Nutrition is the art of balancing what we eat, with what our body needs to run, repair and grow.
If you see the body as lots of little engines, that either work as a team or independently, it is about which fuels they all need. If we put in the wrong fuels it will not work well, if we use poor quality fuels then it will not respond as well, and if we use no fuels it will stop.
The various types of fuel our body requires are Vitamins, Minerals, hydrocarbons, water, enzymes, fats and amino acids. Different foods we eat have different combinations and concentrations of the above. Being fit and active, does not necessarily mean you are healthy. So let’s look at this in more detail.
What it does in the body: Necessary for the development and repair of bones, eyes, skin, and teeth, it boost our immunity. Proteins cannot be utilised by the body without it. Vitamin A is created in our Liver. There have been no recorded deaths from a Vitamin A overdose, but your skin might go a yellowy orange colour.
Sources: Fish liver oils, animal livers, green and yellow fruits/ vegetables especially alfalfa, apricots, asparagus, broccoli, cantaloupe melons, carrots, chard, dandelion leaves, garlic, kale, mustard, papayas, parsley, peaches, peppers, spinach, spirulina, pumpkin, squash.
Warnings: Diabetics and those with a hypothyroid, should avoid Vitamin A supplements, as their livers struggle to convert beta-carotene to Vitamin A.
What it does in the body: It helps maintain the nerves, skin, hair, eyes, liver, mouth and the internal muscles of the stomach. Very beneficial for those who suffer from anxiety or depression.
There are many types of B vitamins, all of which work together as a team, but different foods have different combinations of these vitamins.
B1 - Thiamine
What it does for the body: It enhances the circulation, assists in making hydrochloric acid (for digestion), blood formation and the metabolism of carbohydrates. Thiamine levels affects our energy levels, growth disorders and our learning capacity, and is vital for muscle tone of the intestines and heart.
Sources: Dried beans, brown rice, egg yolks, fish, organ meats from animals, peanuts, peas, poultry, rice bran, soya products, whole grains, asparagus, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, most nuts, plums, raisins.
Warnings: Antibiotics, sulfa drugs and oral contraceptives decrease thiamine levels in the body. A high Carbohydrate diet increases the need for thiamine. The dis-ease Beriberi (nervous system) is usually caused by a thiamine deficiency.
B2 - Riboflavin
What it does for the body: Riboflavin’s are essential for red blood cell formation, antibody production, cell respiration and growth. Very good for problems with the eyes. It Aids in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, proteins and tryptophan. It help facilitates oxygen use by body tissues and helps the body absorb Iron. It is important for fetal development.
Sources: Beans, cheese, eggs, meat, milk, poultry, spinach, yogurt, asparagus, avocados, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, currants and nuts.
Warnings: Deficiency symptom may include cracks and sores at the corner of the mouth. Oral contraceptives and strenuous exercise increase the need to take this vitamin. This vitamin is destroyed by cooking, light, alcohol and antibiotics.
B3 - Niacin, (aka Niacinamide or Nicotinic Acid)
What it does for the body: Niacin is necessary for healthy skin and circulation, helps with the functioning of the nervous system, production of stomach acid. Helps with the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Niacin lowers cholesterol, and can be effective in the treatment of some mental disorders.
Sources: Beef, broccoli, carrots, cheese, corn flour, eggs, fish, milk, pork, potatoes, tomatoes and whole wheat.
Warnings: Sometimes if you have to much niacin in one go it can cause a red rash or flush on the skin or a tingling sensation on the skin. Not advisable taken as a supplement, if you are pregnant or suffer from Gout, peptic ulcers, glaucoma diabetes or liver disease.
B5 - Pantothenic Acid
What it does for the body: Known as the anti stress vitamin, aids in other vitamin utilisation, production of antibodies and helps to convert carbohydrates, fats and proteins into energy. Essential for adrenal gland function and coenzyme production. It is used by every cell of the body.
Sources: Beans, beef, eggs, salt water fish, mother’s milk, pork, fresh vegetables, and whole wheat.
Warnings: There is nothing documented.
B6 - Pyridoxine
What it does for the body: Pyridoxine is involved in more bodily functions that an any other single nutrient, affecting both physical and mental health. Good for getting rid of water retention. Maintains the sodium potassium balance. Needed for nerve growth and brain function and for the synthesis of DNA and RNA. Inhibits the production of homocysteine, which attacks the heart and builds up cholesterol in the blood vessels. Helpful in the treatment of allergies, asthma and arthritis.
Sources: All foods contain this in trace amounts but the following have very high levels of it. Brewer’s yeast, carrots, chicken, eggs, fish, meat, peas, spinach, sunflower seeds, walnuts and wheat germ.
Those that have moderate levels are Avocado, bananas, beans, brown rice, cabbage, cantaloupe melons and whole grains.
B12 - Cyanocobalamin
What it does for the body: Stops Anaemia, aids with cell formation and cell life, important for digestion, absorbing food, uptake of proteins and the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates. Stops nerve damage and helps with fertility.
Deficiencies in B12 are common in elderly, vegetarians and those with digestive problems, common symptoms are memory loss, hallucinations, eye disorders, anaemia and digestive troubles.
Sources: Blue cheese, cheese, clams, eggs, herrings, kidneys, liver, mackerel, milk, seafood, tofu, yeast and yeast extracts.
B12 is not found in vegetables, is only from animal sources.
Warnings: Anti-gout and anticoagulant medications, potassium supplements can block B12 absorption.
What it does for the body: Aids in cell growth, fatty acid production, promotes healthy hair, skin, sweat glands, nerve tissue and bone marrow.
Sources: Cooked egg yolk, salt water fish, meat, milk, poultry, soybeans, whole grains and yeast.
Warnings: Raw egg whites contains Ovidin, which when combined with biotin in the gut, stops this vitamin being absorbed. A dry, scaly scalp and or face in infants (Seborrheic Dermatitis) could indicate a deficiency.
Saccharin and the use of antibiotics, inhibits the uptake of biotin.
What it does in the body: Nerve transmission, gallbladder regulation, liver function, hormone production and the metabolism of fats and cholesterol. Without choline, brain function and memory would be affected. Good to take if you suffer from Parkinson’s disease, or tardive dyskinesia.
Sources: Egg yolks, legumes, meat, milk, and whole grain cereals.
What it does for the body: A brain food, needed for energy production and red blood formation. It is used as a co-enzyme in DNA synthesis. Needed for cell division and replication. Folic acid helps with embryonic and fetal development, works best when combined with B12.
Sources: Barley, beans, beef, bran, brewer’s yeast, brown rice, cheese, chicken, dates, green leafy vegetables, lamb, lentils, liver milk, oranges, organ meats, split peas, pork, root vegetables, salmon, tuna, wheat germ, whole grains and yeast.
Warnings: Oral contraceptives increase need for folic acid. High doses over long periods should be avoided by people with hormone related cancers or convulsive disorders.
What it does for the body: Vital for hair growth, stops hardening of arteries and important in lecithin formation, helps remove fats from the liver.
Sources: Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, meats and milk.
Warnings: Drinking lots of caffeine will reduce Inositol levels in body.
PABA (Para-Aminobenzoic Acid)
What it does for the body: This is one of the basic components of Folic acid and helps with the utilization of Pantothenic Acid (B5). Helps protect skin against sun burn and melanoma (skin cancer). Supplements can restore hair colour when it starts to grey if caused by stress or nutrient deficiency.
Sources: Kidney, liver, molasses and whole grains.
Warnings: Sulfa drugs may cause a deficiency.
What it does for the body: It is an antioxidant, required for tissue growth and repair, adrenal function and healthy gums. It helps protect against, pollution and infection, prevents certain cancers and enhances the immune system. Helps reduce cholesterol and high blood pressure and has been known to prevent atherosclerosis. Essential in the formation of collagen and aids in interferon production and is needed to metabolise Folic acid.
It is best to use in conjunction with Vitamin E, which scavenges the dangerous oxygen radicals, while Vitamin C breaks them down.
Sources: Green vegetables, berries and citrus fruits, asparagus, avocadoes, grains, broccoli, collards, currants, kale, mangoes, mustard greens, onions, oranges, papayas, peas, persimmons, pineapple, radishes, rose hips, spinach, strawberries, chard, tomatoes and watercress.
Warnings: Aspirin, alcohol, analgesics, antidepressants, anticoagulants, oral contraceptives and steroids may reduce Vitamin C levels in body. Diabetic and sulfa drugs will not be as effective if taken with vitamin C. Pregnant women should not have more than 5,000 milligrams per day, as the infant may become dependent on this supplement and develop scurvy.
What it does for the body: It is required for calcium and phosphorus absorption and utilization. Important in children for the normal development of bones and teeth. Helps with prevention and treatment of osteoporosis, rickets, and hypocalcaemia as it enhances the immune system.
Vitamin D we get from food or supplements is not fully active as it requires conversion by the liver and then by the kidneys before it is active. So people with liver or kidney disorders are at a higher risk of osteoporosis. Because the sun’s ultraviolet rays can be converted into Vitamin D, exposure to the face and arms 3 times a week will give you sufficient for your diet.
Sources: Best source is direct sunlight, but can be found in: Fish liver oils, fatty salt water fish, dairy products (that have been fortified), eggs, halibut, liver, oatmeal, salmon, sardines, sweet potatoes, tuna and vegetable oils.
Warnings: Toxicity may occur from too much sunlight (over 65,000 IU) over a period of many years. Vitamin D should be taken with calcium. Intestinal disorders, liver, kidney and gallbladder malfunctions can interfere with absorption of this vitamin. Cholesterol lower drugs, antacids, mineral oils and cortisone based steroid also reduce absorption. Thiazide diuretics upset the vitamin D / Calcium balance of the body.
What it does for the body: It is an antioxidant which prevents cancers and cardiovascular disease. Supplements improve circulation, tissue repair and is useful in treating fibrocystic breasts and premenstrual syndrome. Vitamin E inhibits lipid peroxidation and the formation of free radicals. The body needs zinc in order to maintain the correct levels of Vitamin E in the blood.
Sources: Cold pressed vegetable oils, whole grains, dark green leafy vegetables, brown rice, cornmeal, eggs, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, wheat germ, nuts, seeds and legumes.
Warnings: Do not take at the same time as iron. People with; Diabetes, rheumatic heart disease, or overactive thyroids should not take high doses.
What it does for the body: Necessary for blood clotting and bone formation and it coverts Glucose into glycogen for storage in the liver.
Sources: Alfalfa, broccoli, dark green leafy vegetables, soybeans, blackstrap molasses, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, egg yolks, liver oatmeal, oats, rye, safflower oil and wheat.
Warnings: Not advisable to use synthetic Vitamin K in the last trimester of pregnancy as it may result in a toxic reaction in the new born. Overdose of this vitamin can cause flushing and sweating. Antibiotics interfere with the absorption of this vitamin.