Optimal Health – Supplements the Body Requires
What are the Key Essential Micronutrients Necessary for Optimal Health?
There are several key micronutrients that are necessary for optimal health whether you are training heavy for competition or just wanting to live a healthy lifestyle. These micronutrients are ones that the body cannot make either in abundant amounts or at all. These nutrients are crucial for life, for maximum performance, and also, so we can have the right balance. The micronutrients include 8 amino acids, 2 fatty acids, 13 vitamins and 20 minerals.
The 8 Essential Amino Acids
The eight essential amino acids are valine, isoleucine, leucine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, methionine, and lysine. Essential amino acids are required for life and growth and are not produced in the body (or are in insufficient amounts). They must be supplied by protein in our diet.
The three Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) include valine, leucine, and isoleucine. They belong to the group of proteinogenic amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. Valine and isoleucine are important sources of nitrogen. Isoleucine has several other functions including: the regulation of blood sugars (it metabolizes glucose through an increase in the absorption of sugars); oxygen transport; the production of haemoglobin; boosting the body’s energy. Leucine has several important functions: it is a being a buffer protein which protects the body when it lacks iron; it enhances physical performance by delaying the deterioration of muscle through the increase in the production of muscle proteins; and it is used for weight loss due its’ ability to dissolve visceral fat.
- Phenylalanine is a precursor of tyrosine, dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine. Eating foods plentiful in phenylalanine will help inhibit mood swings, reduce the feeling of fatigue or sluggishness, and decrease feelings of depression and anxiety.
- Threonine controls the growth of the liver, skeletal muscles and small intestines. Threonine plays a significant role in the formation of bones and cartilages, hair teeth and nails. It may also help to prevent cancer.
- Tryptophan helps with the induction of sleep, which is an important piece in the production of serotonin, vitamin B3 or niacin. Tryptophan production of serotonin helps to keep a good mood, stops you from oversleeping and prevents you from feeling depressed.
- Methionine has the ability to reduce the spread of the flu virus by impeding it from spreading further in the body.
- Lysine has a vital role in calcium absorption by decreasing the amount of calcium being expelled in the urine. It promotes the growth of hair, nails, teeth and bones.
Essential Fatty Acids
There are two essential fatty acids: linolenic and alpha-linoleic acid. Both cannot be made in the body and must be acquired from food. These basic fats are found in plants, they are used to build omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are imperative in the normal operation of all tissues of the body. Insufficiencies in these fatty acids lead to many other symptoms and illnesses including abnormalities in the liver and the kidneys, reduced growth rates, decreased immune function, depression, and dryness of the skin.
Omega-6 fats originate from linoleic acid and are found in leafy vegetables, seeds, nuts, grains, and vegetable oils. Most people get an adequate amount of Omega 6 in their daily diets, and therefore, planning is not usually required to ensure proper amounts of omega-6 fatty acids. Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) is a less known omega which has anti-inflammatory effects, but is found in less common oils such as borage and hemp oils.
The fundamental omega-3 is alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is then converted into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) by the body. Since ALA converts into EPA and DHA, it is considered the only essential omega-3 fatty acid. ALA can be found in many vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and fruits. It is used in the formation of cell walls and assist in increasing circulation and oxygen uptake.
13 Essential Vitamins
There are 13 vitamins that the body requires in order to work properly. They include: Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, Pantothenic Acid, B7 (Biotin), Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12 and Folate (folic acid and B9). These vitamins are broken down into two categories: fat-soluble and water-soluble.
There are 4 fat-soluble vitamins which are stored in the fatty tissue. These four fat-soluble vitamins are vitamins A, D, E, and K. These vitamins are absorbed more easily by the body in the presence of dietary fat. Due to the way they are stored, given time if the doses are too high, they can build up to dangerous levels and can lead to a condition called hypervitaminosis.
The other 9 essential vitamins are water-soluble, these are not stored in the body, so must be used immediately. Any leftover water-soluble vitamins get excreted through the urine. The exception to this rule is Vitamin B12 which can be stored in the liver for many years.
20 Essential Minerals
There are 20 minerals the body requires; these are termed essential minerals. Essential minerals are sometimes divided up into two groups: major minerals (macrominerals) and trace minerals (microminerals). These groups are equally important, but trace minerals are needed in smaller amounts than major minerals. The amounts needed are not an indication of their significance for health.
The macrominerals that the body needs in larger amounts include sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and sulfur. While the trace microminerals that the body requires in smaller amounts include iron, zinc, iodine, selenium, copper, manganese, fluoride, chromium, molybdenum. The last four needed in tiny amounts include nickel, silicon, vanadium, and cobalt.
Many people assume they will get everything from a balanced diet and achieve optimal health. However, with the depletion of the soil from over farming, this is actually impossible. The soil used to be much richer in the vitamins and minerals that we require for optimal health. Contemporary concentrated agricultural methods have stripped increasing quantities of nutrients from the soil in which the food we eat grows. The most important thing to do for yourself is your homework! Ask your health provider questions, get your blood tested, work with a nutritionist or naturopathic physician who can advise you on appropriate doses, and choose healthy whole foods that are organic! Everything you do will take you one step closer to Optimal Health.
Cathie Glennon – BCRPA/SFL, Rehabilitation Specialist, CSNA, Pharmacy Tech (level 3)