BEST FOOD SOURCE FOR ESSENTIAL NUTRIENTS.
Our individual biochemical makeup will determine our health throughout our lifetime. Everyday life in this modern world puts stress on our bodies and with an inadequate diet, our bodies are unable to maintain health and well- being and we can develop diseases that harm and age us. Our bodies have used food as a fuel and to sustain our health throughout our evolution. There is an abundance of nutrient packed food right on our doorstep and if we follow a largely fresh, unprocessed diet we can obtain the majority of the nutrients we require for good health and long life. In certain circumstances then it may be advisable to take additional nutrients in the form of supplements, but always the first place to start is ensuring that you are taking in the maximum amount of nutrients through food sources.
Below I have listed the main nutrients that we require every day. The list is not exhaustive but is designed to show you just how much nutrition you can obtain from a healthy diet of readily available food.
VITAMIN A: RETINOL; Essential for healthy sight especially at night. It helps cells re-produce normally. It is needed for healthy skin, mucous membranes of the respiratory system, digestive and urinary tracts also bones and tissues. In reproduction it is required for the normal growth and development of the embryo and foetus. It has been shown to influence the function and development of sperm, ovaries and the placenta. As an Anti-oxidant it boosts the Immune System. It is a fat-soluble vitamin mainly found in Liver, Fish Liver oils, Butter, Cheese, Free Range Eggs, Oily Fish.
BETACAROTENE; Bestsources are carrots, Green leafy vegetables, Orange and Red coloured Vegetables. Particularly apricots, asparagus, broccoli, butter, cantaloupe melon, carrots, cashews, cheese, nectarines, peaches, peppers and spinach.
VITAMIN B1: THIAMINE; This vitamin is essential in the metabolism of carbohydrates and for the strength of the nervous system. Every cell in the body requires this vitamin to form the fuel that the body runs on ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate). It is a water soluble vitamin found in Whole grains, Seeds, Peas, enriched flour, Beans and Nuts.
VITAMIN B2: RIBOFLAVIN; Also essential for metabolising carbohydrates to produce ATP, and also fats, amino acids and proteins too. It is necessary to activate Vitamin B6 and Folic Acid. It works with enzymes in the liver to eliminate toxins. It is water-soluble and is found in Kidney, Liver, Fish, Milk, Wheat germ, Broccoli and all green leafy vegetables.
VITAMIN B3: NIACIN; Also needed for the metabolism of carbohydrates (ATP), fats and proteins. Needed to process Alcohol. Niacin form of B3 helps regulate Cholesterol. In addition it is essential for the formation or red blood cells and the hormones. It works with Tryptophan in protein to form Serotonin and Melatonin in the brain. It is water soluble and found in Liver, Brewer’s Yeast, Chicken, Turkey, Fish, Meat, Peanuts, Wholegrains, Eggs and Milk.
VITAMIN B5: PANTOTHENIC ACID; Essential for producing Glycogen (energy) and fatty acids in the body. Also activates the Adrenal Glands and assists in the management of Cholesterol. Needed in the manufacture of Neurotransmitter chemicals that transfer nerve impulses from one nerve to the next. Also essential for the production of steroid hormones (sex hormones) testosterone and oestrogen. It is water soluble and found in Liver, yeast, Salmon, dairy, eggs, grains, meat and vegetables.
VITAMIN B6: PYRIDOXINE; The Master Vitamin for processing Amino Acids – the building blocks of all proteins and some hormones. It assists in the formation of several Neurotransmitters and can therefore help regulate mood. It has been shown to help lower Homocysteine levels in the blood linked to heart disease, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s disease. It produces Haemoglobin the Oxygen carrying pigment in the blood. It helps the release of carbohydrates stored in the liver and muscles for energy. It is involved in the production of antibodies and it helps balance female hormones. It is needed for the production of serotonin along with tryptophan and B12. It is water-soluble and found in Potatoes, Bananas, Cereals, Lentils, Liver, Turkey, Chicken, Lamb, Fish, Liver, Avocados, Soybeans, Walnuts and Oats.
VITAMIN B12: CYANOCOLBALAMIN; Essential for the efficient working of every cell in the body especially those with a rapid turnover rate and it prevents their degeneration. It works with B6 and Folic Acid to control Homocysteine levels in the blood. It is involved in the synthesis of DNA and the proper functioning of the Nervous system by maintaining myelin surrounding the nerves. It is involved in the production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for resetting our biological clock’s rhythm when we change to a new time zone and aiding sleep patterns. It is used in the treatment of diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis, Anaemia, Low Blood Pressure, hearing disorders, asthma and allergies, infertility and cancer. It is water soluble and found in all animal source produce including dairy, eggs, meat, poultry and fish. For vegetarians it is found in Miso and Tempeh both fermented Soybean products.
FOLATE: FOLIC ACID; Folic acid is a B Vitamin essential for cell replication and growth. It helps form the building blocks of DNA the body’s genetic information which is why it is recommended prior to conception and during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy to ensure the rapidly growing and replicating cells of the foetus are normal. This helps prevent low birth weight and abnormalities such as Heart defects or lip and palate malformations.
It is essential for transporting co-enzymes needed for amino acid metabolism in the body and is necessary for a functioning nervous system. It is water soluble and found in Beans, dark leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, wheat germ and whole wheat, lamb’s liver and salmon.
BIOTIN: Necessary for assisting enzymes to manufacture Glycogen and fatty acids and also in the production of prostaglandins (communicators involved in hormones and the immune system). It is essential for normal growth and health of skin, hair, nerves and bone marrow where blood cells are produced. It is water soluble and found in Liver, sardines, egg yolks, soy products, whole grains, nuts and beans.
VITAMIN C: ASCORBIC ACID; An antioxidant that protects LDL cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein) from oxidative damage, leading to hardening of the arteries. May also protect against heart disease reducing the hardening of arteries and the tendency of platelets to clump together blocking them. Vitamin C is necessary to form collagen, which acts like glue strengthening parts of the body such as muscles and blood vessels. It aids with healing and is a natural anti-histamine.
It is essential for the action of the Immune system and plays a part in the actions of the white blood cells and anti-bodies. It protects other antioxidants A and E from free radical damage and is involved in the production of some adrenal hormones. It is water soluble and found in all fruit and vegetables with best sources being Blackcurrants, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, cherries, grapefruits, guavas, kiwi fruit, lemons, parsley, peppers, rosehips, potatoes, tomatoes and watercress.
VITAMIN D: CHOLECALCIFEROL; Essential for maintaining blood levels of calcium by increasing absorption from food and decreasing loss from urine. This maintains a balance preventing calcium from being removed from the stores in the bones. It also plays a role in maintaining a healthy immune system and blood cell formation. It may protect against prostate cancer. It is needed for adequate levels of insulin and may protect the body from Multiple Sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and juvenile diabetes.
It is a fat-soluble vitamin and is mainly synthesised by the body during exposure to sunlight although it is also found in Cod liver oil, oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna and free-range eggs. It is also added to fortify milk and cereals including in bread.
VITAMIN E: TOCOPHEROL; As an antioxidant it protects cell membranes and other fat-soluble parts of the body such as LDL cholesterol from oxidative damage and blood vessels. It can be used topically for skin health and is involved in the reproductive system. It may help prevent circulatory problems that lead to heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease by preventing clots from forming. It improves the pulmonary function of the lungs and enhances the white blood cells ability to resist infection. It is fat soluble and found in nuts such as almonds and walnuts, sunflower seeds and their oil, whole grains like maize, egg yolks and leafy green vegetables like spinach. Also found in apples, bananas, broccoli, brown rice, carrots, lamb’s liver, onions, Sunflower oil, oily fish and shellfish.
VITAMIN K: PHYLLOQUINONE; Necessary for proper bone formation and blood clotting.
Is considered necessary for proper bone formation and blood clotting and has been largely ignored until relatively recently as not just necessary but essential for bone health and cardiovascular health because of its working relationship with calcium.
It is a fat-soluble vitamin mainly found in leafy green vegetables such as spinach and dark lettuce, raw cauliflower, broccoli, tomatoes, and olive oil. It is also produced by the body from bacteria in the intestines.
There are two forms of of the Vitamin and K2 (MENAQUINONE) and since the focus on Vitamin K has always been on blood clotting it is only recently that the significance of inadequate amounts of K2 has been identified.
Without adequate K2 in relation to Vitamin D (particularly as a supplement) there is an over absorption of calcium leading to deposits in the arteries and heart. Therefore K2 is essential to help maintain the calcium in our bones and prevent it leaching into the bloodstream; resulting in not only harmful calcium deposits but also osteoporosis.
Best food sources are in organ meats such as liver, chicken, pork, duck, herrings, egg yolks and butter, milk, cheese and fermented foods such as Sauerkraut etc. (Fermented foods help maintain a balance of healthy bacteria in the gut and as Vitamin K is also produced in the gut it is a great addition to your diet)
VITAMIN RELATED NUTRIENTS
CHOLINE: One of the few substances that can penetrate the brain membranes, raising levels of acetylcholine a neurotransmitter that may improve focus and memory. Acetylcholine is also necessary for stimulating the contraction of all muscles including the facial muscles. This may help maintain a youthful appearance. Choline also seems to help with controlling cholesterol, keeping arteries clear. It is found in egg yolks, liver, whole grains, green leafy vegetables such as spinach and fish.
INOSITOL: Required for proper formation of cell membranes. It affects nerve transmission and helps in transporting fats within the body. It is also necessary for the normal metabolism of insulin and calcium. It is found in nuts, beans, milk, whole grains, lecithin, wheat and wheat bran, cantaloupe melon, egg yolks, liver, fish and oranges.
BIOFLAVANOIDS: SOMETIMES KNOWN AS VITAMIN P; There are over 500 different types of Bioflavonoids with some of the more common ones being hesperidin, myrecetin, nobilitin, rutin, tangeritin and quercitin. They maintain the health of cell membranes and collagen and they increase the effectiveness of antioxidants, most notably Vitamin C, which is the vitamin that they are found alongside with in food. It is water-soluble and the best sources are apricots, cherries, cantaloupe melon, papaya and the skin and pith of citrus fruit.
CO-ENZYME Q10: UBIQUINONE; It has a widespread distribution throughout the body and is used by the body to metabolise food into the fuel ATP (adenosine triphosphate) that the body needs for energy. It is a powerful antioxidant that protects the body from free radicals and also acts as a bodyguard for Vitamin E, which is vital for cell membranes and keeping blood cholesterol at a healthy balance. Some research has indicated it might help increase sperm count in men and it has been shown to help in the healing process, particularly in the mouth and gums. It is essential for the immune system and heart function. Best sources are fish and meat particularly the heart and organ meats, egg yolk, milk fat, wheat germ and wholegrains, but usually needed in supplementation form.
CALCIUM: The most abundant and essential mineral in the body. There are approximately two to three pounds mainly found in the teeth and bones. Apart from its role in the formation of teeth and bones it is also required for blood clotting, transmission of signals in nerve cells and muscle contractions. There is some indication that higher dietary calcium intake protects against cardiovascular disease particularly in women. If you are at risk of kidney stones consult your doctor before taking in additional calcium supplements. This also applies if you are suffering from prostate cancer where there may be a link between increased levels of dietary calcium in dairy products and this form of cancer. It is thought it is thought that excess calcium causes lower levels of Vitamin D, which helps protect against prostate cancer.
The best dietary sources are dairy (moderate intake) milk (semi-skimmed is good), yogurt, cheese such as Feta and cottage cheese sardines, canned salmon (the bones), green leafy vegetables such as watercress, broccoli, kale and spinach; soy products such as tofu and nuts such as almonds. Figs and oranges, fortified oats and other cereals, almond or rice milk and even tinned baked beans.
MAGNESIUM: It is essential mineral needed for bone, protein and fatty acid formation, forming new cells, activating the B vitamins, relaxing muscles, clotting blood and forming ATP the fuel the body runs on. The secretion and action of insulin also needs magnesium. It is needed to balance calcium in the body and too much can result in very low levels of calcium.
The best food sources are whole grains such as brown rice and oats, almonds, bananas, beans, pumpkinseeds and sesame seeds, wheat germ, dried apricots, dark green vegetables such as spinach and kale, Brussel Sprouts, mushrooms, egg yolks soybeans and fish. Chicken, lamb and turkey, white fish and tuna.
PHOSPHORUS: Essential for bone formation and production of red blood cells. Also needed for the production of ATP fuel for energy. Small amounts are involved in most of the chemical reactions throughout the body. It is found in protein rich foods such as meat, fish and also whole grains. It can be taken to excess if the diet contains mainly processed foods.
SODIUM: This is an electrolyte (cation), which is a positively electrically charged atom that performs essential tasks within each cell. It is very easy to have too much sodium in your diet as it is added in too large quantities in cooking and in processed foods. It is naturally occurring in vegetables, more than sufficiently for normal needs. Excess sodium is related to elevated blood pressure levels when combined with chloride as common salt and should be reduced significantly in the diet. Sodium contents should be multiplied by 2.5 to identify the actual amount of salt being consumed and an area to look closely at if you have high blood pressure is the amount of sodium in any mineral water that you are consuming daily in quantity.
CHLORIDE: Another electrolyte (anion), which is a negatively charged atom in the extra-cellular fluid. Consumed as common salt with sodium in excess in most people’s diet. There is sufficient chloride in a balanced diet to supply the necessary amount needed by the body.
POTASSIUM: This is the main cation (positively charged electrolyte). It reacts with sodium and chloride to maintain a perfect working environment in and around each cell. It allows the transmission of nerve impulses and helps maintain the correct fluid balance in the body. It also regulates levels of acidity and alkalinity in the body. It is also required for carbohydrate and protein metabolism. It is connected to normal heart rhythms. The best food sources are dried apricots, figs, bananas, pumpkinseeds, almonds, potatoes, green leafy vegetables, fish, avocados, beans, milk and most fruit and other vegetables.
BORON: Found in trace amounts in food and the human body and there is some debate as to its usefulness as a nutrient. However, there may be a link to bone health and density but there does seem to be some merit in its ability to reduce the loss of calcium in urine. This might lead to a lower risk of osteoporosis. It is found in dried fruit such as raisins, prunes and nuts. Non citrus fruit, vegetables and legumes.
COPPER: Copper is an essential trace element needed to absorb and utilise Iron. It is needed to make ATP and is also to synthesise some hormones and blood cells. Collagen needs copper, as does the enzyme tyrosinase, which plays a role in the production of skin pigment. Too much copper in the diet can depress levels of zinc and effect wound healing. Best sources are seafood like oysters, cashews and other nuts, cherries, cereals, potatoes, cherries, vegetables and most organ meats.
CHROMIUM: Needed for maintaining normal blood sugar levels and glucose tolerance. It may help increase the healthy cholesterol in the blood (HDL) and is necessary for fatty acid and protein metabolism. The best food source is brewer’s yeast, whole grains, shellfish, liver and molasses.
IRON: The main function of iron is in haemoglobin, which is the oxygen-carrying component of blood. When someone is iron deficient they suffer extreme fatigue because they are being starved of oxygen. Iron is also part of myoglobin which helps muscle cells store oxygen and it is also essential for the formation of ATP. Best food sources are shellfish such as cockles and mussels, liver, meat, poultry and fish.
IODINE: Iodine is a trace mineral that is needed to make thyroid hormones that maintain metabolism in all the cells of the body. Best sources are in seafood, iodised salt and sea vegetables such as kelp. Also in fish such as cod, mackerel and haddock and also live yoghurt.
MANGANESE: Needed for healthy skin, bone and cartilage formation as well as glucose tolerance. Also forms part of the antioxidant superoxide dismutase, which helps prevent free radical damage. Best sources are nuts, seeds, wholegrains, leafy green vegetables, tea and pineapple.
SELENIUM: A very important trace mineral that activates an antioxidant enzyme called glutathione peroxidase, which may help protect the body from cancer. It is vital for immune system function and may help prevent prostate cancer. The best dietary sources are Brazil nuts, cashews, soybeans, tuna, seafood, meat and whole grains. It is also found in yeast.
ZINC: A trace mineral that is a component in the body’s ability to repair wounds, maintain fertility, synthesis protein, cell reproduction, maintain eyesight, act as an antioxidant and boost immunity. It can be used topically for skin conditions. It is essential for a functioning metabolism and hormone production such as testosterone. It is also needed for the production of stomach acid. Too much zinc will depress the copper levels in the body. The best food sources are seafood particularly oysters, pumpkinseeds, sesame seeds, wheat germ, egg yolks, black-eyed peas and tofu.
Amino acids are the building blocks that make up proteins, which of course is what we are made of. Vitamins and minerals can’t perform their specific functions effectively if the necessary amino acids are not present. Amino acids are either classified as essential or non-essential. The non-essential ones can be manufactured in our bodies but the essential amino acids have to be obtained from food.
All hormones require amino acids for their production. For example L-Arginine encourages growth hormones and constitutes 80% of semen, which is why a deficiency causes sterility and it also helps with prostate problems. L-Tryptophan (my favourite) helps in the production of Serotonin and Melatonin and helps to control emotional behaviour. L-Glutamine is helpful for Thyroid gland function. Taurine is used for hyperactivity and poor brain function. Some of the two types of Amino acid are detailed below.
ARGININE: Arginine is an essential amino acid that aids in liver detoxification and is helpful in liver disorders. It may help to reduce tumours and cancer. It may also assist in elevating the sperm count in males. The body uses Arginine during periods of growth and protein synthesis. It is helpful during trauma or with kidney conditions. It can stimulate growth hormones and detoxifies ammonia from the body. Arginine is required during the manufacturing of substances such as haemoglobin and insulin. This is an amino acid produced by the liver.
CYSTEINE: Cysteine is an amino acid made in the body. It is important because it maintains the proper configuration of both structural proteins and enzymes. It contains sulphur that is formed in the liver and is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect the body from chemicals, heavy metals, and smoke pollution. It has been shown that it may stimulate the immune system, help burn fat, aid in tissue healing, and aid muscle growth. Another Liver amino acid.
GLUTAMINE: Glutamine is found in high concentrations in the human brain where it is converted to glutamic acid. Taken in modest amounts, Glutamine can substantially increase your production of growth hormone. It may help with mental alertness and clarity, decrease sugar cravings. Is being studied in connection with mental disorders such as senility and schizophrenia. It maintains a healthy digestive tract and may help with people suffering from alcoholism. Produced by the liver.
CARNITINE: Carnitine is made in the body from the amino acids lysine and methionine and is needed to release energy from fat. It transports fatty acids into mitochondria, the powerhouses of cells.
It may promote normal growth and development and treat some forms of cardiovascular problems. Studies have been carried out with athletes and there are some indications that it protects against muscle problems and helps build muscle. It may also protect against liver disorders and diabetes. It is manufactured in the liver.
LYSINE: Lysine is an essential amino acid that helps maintain nitrogen levels and calcium absorption. It is often taken during a breakout of the herpes virus, either oral or genital. It helps produce enzymes, antibodies and hormones and helps repair tissue. This amino acid also is important when recovering from an operation. It also helps build strong muscles, collagen, bone and cartilage. This amino acid comes from dietary sources are high proteins such as beef, cheese, chicken, lamb, milk, and beans.
PHENYLALINE: Phenylalanine is an essential amino acid and is the precursor of tyrosine. This is an important amino acid. It produces neurotransmitters in the brain to produce norepinephrine and it assists in learning, memory, clarity and elevates the mood. Therefore, it may aid in the treatment of depression.
It should not be taken by anyone suffering from high blood pressure, anxiety attacks, panic attacks, cancer or anyone taking MAO inhibitors. Women who are pregnant or lactating should also avoid using Phenylalanine. Taken from dietary sources and found in most foods but it is highest in those that are high in protein such as dairy products and meats.
TAURINE: Taurine is an essential amino acid that is found in the body, but mainly in the skeletal muscle, heart muscle, brain and central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord). Taurine also aids in the digestive processes including bile. A liver produced Amino Acid.
TRYPTOPHAN: Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is the lowest in terms of levels needed by the body. It is responsible for normal sleep patterns. Vitamin B6 is needed for the formation of tryptophan, which affects serotonin levels. These serotonin levels influence sleep and mood. Best food sources are Turkey, Chicken, fish, bananas, yoghurt, pineapple and cheese. ·
TYROSINE: Tyrosine is used by the thyroid gland to produce thyroxin. Thyroxin is a hormone that helps regulate growth, healthy skin, our metabolic rate and our mental health. Low levels of tyrosine have been connected with hypothyroidism. Tyrosine is used in our body to make epinephrine and dopamine. It reduces body fat and is an appetite suppressant.
People with high blood pressure, skin cancer and those who are using MAO inhibitors should not take it in supplement form. Manufactured in the liver.
ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS (EFAs)
Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) are necessary fats that humans cannot synthesise and must be obtained through diet. There are two families of EFAs Omega-3 and Omega-6. Omega-9 is necessary but non-essential as it can be made by the body if the other two fatty acids are present.
EFAs are essential because they support our cardiovascular, reproductive, immune and nervous systems. We need these fats to manufacture and repair cells, maintain hormone levels and expel waste from the body. They are part of the process that regulates blood pressure, blood clotting, fertility and conception – and they also help regulate inflammation and stimulate the body to fight infection.
Omega-3 (Linolenic Acid) is the principal Omega-3 fatty acid and is used in the formation of cell walls, improving circulation and oxygen. A deficiency can lead to decreased immune system function, elevated levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) high blood pressure and irregular heartbeat. It is found in flaxseed, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, avocados, spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables, sardines, tuna and salmon.
Omega-6 (Linoleic Acid) is the primary Omega-6 fatty acid. Omega-6 can improve rheumatoid arthritis, PMS, skin problems such as eczema and psoriasis. Found in flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, olive oil, evening primrose oil, chicken and poultry, salmon.
There is growing evidence that the non-essential Oleic acid, Omega‑9, may help to lower cholesterol by decreasing the unhealthy cholesterol, LDL (low-density lipoprotein), while at the same time raising the level of healthy cholesterol, HDL (high density lipoprotein).
Oleic acid is also emerging as a regulator of blood-sugar levels and as a possible protection against breast and prostate cancer. So, including half an avocado in your diet every day may well protect you from the harmful long-term effects of a number of diseases. Found in olive oil, olives, avocados, almonds, and walnuts.
©Sally Cronin- Just food for Health 2009