Cheat Sheet to Essential Vitamins and Where to Find Them!

Cheat Sheet to Essential Vitamins and Where to Find Them!

By: Derrick Campbell, B.S. Long Beach State

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Everyday, athletes struggle with which essential vitamins and nutrients the body needs to compete and live a healthy life. There IS an overall agreement of what these essential vitamins and nutrients are. I have put a list together covering all of essentials with a brief understanding of what their function is and in what foods they are found. The purpose of this article is to educate the our athletes and parents while helping you change your diet to become more nutritious and healthy.

Thiamin is one of the B vitamins. These are a group of water-soluble vitamins that are part of many of the chemical reactions in the body.

Function

Thiamin (vitamin B1) helps the body’s cells convert carbohydrates into energy. It is also essential for the functioning of the heart, muscles, and nervous system.

The main role of carbohydrates is to provide energy for the body, especially the brain and nervous system.

Food Sources

Thiamin is found in:

  • Dried milk
  • Egg
  • Enriched bread and flour
  • Lean meats
  • Legumes
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Organ meats
  • Peas
  • Whole grains

Dairy products, fruits, and vegetables are not very high in thiamin, but when eaten in large amounts, they become a significant source!

Niacin is a type of B vitamin and water-soluble. This means it is not stored in the body as they dissolve in water. Left over amounts of the vitamin leave the body through the urine. That means you need a continuous supply of such vitamins in your diet to experience the benefits.

Function

Niacin helps the digestive system, skin, and nerves to function properly. It is also important for converting food to energy.

Food Sources

Niacin (also known as vitamin B3) is found in:

  • Dairy products
  • Eggs
  • Enriched breads and cereals
  • Fish
  • Lean meats
  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Poultry

Niacin and Cardiovascular Disease

For many years, doses of 1 – 3 grams of nicotinic acid per day has been a treatment option for low HDL cholesterol and high LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Riboflavin is a type of B vitamin. It is water soluble, which means it is not stored in the body. You must replenish the vitamin in your body every day.

Function

Riboflavin (vitamin B2) works with the other B vitamins. It is important for body growth, red blood cell production, and helps in releasing energy from carbohydrates.

Food Sources

The following foods provide riboflavin in the diet:

  • Dairy products
  • Eggs
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Lean meats
  • Legumes
  • Milk
  • Nuts

Breads and cereals are often fortified with riboflavin. Fortified means the vitamin has been added to the food.

Because riboflavin is destroyed by exposure to light, foods with riboflavin should not be stored in glass containers that are exposed to light.

Folate is a water-soluble B vitamin. This helps the body form red blood cells and aids in the formation of genetic material within every body cell. Folate is naturally present in some foods, added to others, and also available as a dietary supplement.

Function

Folate functions as a coenzyme or co-substrate in single carbon transfers in the synthesis of nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) and metabolism of (protein) amino acids. They play a role in reducing blood homocysteine levels, formation of red blood cells, cell growth and division and the prevention of neural tube defects and anencephaly (a birth defect in which there is an absence of a large part of the brain or skull)

Food Sources

The following foods provide folate in the diet:

  • Fortified breakfast cereal
  • Whole wheat products
  • Liver
  • Eggs
  • Beans
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Asparagus
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Oranges
  • Strawberries
  • Cantaloupes and other melons

**Milk, Yogurt, Cheese, Fats, Oils, and Sweets are poor sources of folate!

Eating a variety of foods that contain folate is the best way to get an adequate amount. Healthy individuals who eat a balanced diet rarely need supplements.

Iron is a mineral found in every cell of the body. Iron is considered an essential mineral because it is needed to make blood cells.

Function

The human body needs iron to make the oxygen-carrying proteins hemoglobin and myoglobin. Hemoglobin is found in red blood cells and myoglobin is found in muscles. Iron also makes up many proteins in the body.

Food Sources

The best sources of iron include:

  • Dried beans
  • Dried fruits
  • Eggs (especially egg yolks)
  • Iron-fortified cereals
  • Liver
  • Lean red meat (especially beef)
  • Oysters
  • Poultry, dark red meat
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Whole grains

**Reasonable amounts of iron are also found in lamb, pork, and shellfish.

Iron does come from vegetables, fruits, grains, and supplements but is harder for the body to absorb. These sources include:

  • prunes
  • raisins
  • apricots
  • lima beans
  • soybeans
  • dried beans and peas
  • kidney beans
  • almonds
  • Brazil nuts
  • broccoli
  • spinach
  • kale
  • collards
  • asparagus
  • dandelion greens
  • Whole grain wheat
  • millet
  • oats
  • brown rice

If you eat a mixed diet of lean meat, fish, or poultry with beans or dark leafy greens at each meal, you can improve absorption of vegetable sources of iron up to three times. Foods rich in vitamin C also increase iron absorption.

Some foods reduce iron absorption. For example, commercial black or pekoe teas contain substances that bind to iron so it cannot be used by the body.

References:

Office of Dietary Supplements. National Institutes of Health. Folate

http://www.ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Folate-HealthProfessional Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet. Folate (Folacin, Folic Acid)

www.ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/5000/5553.html

MedlinePlus. Iron

www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/iron.html

MedlinePlus. Iron in diet

www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002422.htm

MedlinePlus. Niacin

www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002409.htm

MedlinePlus. Riboflavin

www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002411.htm

MedlinePlus. Thiamin

www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002401.htm

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