Vitamins and Minerals

If complete and balanced, our diet provides us with all the vitamins and minerals our body needs. These vitamins and minerals are essential to the structure of each cell, tissue, and organ of the human body, and to their function. When deficient, supplements may sometimes be required. Let’s look closely at the role of minerals in the human organism, where they come from, and when supplements are recommended.

A healthy, balanced and varied diet is the key to good health. Nevertheless, certain situations may require taking supplements. Do not hesitate to consult your pharmacist about it. He/she can guide you in the selection of the product most suited to you and inform you about the precautions to take.

 

Calcium

Calcium is essential to the formation and development of your bones and teeth.Your skeleton contains up to 99% of the total amount of calcium available in your body! But many other cells also need calcium to function.

Calcium is used for:

  • Building and maintaining strong bones.
  • Normalizing heartbeat.
  • Contracting and relaxing your muscles, which allows you to walk and hold objects in your hands.
  • Regulating blood pressure.
  • Stimulating wound healing.
  • Transmitting brain messages to different parts of the body.

Where is calcium found?

  • Dairy products constitute the best source of calcium. Firm cheeses generally contain more calcium than creamy cheeses.
  • Canned fish is also a good source of calcium.
  • Green leafy vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage also provide calcium, but in lesser quantity.
  • Finally, calcium found in legumes, almonds and seeds is less absorbed by the intestine than that from dairy products.

The absorption of food calcium depends on the other foods eaten during the same meal.

  • Vitamin D increases calcium absorption.
  • On the contrary, phytates contained in grain bran and oxalates (vegetables such as rhubarb and spinach) reduce its absorption.
  • In addition, caffeine and protein-rich diets tend to increase the loss of calcium through urine.

Who needs calcium supplements?

Certain groups of people who require more calcium may benefit from supplements if they are not getting the recommended nutrient intakes from their food. These groups include:
  • Postmenopausal women, to protect themselves from osteoporosis;
  • Women of childbearing age and pregnant or breast-feeding women;
  • People who eat few or no dairy products.

Iron

 

In Canada,more than 10% of women of childbearing age do not absorb enough iron! This is not surprising if we examine their diet. Iron from meat, poultry and seafood is better absorbed than that from vegetables. However, almost half of women do not eat the minimal number of recommended meat or substitute portions, their main iron source being cereals.

What does iron do?

  • It brings oxygen to our tissue and muscle cells.
  • It helps the chemical reactions within the cells.

Where is iron found?

In nature, iron exists in two forms: heme iron is present in meat, poultry and seafood, and non-heme iron is found in vegetal foods such as legumes and certain iron-enriched grain products.

Who needs iron supplements?

Certain people need more iron and could benefit from iron supplements to prevent or correct a deficiency.
This is particularly the case for:

 

  • People with certain forms of anaemia;
  • Young children and teenagers;
  • Women of childbearing age and pregnant women;
  • Pre-menopausal women who have had many pregnancies or have heavy menstrual flow.

Magnesium

Each of your body cells requires magnesium. Half the magnesium is stored in the cells of your tissues and organs.The other half is combined with the calcium and phosphor of your bones.Your blood also contains a minute quantity of magnesium. 

What is magnesium used for?

  • To complete over 300 biochemical reactions in your body among which energy metabolism and protein production.
  • To operate muscles and nerves.
  • To maintain a continuous heartbeat.
  • To solidify bones and teeth.

Where is magnesium found?

Magnesium is found in green vegetables, legumes, almonds and seeds, as well as some whole grain products (e.g.: whole wheat bread). A small amount of magnesium is present in many foods.To insure a sufficient quantity of it in your diet, vary your menus.

Who needs magnesium supplements?

Magnesium supplements are not necessary except in rare cases: when magnesium absorption is limited (improper absorption by the intestine) or when an excessive loss of magnesium is due to vomiting or severe diarrhea.

Excessive consumption of alcohol and the use of diuretics can also require supplementing magnesium. 

Potassium

A large amount of potassium is found in most fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy and legumes. People needing potassium supplements are rare. Eating a fruit and vegetable-rich diet is generally enough to satisfy the necessary intake. Potassium supplements are needed when taking certain medicines; in this case,medical supervision is necessary.

Zinc

Present in almost all body cells, zinc is a life-essential mineral.

What is zinc used for?

  • To activate over 100 different enzymes in your body, every day.
  • To fight infections.
  • To ease wound healing.
  • To maintain your sense of smell and taste.
  • To allow the normal development and growth of a foetus during pregnancy as well as that of children and teenagers.
  • To regulate the expression of your genes.

Where is zinc found?

Zinc is found in a large selection of foods: red meat, poultry, legumes, nuts, seafood (particularly oysters), whole grains and dairy products. Zinc from animal source is better absorbed than that from grains, legumes or vegetables. Phytates found in whole grain breads and vegetables can cause a decrease in zinc absorption by the body.

Who needs zinc supplement?

People who do not eat enough calories, vegetarians, as well as children and teenagers presenting growth problems could benefit from zinc supplements. Also, people suffering from alcoholism or diseases causing improper absorption by the intestine and diarrhea often have inadequate levels of zinc. If a proper diet does not solve the problem, using supplements may become necessary.

Selenium


Selenium still raises many questions. But scientists agree on one point: selenium is essential to the adequate functions of the body. Selenium enters the food chain through plants: thus the selenium content of plants depends on the selenium quantity contained in a region’s soil. 
In Canada, potassium supplements are rarely required as our needs are largely satisfied through our diet.

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