My best friend and I regularly seem to have conversations about vitamins. It sounds like a weird thing to talk to your friend about, but if you knew the content of our relationship, conversations about vitamins would be the least of your concerns. Anyway! She suggested I talk about vitamins…
What are they? Am I getting enough in my diet? If I take vitamin D, do I need to take something else with it? What supplements should I take? How do I know if I’m getting enough? Why does it all seem so complicated??? What’s the meaning of life????? Whoa….slow down there pony! One thing at a time.
Let’s start with a rundown on vitamins and minerals. Vitamins and minerals are essential for your body to function. The way I understand vitamins and minerals is as so:
- are organic and a bit more fragile then minerals. They tend to be broken down easier by air, heat, and water. Because of this, processes like cooking vegetables can sometimes change the amount of vitamins the plant contains. Vitamins in your diet come from consuming plants and animals.
- Two categories of vitamins- fat soluble vitamins and water soluble vitamins.
- Minerals hold on to their chemical structure which makes them less susceptible to breaking down through processes like cooking. Minerals are found in the soil and water.
- Minerals are absorbed by the plants and animals you consume. So, plant absorbs mineral- you pick plant and eat it- you ingest said mineral.
Both vitamins and minerals interact with each other. Feed each other if-you-will. Because of that, we need both in order for our bodies to function and be our best selves. they effect everything from our mood, to our hormones, our weight, and even our sleep! Long story short, they’re important.
Is your diet enough?
This is a complicated question. The answers are yes, no and maybe. Blog over. Just kidding. My personal opinion (and I feel I need to reiterate here that I am NOT a doctor) is that the standard American diet (referred to as S.A.D. in a lot of literature…..I can’t make this stuff up! haha!) is most definitely not enough. Typically, in America, we eat a lot of what is considered “convenient food”- boxed, canned, drive-through, etc. In the standard American diet, we go for whatever is available right now. We are hungry and don’t want to wait an hour when making a box of mac ‘n’ cheese takes a max of 20 minutes. Prepare your food ahead of time? Pssssh…what’s that? In the S.A.D. diet we don’t have time to waste with silly things like food preparation….we are on the go people!!!! Okay okay, I’m poking a little fun, sure. And I don’t mean to shame anyone here….I fall into the convenience trap the S.A.D. offers too sometimes. But the reality is, when it comes to supplying the nutrients necessary to build healthy bodies, it seriously lacks.
So if you are living off of the S.A.D. lifestyle for your dietary choices, then it is highly likely your diet is not enough to meet your nutrition needs. This said, not all supplements are created equally, and while some absorb and work really well…other’s do not. There’s many reasons for this.
The nutrient symphony
Vitamins and minerals work together to keep our body functioning the way it’s supposed to. Many work in coordination with each other- for example, if you do not have enough vitamin D you will have a hard time absorbing calcium and magnesium and vice versa. Here’s a list of different nutrients and how they work together to help you understand this concept a little more:
- Vitamin D and Calcium- Vitamin D helps to absorb small amounts of calcium in the blood, promoting strong healthy bones, nails, hair, and skin.
- Vitamin C and Iron- Vitamin C is an antioxidant. Found naturally in the diet in a lot of foods, but people most associate with citrus fruits. Vitamin C can help the body to absorb Iron when taken together.
- Vitamin A and Iron- Vitamin A is shown to promote iron absorption when taking together, however this is generally only in individuals who have an already low level of Vitamin A.
- Sodium and potassium- Sodium gets a pretty bad rep, and understandably so…in too high amounts it causes cardiovascular issues. But we do need sodium in our diet. Potassium helps the kidneys to excrete sodium and get rid of the excess our body doesn’t need, which in turn helps to counteract the negative impact sodium can have on our body. Banana anyone?
These ones don’t play nicely with each other
- Calcium and Iron- If you take a calcium and iron supplement, and are taking them together you might want to rethink that. Calcium is known to decrease absorption of iron.
- Iron and Magnesium- taken at the same time, Magnesium also decreases absorption of iron. However, this said, from what I’ve learned along my journey about magnesium is that it is better to absorb topically rather then in a capsule form. So if you’re taking a magnesium supplement, you may want to look into this further.
Putting it all together
So if the Standard American Diet isn’t enough to get the amount of nutrients we need, what can you do? Well, luckily, there is a lot you can do. Our best bet to incorporating enough vitamins and minerals in our diets is to make sure we are getting multiple servings of fruits and vegetables during the day and to be eating a variety of “colors”.
I try to use the advice of “eating the rainbow”- and by this I don’t mean I consume a bag of skittles everyday. By this I mean I try to make sure I’m getting multiple servings of different colored fruits and vegetables. For example, not just a green leafy salad for lunch, but a salad that has green (romaine, spinach), red (raspberries, peppers, strawberries, tomato), and orange (carrots, peppers). From all I’ve learned about food and how it nourishes our bodies, it sounds like diet is the best way to truly absorb these essential nutrients. Supplements can definitely help when necessary- but my opinion is your diet should always be the foundation for obtaining and maintaining essential nutrients.
So this is all I have for today! I hope this has helped- as always feel free to leave me a comment or suggestion if you ever want follow up posts on a specific topic or anything.
Until next time,
Disclaimer: I AM NOT A DOCTOR. Please do not substitute the advice and opinions on this blog for seeking a medical opinion regarding a health issue.
Harvard Health Publishing. (n.d.). Nutrition’s dynamic duos – Harvard Health. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/Nutritions-dynamic-duos
Gurevich, P. (2014, July 07). Nutrient-Nutrient Interaction in Multivitamin Supplements. Retrieved from https://labdoor.com/article/nutrient-nutrient-interaction-in-multivitamin-supplements