There are 13 essential vitamins, and each of these vitamins are critical for maintaining our health and wellness. Our body needs these substances for numerous metabolic processes. Vitamins are indispensable for building cells, for blood formation and for the stability of bones and teeth.
In this article, Silvia Bürkle, from a scientific point of view, sheds light on how to ensure an optimal supply of vitamins and whether a supply of dietary supplements is necessary.
Vitamins – the word itself contains vitality. “Vita” stands for life and “Amin” stands for nitrogenous organic compounds. No marketing expert could have thought up a more appropriate name.
Each of the 13 vitamins known today are considered essential for human life. Our body needs these substances for numerous metabolic processes. Vitamins are indispensable for building cells, for blood formation and for the stability of bones and teeth. In addition, they strengthen the immune system, inhibit inflammation, ensure firm hair, nails and healthy skin. At the same time, they positively influence hormonal balance, the nervous system and mental wellness.
In order to stay healthy, we need to ingest these vitamins with our food, because the body, with a few exceptions, cannot produce the vitamins by itself. Some vitamins, such as vitamin K, biotin or vitamin B12, can be synthesized in small quantities in the intestine if the intestinal flora is intact, while others are absorbed as provitamins. These vitamin precursors such as beta-carotene or cholecalciferol are then converted in the body into the actual vitamin A or D, respectively. Vitamin D is a special case, as it can be formed in the skin with the help of sunlight (UV-B radiation) and cholesterol. Due to its chemical structure, it rather belongs to the steroid hormones.
But how can we know whether a normal diet is sufficient to provide us with an optimal supply of vitamins? Because in most cases we can neither see nor taste the valuable substances. So it is no wonder that many people fear that they might be deficient in one of these vitamins. Especially since it is often said that fruits and vegetables now contain fewer nutrients than they used to.
Scientists in various countries have explored the question of whether our foods today actually contain fewer valuable ingredients than they did 50 or 100 years ago. The results were quite different; while Germany, Denmark and Australia found hardly any significant differences, the data from researchers at the University of Texas showed significant changes.
However, such comparative studies are controversial, as soil quality and weather often have a strong impact on how a plant grows and thrives, and thus on the composition of its fruit. This is because depending on whether, for example, a zucchini grows in a warm or cold summer, on loamy or sandy soil, in a dry or wet area, its vitamin content can vary considerably.
In addition, the storage and transport of fruits and vegetables also impact their vitamin content. In general, the following applies: The more time that passes between harvest and consumption, the more vitamins are lost. Most of these vitamins are extremely sensitive to light and oxygen and gradually degrade. In most cases, between 10 and 40 percent of the micronutrients are also lost through storage and preparation.
But what do these findings mean for our health? Can long storage and improper preparation actually cause us to be deficient in essential vitamins?
Of course, there are various causes that can lead to increased vitamin requirements, such as stress, smoking, increased alcohol consumption, gastrointestinal disorders, growth, competitive sports or medication intake. In addition, reduced vitamin intake may be present in diets and unbalanced nutrition, especially frequent consumption of processed foods and reheated meals, in vegans and seniors. Young women with a desire to have children, pregnant women and nursing mothers also have an increased need that must be met.
In any case, this is the conclusion reached by the scientists who have analyzed eating habits and needs in various studies. In particular, it was found that some vitamins and minerals in particular were in short supply, such as vitamin D, folic acid, calcium, iron, iodine and fluorine. In view of such surveys, one gets the impression that it is almost impossible to cover nutrient requirements through meals – and that people therefore have to resort to dietary supplements.
Vitamins? Yes, please! Dietary supplements? No, thanks!
A hot dog with fries and then a vitamin pill to ease your conscience? That doesn’t work! Only the vitamins in fruit and vegetables, fish, meat, eggs and whole grains are easily broken down and absorbed by the body. Vitamin pills and other dietary supplements, on the other hand, are highly dosed, but often have a low bioavailability and can do more harm than good. Natural foods provide not only vitamins, but hundreds of other, sometimes still unknown substances that work together with the vitamins in a highly complex way in the body and supply the organism with all the building blocks of life it really needs.
Nobody has to fear a vitamin deficiency if they eat a healthy and varied diet, unless they belong to a risk group. However, this requires reaching for fresh fruits and vegetables daily, eating fish once or twice a week, using cold-pressed vegetable oils, and including legumes and nuts in the diet more often. Highly processed foods that are enriched with fat and sugar should not be the first choice. They provide mainly energy, but hardly any micronutrients.
The foods of a Metabolic Balance nutrition plan are selected and compiled in such a way that you can compensate for deficiencies and nutrient fluctuations of the individual foods hardly matter.
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