We have all sat through charts of essential food groups in school to know that a balanced meal is more than just watching our calorie intake. Apart from carb, fat and protein, we also need essential nutrients such as vitamins that play specific roles towards keeping our bodies running and healthy. Here are three critical nutrients that your body needs to keep your brain and your immune system working smoothly.
The B vitamins include thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, biotin and pantothenic acid, with each having separate functions. Collectively the B vitamin complex helps the body release the energy it gets from carbohydrates, proteins and fats. The good news is that vitamin B is widely distributed among regular food groups, so those on a balanced diet are likely to be getting their adequate share of its benefits. Out of the entire lot, however, Vitamin B12 and folate are the most important. B12 helps your body convert food into energy and a deficiency in vitamin B is usually linked to cognitive issues of the memory and depression. Folate, on the other hand, is crucial for pregnant women, but we all need it too. It is vital as it helps lower levels of a certain amino acid that contributes to strokes and other cardiovascular diseases.
Find it in: Vitamin B12 is not found in vegetarian sources. Good sources include eggs, fish, cheese, yogurt, red meat and milk. Folate is found in vegetarian sources such as greens like spinach, asparagus, sprouts and fortified beans and cereals.
Not only does Vitamin D help in calcium absorption, it also balances the calcium and phosphate levels in the blood, leading to healthy mineralization in the bone. Besides, cells such as osteoblasts and osteoclasts, that help rebuild our bones require vitamin D to process properly. This is an important prerequisite in all lifestyles, as without enough Vitamin D, bones become easily brittle. Vitamin D also plays a key role when it comes to regulating your immune function with evidence linking low levels of vitamin D to autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
Find it in: Vitamin D is tough to find in foods. Most of the vitamin D is produced by our body’s response to sunlight. But by slattering sunscreen you might be protecting your self from those blasted UVB rays, but you are also missing out on the previous vitamin D. Lucky for you, it is possible for you to get a load of vitamin D from fish, cod liver oil, oysters, sardines (with bones), mushrooms and fortified milks, orange juice and cereals.
Along with calcium and phosphorus, magnesium is an important element that goes into our bone structure. It also triggers calcitonin hormone, which protects the bone when there’s a deficit in the body by pulling calcium back to the bone from the blood and tissues. Magnesium is also an important catalyst in transforming vitamin D2 to D3 in its active form, which helps increase the rate of calcium absorption. Apart from poor bone health, magnesium deficiency also affects sleep and mental health. It helps to relax muscles after a long day at work and also relieves mild anxiety to induce a good nights rest.
Find it in: Magnesium is found in high-fiber foods that are unprocessed or refined. Plate up on broccoli, bananas, avocados, lentils, whole grains, flax, pumpkin and sesame seeds, almonds, dark chocolate, molasses and dried herbs.