Nutrition 202 – Vitamins, Minerals And Everything Else!

Posted by David McCabe on April 22 2013 @ 13:23

Hi Guys,

Welcome to the second segment of the Transform Fitness® Nutrition Series. I hope you found the ‘Understanding Nutrition’, interesting and informative. But now it’s time to delve a little deeper into the nutrition network.

With Nutrition being over three quarters (¾) of what you are on any given day, with the first segment running through Macro Nutrients (Proteins, Carbohydrates And Fats), lets go into Micro Nutrients.


Vitamins are complex chemical substances contained mainly in food. They enable the body to break down and use the basic elements of food, proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Certain vitamins are also involved in producing blood cells, hormones, genetic material and chemicals in your nervous system. Unlike carbohydrates, proteins and fats, vitamins and minerals do not provide calories. However, they do help the body to use the energy from food.

What Are ‘Water Soluble’ And ‘Fat Soluble’ Vitamins?

Vitamins are either water soluble or fat soluble. Water soluble vitamins can be dissolved in water and are found in non-fatty, water-based food such as fruit and vegetables. Fat soluble vitamins are found in fatty foods and as their name suggests, they can be dissolved in fat.

There are 14 vitamins, which fall into two categories:- Fat-Soluble: Vitamins A, D, E and K, and Water-Soluble: vitamin C, choline and the eight B vitamins: biotin, thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), folic acid/folate (B9) and cobalamin (B12).

What Is The Best Source of Vitamins?

Food is the best source of vitamins and minerals and you should get enough vitamins from your food by eating a healthy, balanced diet.

How Much Vitamins Do You Need In Your Diet? Only small amounts of each vitamin are required each day by the body but it is vital to ensure the right balance of vitamins and minerals in the body. Prolonged vitamin or mineral deficiencies can cause specific diseases or conditions, while an overdose can literally poison the body.

Recommended daily allowances (RDAs) describe the average amount of each vitamin and mineral needed each day to meet the needs of the average healthy person and these can vary according to sex, age and other physical conditions such as pregnancy.

Water-Soluble Vitamins:

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)

Vitamin C helps to maintain skin integrity, absorb iron from the gut and heal wounds, and is important in immune functions. Vitamin C deficiency is rare in healthy people but can affect those with illnesses such as cancer, coeliac disease and alcoholism, or those being fed intravenously. This can lead to a condition called scurvy, which causes fatigue, bleeding and poor wound healing.

Vitamin C is found in citrus fruit and juices, tomatoes, spinach, potatoes, berries, green and red peppers, and broccoli. It is easily destroyed by heat and light, so vitamin C-rich food should be stored in a cool, dark place, and prepared and cooked as quickly as possible.

Research has shown that people who eat foods high in vitamin C have lower rates of cancer and heart disease. Too much vitamin C can cause diarrhoea and kidney stones and, as it increases iron uptake, taking too much can also lead to iron overload.

Folate (vitamin B9)

Folate (folic acid), also called vitamin B9 is essential for the normal formation of the red blood cells, protein metabolism, growth and cell division.

A good supply is particularly important for women who are planning to conceive and those who are in the first three months of pregnancy, when the recommended intake is 400 micrograms a day. Folate has been shown to reduce the risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect such as spina bifida.

Folate has also been shown to work together with vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 to decrease the risk of heart attack, stroke or loss of circulation in the hands and feet.

Vitamin B1 (thiamine)

Thiamine helps to break down carbohydrate, fat and alcohol. Dietary sources include fortified cereals and bread, offal, pork, nuts, and legumes (peas and beans). Large doses may cause headaches, insomnia, weakness and skin problems.

People who have a thiamine deficiency (known as beri-beri) cannot properly process carbohydrates or fat and develop a range of symptoms such as cardiac and neurological problems. It mainly affects people with chronic disease, malabsorption problems, anorexia or chronic, binge drinking alcoholics.

Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)

Your body needs vitamin B2 to extract energy from fat, protein and carbohydrate in food. It is found in dairy products, meat, fish, asparagus, broccoli, poultry and spinach.

Riboflavin deficiency can cause skin disorders, especially in and around the mouth. There is no evidence that riboflavin has toxic effects on the body or that large doses do any good.

Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)

Pyridoxine is essential for breaking down protein and metabolising haemoglobin (the oxygen carrying red pigment in your blood). It is also essential for energy production and normal brain function.

Bacteria in the gut make pyridoxine, some of which is absorbed through your gut wall. Food sources include poultry, fish, pork, eggs, offal, soybeans, oats, whole-grain products, nuts, seeds and bananas.

Vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin)

Vitamin B12 is involved in the production of red blood cells, in cell metabolism and in nerve function. Foods derived from animals (including meat, fish, shellfish, poultry, eggs and dairy products) and some fortified breakfast cereals are a good source of vitamin B12.

The stomach produces a substance that enables the body to use vitamin B12. However, some people cannot absorb vitamin B12 properly and are at risk of developing pernicious anaemia. Strict vegetarians and vegans may also need to take supplements to make up for any deficiencies in their diets.


Niacin is involved in fat metabolism and helps maintain the condition of your skin. It can reduce certain types of fat in your blood, including lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the ‘bad’ cholesterol) and triglycerides. It also raises high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (the ‘good’ cholesterol).

Food sources include lean meats, poultry, fish, organ meats, brewer’s yeast, peanuts and peanut butter. Cereals provide moderate amounts. Niacin can also be made in your body. Niacin deficiency is rare and very large doses can cause liver problems.

Pantothenic acid and biotin Pantothenic acid and biotin are involved in fat and carbohydrate metabolism, and are found in foods derived from animal sources, including dairy products and in certain cereals and pulses. There are no recommended intakes and they are not known to be toxic.

Still With Me????????????? Here’s More!

Fat Soluble Vitamins:

Vitamin A (retinol)

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin needed for healthy vision, bone growth, reproduction and the immune system. Deficiency is rare in the Western world, but inadequate amounts of vitamin A can cause vision impairment, especially at night.

Vitamin A is manufactured in your body from substances called beta-carotenes, which are found in dark green, orange and yellow vegetables, such as spinach, carrots, broccoli, cantaloupe, mangos, apricots, vegetable soup and tomato juice. It is also found in meat and dairy products such as liver, beef, chicken, whole milk and eggs.

Large doses are toxic and can lead to liver and bone damage, and birth defects. Excess vitamin A stored in the body may reduce bone mineral density, which could result in osteoporosis and may increase the risks of birth defects and liver abnormalities.

Vitamin D (calciferol)

Vitamin D controls the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, which are essential for bone growth and development. Deficiency is rare but children who don’t get enough vitamin D can develop rickets and adults can develop a condition known as osteomalacia, which leads to weak, soft bones.

Sources of vitamin D include fatty fish such as pilchards, sardines and tuna, liver, egg yolks, and fortified foods such as margarine, some breakfast cereals and vitamin D-fortified milk. Vitamin D can also be made when the skin is exposed to sunlight.

Studies have shown that people who supplement their diets with a combination of vitamin D and calcium slow down bone loss and reduce the number of fractures they develop. Those who don’t drink milk, have dark skin, rarely go outside or are at risk of osteoporosis should consider taking a vitamin D supplement.

The prolonged excessive intake of vitamin D leads to nausea, headache, excessive urination, high blood pressure, deposits of calcium in soft tissues and kidney damage.

Vitamin E (tocopherol)

Vitamin E protects red blood cells and is important in reproduction. It also acts as an antioxidant, preventing cell damage by neutralising so-called ‘free radicals’ — molecules believed to be associated with aging and certain diseases.

Vitamin E is also important in maintaining the structure of lipids (fats) in your body and any structures such as membranes surrounding cells that are rich in lipids. Dietary sources of vitamin E include vegetable oils, vegetables, cereals, wheat germ, whole-grain products, avocados and nuts. Some studies suggest that it might prevent or slow progression of heart disease or diabetes. Studies also suggest that vitamin E may slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease, help prevent prostate cancer and enhance immunity in older adults but more research is needed.

Vitamin K (phylloquinone, menaquinone and menadione)

Vitamin K is involved in blood clotting and dark green, leafy vegetables, pork, liver and other meats are the main source in the diet. In addition, bacteria in your gut can make vitamin K, which is absorbed into your blood.

Deficiency is rare except in newborn babies and people who have diseases affecting vitamin absorption or metabolism. A deficiency will lead to bruising and excessive bleeding.

Last Little Bit! Keep With Me!

What Are Minerals?

Minerals are chemical elements that are involved in various processes in your body. They help to regulate cell function and to serve as building blocks for your cells and organs. A varied diet should supply all the minerals you need. Unlike vitamins, minerals do not deteriorate during storage or cooking.


Calcium is a mineral important for the development of strong teeth and bones and for healthy muscle and nerve function. Food sources include milk, cheese, yogurt, goat’s milk, fortified soya milk, mineral water, ice cream, tinned fish, calcium-fortified tofu, calcium-fortified juices and cereals; and broccoli. Dairy products such as milk and yogurt are regarded as the best sources of calcium.

Research has shown that, taken regularly, calcium supplements help prevent osteoporosis, by reducing bone loss. Osteoporosis is a bone thinning disease, which most often affects either the wrist, spine or hip, especially in women.

How Much Calcium Do You Need?

• Children up to 10 years (boys and girls): 800mg calcium a day.

• Teenagers aged 11-17 years (boys and girls): 1200mg calcium a day.

• Adults (men and women): 800mg calcium a day.

• During pregnancy and lactation: 1200mg calcium a day.

More than one third of Irish women do not consume enough calcium, according to recent research. Often such women restrict their intake of nutritious foods such as milk and meat, in the mistaken belief that they are fattening, and this may have a detrimental effect on their health.


Iron is a mineral that is an essential part of blood and muscle. It is important for the transport of oxygen around the body in the blood. There are two types of iron found in the diet, heme iron and non-heme iron.

Heme iron is found in meat, seafood and poultry and is normally absorbed quite well by the body. Non-heme iron is not absorbed as well and is found in iron-fortified cereals, wholegrains, beans, peas and dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach.

Non-heme iron is better absorbed when consumed with vitamin C-rich food, such as citrus fruit. Because absorption of non-heme iron is lower, vegetarians may need higher amounts of dietary iron.

Meat, when eaten at the same meal as fruit, vegetables, nuts and cereals can also help to increase the absorption of iron. Liver is a good source of iron, but pregnant women should NOT eat liver because of its high vitamin A content.

What Happens When There Is Too Little Iron In Your Diet?

Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency in the world. Too little iron in your diet leads to too few red blood cells, which affects the body’s ability to carry oxygen.

This condition is called iron deficiency anaemia and can affect can affect the growth and development of infants and people with conditions that cause internal bleeding, such as ulcers or intestinal diseases. Anaemia is a reduction in the part of the blood that carries oxygen, which is called haemoglobin. Symptoms include excessive tiredness, pale skin and poor resistance to infection.

To achieve your RDA, you should consume iron in its most absorbable form. One of the best sources of easily absorbed iron is lean, red meat (beef, pork or lamb). This should be eaten three to four times a week. The iron in red meat can be absorbed up to seven times more easily than iron in fruit, vegetables, nuts and cereals.

Iron supplements can cause side effects such as nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhoea, dark-coloured stools and abdominal pain. It can help to take the supplement in divided doses or with food to avoid these symptoms. Liquid iron can stain your teeth.

What If I Am A Vegetarian?

If you are a vegetarian (or a vegan), you should consult a doctor or dietitian about your diet. If you are planning to raise you child as a vegetarian or vegan, you should be aware that such children are at greater risk of suffering from iron deficiency.

It is essential that you get enough iron in your diet. Since you are cutting out the food that is recognised as being the best source of easily absorbed iron, ie. red meat, you have to seek alternative sources.

Is It Useful To Take Vitamin And Mineral Supplements?

Generally, supplements are unnecessary if you eat a healthy balanced diet. The benefits of taking vitamin and mineral supplements are uncertain and further research is needed to determine whether taking nutrients in pill form provides the same benefit.

Sometimes, however, a supplement may be necessary, especially during times of illness when the appetite is not as good as usual; for children who are fussy eaters or failing to thrive; for people over 65; postmenopausal women; those on a very low-calorie diet; smokers; people who drink alcohol excessively; pregnant women or women trying to become pregnant; people on a special diet; and those who can’t absorb nutrients properly. RDAs should be observed to avoid overdosing. Overdosing on fat-soluble vitamins can lead to toxic levels that can cause damage to the body. Overdosing on water-soluble vitamins, however, will have little effect as they will merely be excreted in the urine.

That’s all she wrote for this Chapter…………. Picking my brain for all this really took it out of me and if you were waiting for this blog since the last post. Thanks for waiting and I hope you enjoy.

The Final Blog

303 – Constructing Your Own Nutritional Programme

Will be posted soon. I will walk you through some of the best ways to construct your own nutritional program. Also I will go through some of my nutritional methods and techniques that I have prescribed for my competitive clients and my everyday clients. Letting you in on some of my trade secrets 😛

Enjoy Dave

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