We all want to have fit, healthy and strong bodies. But is your lifestyle sabotaging your chances of achieving these goals?
One element to look at when considering this risk is whether or not you’re consuming enough wholesome foods (food that is full of nourishing vitamins and minerals). And a good place to start with is your vitamins.
What you talkin’ about, Willis?
When we’re talking about vitamins, there are two main classifications that we refer to: water-soluble and fat-soluble.
Both types of vitamins assist your body in performing and executing a variety of biological functions such as aiding in red blood cell formation, assisting in growth and development and keeping your immune system strong.
And while fat-soluble vitamins can be stored in bile acids, water-soluble vitamins are absorbed by your body quickly and are eliminated via urine.
To begin with, we’ll be looking at water-soluble vitamins because these are the type that you need to replenish regularly.
#1: Water-soluble vitamins
There are two main water-soluble vitamins that you need to be concerned with: B-complex and C.
B-complex vitamins comprise of thiamin (vitamin B1), riboflavin (B2), vitamin B6, vitamin B12, niacin, biotin, folate and panthothenic acid. These vitamins take care of your skin, eyesight, red blood cells and nervous system.
Of course they do stacks more, but their responsibilities would fill an entire article in themselves! To get B-complex vitamins, you’ll need to eat things like whole grains and enhanced grain products.
Next, is vitamin C – the most well known vitamin out there.
This little guy is great for aiding in the healing process, keeping your immune system running well, assisting in bone and teeth development, keeping the walls of your blood vessels strong, boosting iron absorption and holding your body’s cells together.
Some experts also suggest that vitamin C is a potent antioxidant and as such can decrease the threat of certain cancers and heart disease. Hard little worker, isn’t he? Vitamin C can be found in citrus fruits such as oranges, kiwis and grapefruits amongst other foods.
Now it’s important to keep in mind that water-soluble vitamins need to be replenished daily. If this sounds too often, consider how frequently you go to the bathroom each day.
My guess is at least three times.
So three times a day, your body is removing water-soluble vitamins from your system. Make sense now why they need to be replenished daily?
#2: Fat-soluble vitamins
Now for our little fatties: Vitamin A, D, E and K.
Vitamin A is responsible for keeping the lungs, throat, nose, eyes, skin and mouth moisturized. It also takes care of bone and tooth development and reproduction.
You can find vitamin A in liver, low-fat dairy products, dark green vegetables, pumpkins, apricots, fish and carrots. With the veggies, vitamin A is converted from beta carotene.
Vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin. It takes care of your teeth and bones as well and also boosts calcium in your small intestine.
If you’re struggling with your weight, have a look at your vitamin D levels as well as it is involved in metabolism regulation. Besides getting some sunshine, you can boost your vitamin D levels by drinking milk and vitamin D-enhanced dairy products.
You can also find vitamin D in fish oil and oily fish.
And while the whole sunscreen/no sunscreen debate will probably continue for centuries more, a good tip is to keep your sun exposure to 10 to 15 minutes if you’re not wearing any sunscreen.
Any longer than this and you probably need to put on sun protection. Experts also suggest that your body gets the most vitamin D during noon hours, although early morning and afternoon sunshine is not as strong and less likely to burn you.
When you think of vitamin E, you probably remember the containers of vitamin E cream that your parents kept on hand for dry skin, or one of your health-savvy friends has in their beauty cupboard.
Vitamin E guards your vitamin C, A, essential fatty acids and red blood cells. It’s the protector of the vitamin world! To boost your vitamin E levels, think fresh fruits and veggies, nuts, seeds and wholegrains.
Basically, all the stuff your nutritionist has been telling you to eat. Oh, and your Mom…
And last but not least, vitamin K takes care of your bones, teeth and blood clotting. While the body produces this vitamin naturally, if you’re low you can find it in olive oil, canola oil, spinach, cabbage and broccoli.
Know your intake
While the best advice is to eat a wide variety of healthy foods from a range of food groups, if you want to be more precise, here is a list of some of the recommended daily vitamin allowances:
- Vitamin A: 700 micrograms for teen girls and women. Keep in mind that it’s quite rare to have a vitamin A deficiency.
- Vitamin D: 600 IU a day if minimal sun exposure.
- Vitamin E: 15 mg a day.
- Vitamin B3: 14 mg a day for women.
- Iron: 18 mg a day for women. Make sure you do not overdose on iron.
For more daily vitamin allowances, speak to your doctor or health practitioner.
How do I know if I’m getting enough?
While you can guess if your vitamin intake is high enough by looking at external factors such as weak nails, poor immune system (i.e. you’re always getting sick) and dodgy skin, the best bet is to visit your doctor.
I know, I know, in the age of Google we should be able to figure these things out by ourselves, right?
Well, in truth, Googling our symptoms and then guessing what we’re lacking in probably isn’t going to work very well.
Besides the fact that Google always seems to give you the worst case scenario in terms of your health (Have an eye twitch? You’re dying. Sincerely, Google), even if you do manage to pinpoint some vitamins that you’re low in, you could miss something else crucial.
Everything in our body works together, it’s a holistic thing. So grabbing one element and running with it isn’t going to get you holistic health.
So, now that we’ve cleared up why you shouldn’t Google your symptoms, let’s look at how you can determine the state of your health. And as I stated earlier, your best bet is your trusted doctor.
While they won’t be able to look at you and say ‘Oh, you’re deficient in x, y z’, they will be able to organize for you to have a range of blood tests done which will tell you what’s really happening in your body.
These tests are far more accurate than anything you can research on your own and they capture things that you may not have thought of.
Your doc will also be able to talk you through your results and if you get a printed version to take home, you can then research things more accurately and comprehensively yourself if you feel like it.
And as for replenishing vitamins that are low, well there are two simple ways to do so: either through your diet and things you eat, or via supplements. It is always much better to get your vitamins and minerals direct from the source (nature), but sometimes it can be hard to consume everything you need to during the week (and each day), so if a supplement suits your lifestyle best don’t feel reluctant to go with this option.
And finally, remember to trust your body. A lot of the time our body is trying to communicate what it needs, we just need to listen properly.
Pay attention to the signals, eat when you’re hungry (rather than when you’re bored/anxious/tired) and above all, nourish your body and your mind.
Good luck and happy vitamin hunting!
Cover photo: www.fitnessband.com