Nutrients - they are the building blocks of all things. Nutrients are grouped in to 6 groups, and each nutrient has its own essential role. Some provide energy - the macro-nutrients or Carbohydrates, Fats and Protein.
Vitamins & minerals supports the body, to function, give shape, movement and energy.
By definitian, vitamins are organic compounds that our bodies use, in very small amounts, for a variety of metabolic processes. Translate this into every day words and we have - vitamins are naturally made chemicals that we use to make our body works. This may seem like a vague description, but you are very familiar with them. Vitamin B12, C, E, K, D Biotin, etc.
Vitamin levels and quality is dependent on the health of the plant, access of quality (plant) food, air, water, sunlight and nurture.
Minerals on the other hand are literally particles of matter that come off the periodic table - Calcium, Magnesium, Manganese, Zinc, etc. They are all essential in the body. The obvious is calcium, silicia, magnesium for bones, but you may not be aware, that Zinc, combined with protein, and Vit C is essential to create the collagen that keeps the bone strong and together.
Minerals are very much dependent on the quality of the soil; the amount of those minerals present where the plant is growing, the plan't health to absorb and package the minerals up. For instance, Magnesium is a bound with in the chlorophyll unit in the green parts of the plant.
If I was to list all the roles of the vitamins and minerals, it would be a text book length email. For a comprehensive look at what each of the micro-nutrients do.
Some Vitamins and minerals are best found in animal products such as Zinc, Iron, and B12. This is not to say that people who do not eat meat don't get enough, it means they need to be aware of the plant sources for these nutrients.
Other points of interest is Vit D. It is needed in the immune system as a regulator, healthy bones, Calcium absorption, caring and use in the body. It is created in the body when we are exposed to sunlight but with a few limiting requirements: our kidneys, liver, and gastric cells that manufacture the Vitamin must be working; we are to have at least 10 minutes of skin and eye exposure (no sunglasses) in summer and 30 minutes in winter. Australia is recorded to be one of the countries in the world with Vit D deficiency, yet we have more than enough sunlight. Why? We cover up, stay inside during working hours, wear sunglasses and may not have a healthy cell line to manufacture this critical vitamin. Could also be due to the obsession with low fat dairy products and avoidance of even healthy fats for decades.
On the upside, Vit D can also be absorbed from foods such as dairy products (full cream), meats, eggs as it is a fat soluble vitamin, it is carried and absorbed with fat molecules.
Deficiencies do occur, even in our very wealthy and food oversupply nation. It seems paradoxical , but it does occur. How? A few reasons.
Nutrient Density is going to become the new buzz words, trust me. With the revamping of the Dietary Guidelines for Australians, the focus is starting to change from food groups to that of what is in the food.
I realise for some this still may not mean much, so let me expand. Everything we eat or drink has things in it. Some things are great for creating health, others do the exact opposite - compromises the body's health. To help maximise the food choices, nutrient density is a great way to start seeing food.
So, how to do it? Consider this statement first - "Nutrients are the building blocks of the body." Nutrients are carbohydrates, proteins, fats, water, fibre, vitamins, & minerals. Each nutrient is needed in its own unique volume and its volume is dependent on several factors. Level of dis-ease, stress, inflammation, physical activity, gender, and age all play a part in indicating a nutrient's 'dosing'. This is one reason why nutrition is a science, and the more diseased, and unhealthy a person is, the more detailed intervention is required to support the body back to health.
Now, back the question. Nutrient density can be thought of as a scale of low nutrient density to high. Super foods such as quinoa, chai, eggs, seeds & berries and the like are high in nutrients. One of the reasons is simply they are the starting part of new life - grains, nuts, seeds and berries are the beginnings for new plants, as eggs are for new chicks. For this reason, they have many nutrients in them to support new life they are propagating. The benefit to us, is if we can digest and absorb the individual nutrients, and they suitable for our body we can get better.
Like all things, we need to keep the nutrients in the range that works to keep our body's healthy, either too much can become a poison, and too little can lead to deficiency states and diseases in their own right.
When we are working towards Health, we need to ensure we are consuming nutrient dense and not just energy dense foods the latter helps to put on the weight the first helps to take it off.
Rules of thumb to follow
A dietitian with an interest in mind, body, skill development and empowering people to help themselves. After living a lifetime in the first 40, it is now time take it easier and let things be and help others get their their 'life'.
All information shared on the Healthy Eats site is purely for general interest. If at any stage you feel the information is relevant to you and your health it is strongly recommended you speak with your health specialist. Healthy Eats and its employees do not accept any responsibility for misunderstanding what is presented here, and it does not replace the care of your Doctor or Allied Health Professional.