The Nutrient Guide
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Folic Acid
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Vitamin A is made up of a group of fat soluble compounds and is an antioxidant that may protect your cells against the effects of free radicals.
Vitamin A intake is essential for:
- Promotion of good vision especially at night
- Growth and Development – it is involved in the genetic regulation of cell and tissue formation, programming, and communication needed for reproduction and for the proper development of the embryo in the womb
- Immune function – it helps to protect against infections by ensuring the effectiveness of mechanical barriers (e.g., skin), and increasing the production and efficacy of protective cells (e.g., lymphocytes)
- Male and female reproductive organs.
Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin.Vitamin B6 must be obtained from the diet because humans cannot synthesize it.
Vitamin B6 is essential for:
- Make antibodies. Antibodies are needed to fight many diseases.
- Maintain normal nerve function.
- Make hemoglobin. Hemoglobin carries oxygen in the red blood cells to the tissues. A vitamin B6 deficiency can cause a form of anemia.
- Break down proteins. The more protein you eat, the more vitamin B6 you need.
- Keep blood sugar (glucose) in normal ranges.
Vitamins B12 is also a water-soluble vitamin and much like the other B vitamins it is important for protein metabolism.
Vitamin B12 is essential for:
- convert food into glucose, which is used to produce energy
- maintain healthy nerve cells
- produce nucleic acids (e.g., DNA), the body’s genetic material
- regulate, together with vitamin B9 (folate), the formation of red blood cells
- control, together with vitamin B6 and vitamin B9, blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine, a potential marker for heart disease risk
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin.
A sufficient intake of vitamin C (ascorbic acid), is important as it helps the body to
- make collagen, an important protein in skin, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels
- grow and repair tissues
- heal wounds
- repair and maintain bones and teeth
- synthesize neurotransmitters
- block, some of the damage caused by free radicals by working as an antioxidant along with vitamin E, beta-carotene and many other plant-based nutrients. This damage can contribute to the aging process and the development of cancer, heart disease, and arthritis.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the body’s fatty tissue.
Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. Calcium and phosphate are two minerals that you must have for normal bone formation. In childhood, your body uses these minerals to produce bones. If you do not get enough calcium, or if your body does not absorb enough calcium from your diet, bone production and bone tissues may suffer. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteoporosis in adults or rickets in children.
Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin and is also an antioxidant. This means it protects body tissue from damage caused by substances called free radicals, which can harm cells, tissues, and organs. They are believed to play a role in certain conditions related to aging.
A sufficient intake of vitamin E is important as it
- functions as an antioxidant, protecting cells, tissues, and organs from damaging effects caused by ‘free radicals’, which are responsible for the aging process and can lead to various health conditions such as heart disease, cancer, and inflammatory conditions
- inhibits damaging blood clotting, potentially blocking blood flow
- regulates the opening of blood vessels, important for unhindered blood flow.
Biotin is a water soluble vitamin belonging to the Vitamin B group
A sufficient intake of biotin is important as it helps the body to
- convert food into glucose, which is used to produce energy
- produce fatty acids and amino acids (the building blocks of protein)
- activate protein/amino acid metabolism in the hair roots and fingernail cells.
Calcium is a mineral found in many foods. The body needs calcium to maintain strong bones and to carry out many important functions. Almost all calcium is stored in bones and teeth, where it supports their structure and hardness. The rest is throughout the body in blood, muscle and the fluid between cells. Your body needs calcium to help muscles and blood vessels contract and expand, to secrete hormones and enzymes and to send messages through the nervous system. Growing children and teenagers need more calcium than young adults. Older women need plenty of calcium to prevent osteoporosis.
Choline is a member of the vitamin B group of nutrients that supports brain function and plays a crucial role in the development of learning and memory in children. Choline is the precursor molecule for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is involved in many functions including memory and muscle control.
Choline is critical during fetal development of the brain, where it can influence lifelong memory and learning functions.
Choline is also considered to be necessary for proper functioning of cell membranes, to allow passage of nutrients and waste products
1. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, “Choline: needed for normal development of memory,” Vol. 19, No.5 (Suppl), pp.528S-531S, October 2000. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11023003
2. Nutrition Today, “Choline: Dietary Requirements and Role in Brain Development,” Vol. 42, No. 4, pp.181-186. 2007. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18716669
3. NutraIngredients.com, “Science stacks up for choline’s health benefits,” Stephen Daniells, Feb. 15, 2008. http://www.nutraingredients.com/Research/Science-stacks-up-for-choline-s-health-benefits
Folic acid is needed for the proper development of the human body. It is involved in producing the genetic material called DNA and in numerous other bodily functions.Folate and folic acid are forms of a water-soluble B vitamin. Folic acid is used for preventing and treating low blood levels of folate (folate deficiency), as well as its complications, including “tired blood” (anemia) and the inability of the bowel to absorb nutrients properly. Folic acid is also used for other conditions commonly associated with folate deficiency, including ulcerative colitis, liver disease, alcoholism, and kidney dialysis. Women who are pregnant or might become pregnant take folic acid to prevent miscarriage and “neural tube defects,” birth defects such as spina bifida that occur when the fetus’s spine and back do not close during development.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids. They are necessary for human health, but the body can’t make them. You have to get them through food or take supplements. Also known as polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), omega-3 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain function, as well as normal growth and development. They have also become popular because they may reduce the risk of heart disease.
Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and may help lower risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and arthritis. Omega-3 fatty acids are highly concentrated in the brain and appear to be important for cognitive (brain memory and performance) and behavioral function. In fact, infants who do not get enough omega-3 fatty acids from their mothers during pregnancy are at risk for developing vision and nerve problems. Symptoms of omega-3 fatty acid deficiency include fatigue, poor memory, dry skin, heart problems, mood swings or depression, and poor circulation.
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an omega-3 fatty acid found in cold-water, fatty fish, such as salmon. It is also found in fish oil supplements, along with eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Vegetarian sources of DHA come from seaweed.
Omega-3 fatty acids are good for your heart, and your body needs DHA for a healthy brain. Infants need DHA, especially during the first 6 months of their lives, so their brains, eyes, and nervous systems can develop as they should. DHA is found in breast milk and is added to some infant formula. Our bodies naturally make small amounts of DHA, but we must get the amounts we need from food or supplements. Most people in the Western world do not get enough omega-3 fatty acids in their diet.