Go, go, go. Hurry, hurry, hurry. Grab a bite here, grab a bite there.
We all live such busy lives these day and so busy at times, that too often, do not fuel our bodies with the essential nutrients they need to function optimally.
So slow down and take a breather and refresh yourself with our complimentary infographics on vitamins and minerals, why you need them, and in what foods you can get them from.
Scroll below infographics for more text information.
The ABCs of Vitamins
Vitamins are natural components of foods and necessary for normal physiologic functioning. One of the most critical responsibilities of vitamins is their role as co-factors for enzymes.
While vitamins are essential, unlike macronutrients, they don’t function as direct energy sources.
The general categories of vitamins include fat-soluble and water-soluble, depending on whether they dissolve well in either fat or water, respectively.
Vitamins A, D, E, and K are classified as fat-soluble. These are mostly absorbed passively in the GI tract, and usually must be transported bound to dietary fat.
In the body, fat-soluble vitamins are usually found in the portion of the cell, which contains fat, including cell membranes, lipid droplets, etc.
These vitamins are typically excreted through our feces.
Due to the unique storage capacity of fat-soluble vitamins, it’s not necessary to consume them every day.
B vitamins and vitamin C are water-soluble. These vitamins are absorbed both by passive and active mechanisms in the gastrointestinal tract. They rely on carrier proteins for transport.
Since body water is always being turned over, water-soluble vitamins are not stored in large amounts in the body; they’re typically excreted in the urine along with their breakdown products. And for this reason, it’s important to get them on a daily or weekly basis.
Also interesting to note is that water-soluble vitamins can also be lost in water during cooking and storage. Which means the best methods to preserve vitamins include steaming, sauteing, roasting, and microwaving. That’s why boiling in water, and then discarding the water, will likely result in loss of some vitamins.
Remember that frozen and canned vegetables and fruits were harvested and then immediately preserved, so unless they are boiled after opening, they are likely to have a high nutrient content.
Vitamins are not a one-size-fits-all situation. Many factors determine our needs, including gender, GI health, medication use, stress, exercise, and age-related changes.
All About Minerals
Like vitamins, minerals are not direct sources of energy, yet are still considered essential in the human diet. They serve as building blocks for body structures: they form the foundation of teeth and bones, and help to construct other cells and enzymes.
Minerals are already in the simplest form possible, they are elements, so the body doesn’t need to break them down before absorption. Further, minerals won’t be degraded on exposure to heat, so minerals in food stay unharmed during storage and cooking.
The minerals in foods come from the environment, such as soil and water taken up into plants during the growing process, and then incorporated into the animals that eat the plants. Whether humans eat the plant directly or the animal product, all of the minerals in the food supply originate from Mother Nature.
Minerals can act as co-factors in enzymatic reactions or as enzymes themselves. Minerals can also act as electrolytes that maintain the electrochemical gradient across the cells of our bodies.
Other molecules found in food, such as phytates and oxalates, can alter one’s ability to absorb minerals. This only becomes an issue for those whose intake is limited to just a handful of foods that are high in these compounds (e.g. cultures eating only rice or corn, etc.). In the context of a mixed diet, with a variety of whole foods, they are unlikely to pose an issue.
It’s also important to note that if someone buys a certain vitamin or mineral at the store to replace a vitamin or mineral they are missing out on from food, it’s not quite the same thing.
The micronutrients in whole foods are a package deal. They come with other compounds that work together, creating a cascade response in the body. It’s hard to duplicate that with an isolated supplement.
Like vitamins and minerals, phytonutrients - nutrients found in plants - don’t directly provide energy to the body. Yet they do offer a variety of health benefits.
Of course, while scientists are continually discovering “new” phytonutrients (there are over 10,000 already identified), it’s important to remember that these discoveries simply mean that someone isolated the nutrient in a lab and named it. In other words, that nutrient has always been part of the plant.
Bottom line: Eating plants is good. Not only because of the nutrients we know about. But because of the ones we don’t yet know about.
Phytonutrients not only give plants color, they indicate which disease-fighting nutrients are inside. And deficiencies in phytonutrient intake might increase the risk of various chronic diseases.
One report indicated that 31% of folks don’t get enough greens, 22% don’t get enough reds, 21% don’t get enough yellows and oranges, 14% don’t get enough whites, and 12% don’t get enough purples and blues.
Some phytonutrients are so powerful that they can influence our response to the world around us.
For example, naringenin in grapefruit, influences how we metabolize drugs. Raspberry seed oil has a sun protection factor. And garlic may have a blood thinning effect.
Phytonutrients work through various mechanisms, including:
- functioning as antioxidants
- influencing hormonal function
- protecting DNA from carcinogens
- anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties
- reducing inflammation
- influence blood coagulation
- inhibiting fat synthesis
And while phytonutrients sound appealing, they can work in complex ways.
For example, some work by mildly stressing cells in the body, ultimately making them stronger by building internal defense mechanisms (this is called hormesis).
Bottom line: Before you go out and buy bottles of phytonutrient supplements, it’s probably best to stick with whole food sources until we know more.
For more information on the ISSA Specialist in Fitness Nutrition Certification (SFN), go to this link http://www.issaonline.edu/certification/nutrition-certification.
Dr. John Berardi is one of North America’s most popular and respected authorities on fitness and nutrition. He has made his mark as a leading researcher in the field of exercise and nutritional science, as a widely read author and writer, and as a coach and trainer who has helped thousands of men and women, from soccer moms to Olympic athletes, achieve their health, fitness and performance goals.
John earned a doctorate in Exercise and Nutritional Biochemistry from the University of Western Ontario and currently serves as an adjunct assistant professor of Exercise Science at the University of Texas. He also provides nutrition consultation services for athletes and sports teams including a number of Canadian Olympic programs (Speed Skating, Bobsleigh, Skeleton, Cross Country Skiing, Alpine Skiing, Canoe, and Kayak), the University of Texas Longhorns, and numerous individual professional football, hockey, and baseball players.
Axen, K., and K. V. Axen. 2001. Illustrated principles of exercise physiology. 1st ed. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Beers, M. H., and R. Berkow. 1999. The merck manual. 17th ed. Whitehouse Station, NJ: Merck Research Labs.
Bemben, M. G., and H. S. Lamont. 2005. Creatine supplementation and exercise performance: recent findings. Sports Medicine 35:107-125.
Berning, J., and S. Steen. 1998. Nutrition for sport and exercise. 2nd ed. Rockville, MD: Aspen Publishers, Inc.
Berthoud, H. R. 2002. Multiple neural systems controlling food intake and body weight. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 26:393-428.
Borer, K. T. 2003. Exercise endocrinology, 2nd ed. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Borsheim, E., K. D. Tipton, S. E. Wolf, and R. R. Wolfe. 2002. Essential amino acids and muscle protein recovery from resistance exercise. American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metababolism 283:E648-E657.
Buchholz, A. C., and D. A. Schoeller. 2004. Is a calorie a calorie? American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 79:899S-906S.
Chandler, R. M., H. K. Byrne, J. G. Patterson, and J. L. Ivy. 1994. Dietary supplements affect the anabolic hormones after weight-training exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology 76:839-845.
Cori, C.F. 1925. The fate of sugar in the animal body. I. The rate of absorption of hexoses and pentoses from the intestinal tract. Journal of Biological Chemistry 66:691-715.
Escott-Stump, S. 2002. Nutrition and diagnosis-related care. 5th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Essen-Gustavsson, B., and P. A. Tesch. 1990. Glycogen and triglycerides utilization in relation to muscle metabolic characteristics in men performing heavy resistance exercise. European Journal of Applied Physiology 61:5-10.
Forbes, G. B. 2000. Body fat content influences the body composition response to nutrition and exercise. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 904:359-365.
Ganong, W. F. 2001. “Endocrine functions of the pancreas & regulation of carbohydrate metabolism.” In Review of medical physiology, 322-343. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Groff, J. L., and S. S. Gropper. 1999. Advanced nutrition and human metabolism. 3rd ed. Albany, NY: Delmar Publishers, Inc.
Guyton, A. C., and J. E. Hall. 2000. Medical physiology. Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders.
Higdon, Jane. 2003. An evidence-based approach to vitamins and minerals. Corvallis, OR: The Linus Pauling Institute.
Ivy, J.L. 1977. Muscle glycogen synthesis before and after exercise. Sports Medicine 11:6-19.
Ivy, J. L., A. L. Katz, C. L. Cutler, W. M. Sherman, and E. F. Coyle. 1988. Muscle glycogen synthesis after exercise: Effect of time of carbohydrate ingestion. Journal of Applied Physiology 64:1480-1485.
Jentjens, R., and A. Jeukendrup. 2003. Determinants of post-exercise glycogen synthesis during short term recovery. Sports Medicine 33:117-144.
Jequier, E. 2002. Leptin signaling, adiposity, and energy balance. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 967:379-388.
Levenhagen, D. K., J. D. Gresham, M. G. Carlson, D. J. Maron, M. J. Borel, and P. J. Flakoll. 2001. Postexercise nutrient intake timing in humans is critical to recovery of leg glucose and protein homeostasis. American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metababolism 280:E982-E993.
MacDougall J.D., S. Ray, N. McCartney, D. Sale, P. Lee, and S. Gardner. 1988. Substrate utilization during weightlifting. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 20:S66.
Mahan, L. K., and S. Escott-Stump. 2004. Food, nutrition and diet therapy. 11th ed. Philadelphia: Saunders College Publishing.
Pitkanen, H., T. Nykanen, J. Knuutinen, K. Lahti, O. Keinanen, M. Alen, P. Komi, and A. Mero. 2003. Free amino acid pool and muscle protein balance after resistance exercise. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 35:784-792.
Prentice, A., and S. Jebb. 2004. Energy intake/physical activity interactions in the homeostasis of body weight regulation. Nutrition Reviews 62:S98-104.
Rampone, A. J., and P. J. Reynolds. 1988. Obesity: thermodynamic principles in perspective. Life Sciences 43:93-110.
Robergs, R. A., D. R. Pearson, D. L. Costill, W. J. Fink, D. D. Pascoe, M. A. Benedict, C. P. Lambert, and J. J. Zachweija. 1991. Muscle glycogenolysis during different intensities of weight resistance exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology 70:1700-1706.
Roy, B. D., and M. A. Tarnopolsky. 1998. Influence of differing macronutrient intakes on muscle glycogen resynthesis after resistance exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology 84:890-896.
Tarnopolsky, M. A., G. Parise, N. J. Yardley, C. S. Ballantyne, S. Olatinji, and S. M. Phillips. 2001. Creatine-dextrose and protein-dextrose induce similar strength gains during training. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 33:2044-2052.
Tesch, P. A., E. B. Colliander, and P. Kaiser. 1986. Muscle metabolism during intense, heavy resistance exercise. European Journal of Applied Physiology 55:362-366.
Thibodeau, G. A., and K. T. Patton. 1999. Anatomy and physiology. 4th ed. St. Louis: Mosby.
Tipton, K. D., B. B. Rasmussen, S. L. Miller, S. E. Wolf, S. K. Owens-Stovall, B. E. Petrini, and R. R. Wolfe. 2001. Timing of amino acid-carbohydrate ingestion alters anabolic response of muscle to resistance exercise. American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metababolism 281:E197-E206.
Van Loon, L. J., M. Kruijshoop, H. Verhagen, W. H. Saris, and A. J. Wagenmakers. 2000. Ingestion of protein hydrolysate and amino acid-carbohydrate mixtures increases postexercise plasma insulin responses in men. The Journal of Nutrition 130:2508-2513.
Van Loon, L.J., W. H. Saris, M. Kruijshoop, and A. J. Wagenmakers. 2000. Maximizing postexercise muscle glycogen synthesis: Carbohydrate supplementation and the application of amino acid or protein hydrolysate mixtures. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 72:106-111.
Volek, J. 2001. “Chapter 2.” In Nutrition and the strength athlete, ed. Catherine G. Ratzin Jackson. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.