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Vitamins, Minerals and Amino Acids: A Breakdown

Posted on 25 August 2017

Vitamins, minerals and amino acids are central components to sustaining life. They are organic compounds that are required by the body for healthy living. Proper balance ensures proper mental and physical functioning. On its own, the body cannot produce all of the vitamins, minerals and amino acids that it needs and takes in what it requires through external food sources. Sometimes, even these sources fall short in providing the body with maximum nourishment and additional supplementation is required. Vitamin, mineral and amino acid supplementation should be part of a larger comprehensive plan that includes a healthy diet and lifestyle.

Vitamins 
Vitamins are organic substances essential to the functioning of the human body. They are not produced in sufficient quantities in the body and must be obtained through a varied diet. Each vitamin has a unique role in maintaining health, and the benefits include: preserving vision; ensuring healthy teeth, bones, tissue and skin; controlling tissue growth and cell function; building neurotransmitters crucial to brain functioning; and promoting a healthy immune system.

There are 14 recognized vitamins:
• Vitamin A (retinol, retinal, beta carotene) 
• Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
• Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
• Vitamin B3 (niacin)
• Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)
• Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
• Vitamin B7 (biotin)
• Vitamin B8 (inositol)
• Vitamin B9 (folic acid)
• Vitamin B12 (in forms of cyano cobalamin, methyl cobalamin, hydroxy cobalamin)
• Vitamin C
• Vitamin D
• Vitamin E
• Vitamin K

Minerals
Minerals are another component to a healthy mind and body. Minerals are required for building strong bones, producing hormones and regulating heartbeat. Minerals are divided into two categories: macro minerals and trace minerals. Sulphur, chloride, potassium, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, and sodium are examples of macro minerals – minerals that the body needs in large amounts to maximize functioning. Trace minerals are needed in smaller amounts, and include: iron, selenium, iodine, copper and zinc. Like vitamins, minerals are most commonly acquired through the foods a person ingests. Given today’s standard diet, many people require additional supplementation.

Amino Acids
Amino acids are known as “the building blocks of life.” They synthesize protein and provide energy. Next to water, protein is the most abundant substance in the human body. They build and repair muscle and facilitate healthy brain functioning. There are 22 amino acids within the three classifications: essential, non-essential and conditional.

Essential amino acids are not produced naturally in the body and must come from food or other sources. The nine amino acids that belong to this group are: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.

Non-essential amino acids are produced by the body and do not need to be taken in through food. Alanine, asparagine, aspartic acid, glutamic acid, and glycine are examples of non-essential amino acids.

Conditional amino acids are not essential but are required in times of illness or stress. They include: arginine, cysteine, glutamine, glycine, ornithine, proline, serine, and tyrosine.

Finding the right balance means speaking with a trained dietician or nutritionist.

The goal is to find a healthy balance in vitamin, mineral and amino acid intake. Too little causes the mind and body to function less than optimally—contributing to a host of mental, physical and behavioural problems. But, too much can also do more harm than good. Flooding the system with a certain compound when it is not required does not work to strengthen and maintain the body, but instead causes the body to react negatively in opposition to the over abundance. Communicating with a dietician or nutritionist is crucial before taking supplements, as they can identify individual requirements and recommend a diet and supplement plan tailored to individual needs. Vitamin, mineral and amino acid supplements are available in many forms – capsules, tablets, liquids and powders and a trained healthcare professional can help to determine which is most suitable.