It is difficult to transfer (shuttle) vitamins from food into our bodies. Before the food we eat can be used for energy it needs to be digested, i.e. broken down into its simplest form of individual nutrients. Following digestion, the body must take up, or absorb, the individual nutrients to either use them for energy or store them for later.
Food Acupuncture: Vitamins & Minerals
Small but significant: Tiny amounts big results Structuring/building/connecting/energizing/repairing/healing…
The power of vitamins comes from the power of real food
The nutrients we eat are an established part of every cell and tissue that makes us what we are and who we are. It is therefore important to understand how the food we eat affects us on the inside, since our internal functioning directly influences how we feel, how we look, and our overall health. In this series, we will look into which vitamins and minerals are needed to keep our cells healthy and what these nutrients actually do inside our bodies.
Food to Energy: what is going on in our cells?
The nutrients we digest through our food are essential for making new cells, and this is the main reason why nutrition plays such a major role in cellular health and, therefore, in overall optimal functioning.
Following digestion and absorption the food we eat is used to provide energy for everything we want to do, including changing our body composition. Each cell in our body is a tiny version of a human life: they move, grow, consume food, excrete waste products, react to the environment they live in, and reproduce. The cellular structure consists of the nucleus that contains the cell’s DNA. Surrounding the nucleus is the membrane, which is mainly composed of lipids and proteins, as well as minerals which are needed for activities within the nucleus.
Cells also contain mitochondria, known as the “power house” of the cell, which are extremely valuable cellular structures. Energy is produced within the mitochondria, by converting nutrients in the food we eat into triphosphate (ATP). Nutritional support for a healthy mitochondrial function comes from eating foods with a lot of nutrients which are minimally processed, such as leafy green vegetables, complex carbohydrates, and lean proteins.
The structural and functional integrity and survival of our cells’ mitochondria, nucleus and DNA all depend on nutrients in our diet, and more specifically on micronutrients within food. Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B7, and in particular pantothenic acid B5, are among the most important vitamins. Also, without B2, fatty acids cannot go into cells. Two other vitamins, B12 and folate, help cells multiply.
If your cells are not healthy, they will not work properly and this may ultimately lead to serious health consequences. For example, if the mitochondrial structure or function is compromised, energy production from the cell will be negatively affected, and this can contribute to several chronic diseases like diabetes, heart diseases and Parkinson’s disease.
Similarly, if DNA is damaged from excess of potentially harmful substances circulating around the body, then the proteins that a particular DNA produces may no longer be available in your body. This will lead to sub-standard body functions, which in turn can lead to a variety of diseases.
Certain nutrients from the food we eat can protect cells from early damage. These are called antioxidants and help neutralise the oxidant effect of free radicals. Free radicals are molecules that can damage cells, and are produced as a side effect of normal metabolism.
The term antioxidant reflects a chemical property rather than a specific nutritional property. Some vitamins, such as vitamins C and E, are strong antioxidants as well as having other vital roles in our body. Certain minerals also serve as antioxidants, for instance copper, zinc and selenium.
Specific antioxidant vitamins might be expected to have distinct effects. However, individual responses may vary based upon genetic predisposition and other exposures, including smoking.
Nutrients required for healthy cell membranes and components include proteins, fat-soluble vitamins and vitamin C. These nutrients are provided in a diet based on whole grains, vegetables, fruits, poultry and fish.
Next time we will talk about using supplements, and what their limitations are.