lose the motivation, overview and ability to determine which vitamins and minerals are really key for us, of course with regard to a certain period of life or situation.
Vitamin deficiency, so-called hypovitaminosis, is relatively difficult to determine at first glance.
It manifests itself in a number of symptoms, which we often tempt to a hectic lifestyle and stress. These typical symptoms are sometimes referred to as “creeping” because they slowly creep through our lives, are inconspicuous at first, and gradually turn into a chronic state. Maybe you know it very well.
Just try to realize if you are not experiencing any of the following situations:
- Do you feel tired and weak even after a good night’s sleep?
- Are you concentrating badly and have memory lapses?
- Do you have split nails and hair?
- Do you feel numb and slow?
- Do you often have a headache?
- Do you ever have muscle cramps?
- Do your hair fall out and your nails break?
- Do you have dry and itchy skin?
- Can’t sleep or sleep poorly? Do you suffer from skin rashes, loss of appetite or malaise?
- Are you in a mood every day?
If you’ve just found out that you’re probably suffering from hypovitaminosis of a vitamin, it’s time to do something about it!
Why do we have few vitamins and minerals?
Of course, the symptoms of vitamin and mineral deficiencies can have far worse consequences – from increased bleeding through abdominal pain to musculoskeletal disorders.
Fortunately, these rarely occur, especially if a whole group of foods is excluded from the diet. Nevertheless, it is not good to take the warning signs of hypovitaminosis lightly. In the long run, they can run into big problems.
Taking hypovitaminosis lightly does not pay off. You can cause not only weakened immunity, but also serious health problems that can have permanent consequences.
You may be wondering how it is possible that you are deficient in vitamins and minerals when you eat basically everything.
Unfortunately, today’s modern age, when, for example, strawberries can be bought in the winter, is taking its toll.
Intensive agricultural production, which relies on the abundant use of pesticides and various fertilizers, causes a reduction in the quality of crops, which gives us less beneficial substances.
Another reason may be the one-sidedness of the diet or excessive consumption of alcohol, sugars or medication.
Lack of vitamins and minerals in the body can also cause poor absorption of the digestive tract, either due to illness or perhaps due to older age.
In older people, the ability to absorb nutrients decreases.
Last but not least, temporary hypovitaminosis can occur, for example, during growth, pregnancy, breastfeeding or after physical exertion, when the body requires an increased intake of these essential substances.
Basic facts about vitamins
To properly understand how vitamins and minerals work in the body and what they do, it is good to know at least a few basic things about them.
Vitamins are organic and essential substances, which means that they are essential for the body.
Our body cannot produce them itself, or only in limited quantities and under certain conditions, so we depend on their intake from food or food supplements.
Fortunately, they occur to varying degrees in all types of food – in fruits and vegetables, meat, eggs and cereals.
And that is why the diet should be balanced, varied and high quality. This is the only way to cover the vitamin demands that our body places.
The body cannot make vitamins and minerals on its own. We therefore rely on food or food supplements. However, a poor diet does not guarantee that we will eat enough.
There are 13 essential vitamins that we divide into fat-soluble and water-soluble.
The group of fat-soluble vitamins includes vitamins A, D, E and K. Our body is able to store these vitamins, so they will last us for several months.
In contrast, water-soluble vitamins, other than vitamin B12, remain in the body only briefly, so we must supplement them regularly.
Basic facts about minerals
Minerals are inorganic substances that are the basic building blocks of our tissues.
The human body contains 25 minerals and, like vitamins, their adequate intake of food is important for the proper functioning of the whole organism.
Minerals are divided into trace elements or microelements and macroelements.
Among the trace elements that our body needs less than macroelements, we include, for example, iron, zinc, fluorine, copper, selenium or iodine.
Macroelements include calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium or sulfur.
What vitamins are important and why?
It must be said at the outset that it is not possible to determine unambiguously which vitamin or mineral is most important.
Everyone has a role to play and something good for the body.
It also depends on the individual’s age, physical activity and other circumstances. Accordingly, one vitamin or mineral can be said to be more important than another at a given time.
Vitamin A (retinol)
This vitamin is known for its effect on the eyesight, immune system and reproductive system. Many studies show that its deficiency results in poorer sperm production and a risk of anemia. Its reliable sources include food of animal origin such as egg yolk, liver and milk. However, it can also be obtained from plant products through a provitamin called beta carotene, which is found mainly in yellow and orange-colored vegetables and fruits.
Collectively, these vitamins are called B-complex. They have a number of effects, each with a slightly different effect. They are generally considered to be essential vitamins for the proper functioning of the nervous system. Without them, our concentration is negligible. You may also experience mental discomfort, sleep disorders or poor skin quality. The sources of B vitamins are legumes, dairy products, meat, offal or yeast.
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)
Vitamin and antioxidant versatile for the body. It helps us to prevent the diseases, or to deal with them faster. It is also needed for collagen synthesis, iron utilization, blood cell production and proper development. The main sources of vitamin C include rose hips, black currants, broccoli, peppers, strawberries and citrus.
Vitamin D (ergocalciferol and cholecalciferol)
Recently, a very popular vitamin, which is formed in the body under the action of ultraviolet radiation. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean we have enough. The sun is weak in our conditions during the winter months and the production of vitamin D is insufficient. It is very important for our defenses, psyche, cardiovascular system and phosphate and calcium absorption. Therefore, great emphasis needs to be placed on its food intake. We find it mainly in fish oil and sea fish, liver and eggs.
Vitamin E (tocopherol)
It is an important antioxidant that protects the body’s cells from the harmful effects of free oxygen radicals. This prevents some diseases, including cancer, and slows down the signs of aging. It is contained mainly in vegetable oils, legumes, whole grains, nuts, avocados or leafy vegetables.
Vitamin K (phylloquinone and menaquinone)
Vitamin necessary for proper blood clotting and bone mineralization. It is found mainly in leafy vegetables, vegetable oils, milk and liver.
What minerals are important and why?
We should not neglect minerals either. After all, they are involved in more than 300 different biochemical reactions and affect the structure of body tissues.
Each mineral is again important. But if we were to highlight some minerals, they would be magnesium, zinc, calcium, iron, potassium and sodium.
Each of us has experienced a lack of magnesium on our own skin once in a lifetime. The most common symptoms are muscle cramps, fatigue and anxiety. Magnesium helps us cope with stress and corrects nerve activity. It is abundant in nuts, seeds, bananas, legumes and fish.
It plays a big role in the immune system, cell division and growth. He is also responsible for the condition of the skin, hair and nails. It is found in food mainly in pumpkin seeds, legumes, liver, egg yolk and meat.
Everyone knows that calcium is important for the proper construction of bones and teeth. However, it also has other, perhaps much more fundamental functions. For example, it takes care of proper blood clotting, muscle activity or hormone secretion. It is abundant in dairy products, fish, legumes or poppies.
This mineral is essential for the transmission of nerve impulses, the formation of red blood cells and the proper functioning of individual cells. This in itself indicates its importance. It can be supplied to the body by increased consumption of quality meat, beets, broccoli, legumes and leafy vegetables.
Most of the potassium in the body is concentrated in the cells. Without it, neither the proper functioning of the heart nor the nervous system is possible. However, heart disorders are not uncommon due to potassium deficiency. The richest food sources include bananas, potatoes, eggs and meat.
We can’t do without sodium. It is necessary mainly for the proper functioning of the kidneys and the balance of the internal environment. As part of the diet, it is naturally represented in table salt, meat and seafood. It is also necessary to pay attention to its excess, which can be the cause of high blood pressure.
Is the recommended daily allowance really enough?
Currently, the recommended daily allowance varies in many European countries, causing unnecessary confusion. For some vitamins, such as vitamin K, the exact daily dose is not even set. Only a minimum daily income is set, which is often not ideal for maintaining all functions in the normal.
The recommended daily dose only serves as an indicator. It depends mainly on the age, health, gender, weight and level of physical activity of the individual.
Evidence of this is, for example, the daily dose of vitamin D, which is set at 5 micrograms for adults under current EU legislation. However, this amount is insufficient. To improve immunity, it is necessary to take at least 25 micrograms of vitamin D every day, which unfortunately cannot be achieved from a normal diet. In addition, the amount of vitamins and minerals needs to be increased in children, pregnant women and individuals with convalescence.
What vitamins are important for children and pregnant women?
Vitamin D and K are essential for newborns and infants. This prevents bleeding disorders and problems with bone growth and development.
Regardless of the method of nutrition, vitamin D is given preventively from the second week of life and is recommended for up to one year.
Overall, however, it should be borne in mind that dietary supplements are not candies and their supplementation, especially in children, is good to consult with the doctor.
However, an increased dose of vitamins and minerals is generally recommended for children who:
- make a physically demanding sport,
- they eat vegan (these children need vitamin B12, iron and calcium in particular),
- have chronic diseases (asthma, indigestion, etc.),
- are mostly eaten semi-finished products.
For pregnant women, the main vitamin is B9 or folic acid. It is even recommended to use it a few months before the pregnancy itself. It helps the proper development of the fetus. It is contained mainly in leafy vegetables.
How to provide the body with enough vitamins and minerals?
So what do you do when you want to supply your body with the necessary vitamins and minerals? You have two options:
The basis should always be a balanced, regular and high-quality diet rich in micronutrients.
Also depends on the storage and processing of food, as some vitamins (such as vitamin C and B vitamins) are sensitive to heat, light and air. Thus, cooked foods can sometimes lose their quality.
Therefore, it is ideal to consume raw fruits and vegetables, or you can use a gentle way of preparing vegetables in steam. Also, don’t forget to include plenty of fish, legumes, nuts, and seeds in your diet.
It offers a quick and convenient way to supply the body with the necessary vitamins, either individually or in a suitable combination.
But it should not be exaggerated with them. The disadvantage may be the presence of additives or various additives that are completely unnecessary for the body.
At the same time, it is necessary to adhere to the specified dosage according to the manufacturer in order to avoid overdose.