Lauren Quigley returns for part two of her guest post on nutrition (read part one here), with loads more information on how to monitor your stats like you’re your own RPG character. Ironically, us gamers are often pretty bad at taking our own bodies past level 1 or 2, so these posts should come in handy for most of us.
We recently talked about how balancing the macronutrients–carbohydrates, fat, and protein–to fit our needs can help our bodies perform as epically as possible in the game of life. Other crucial components to that balance are the micronutrients, otherwise known as the 13 essential vitamins and essential minerals. Here’s one way I like to look at the micronutrients: if we exceed the recommended amounts or don’t consume enough, they act as condition modifiers on our bodies, causing a whole host of problems from fatigue and decreased immunity to brittle bones and nerve damage. Meticulously keeping track of these numbers usually isn’t necessary with a balanced diet, but it’s still a good idea to understand their functions and the differences between them.
Vitamins fall into two categories: fat-soluble and water-soluble. The fat-soluble vitamins are A, D, E, and K, and the way our bodies absorb them involves transportation by fat globules for storage in our body tissues. Since fat-soluble vitamins are stored away for whenever they’re needed, it’s usually more difficult to become deficient in these vitamins unless you’ve gone a number of weeks without consuming enough of them in your diet. On the flip side, because the body holds onto them so well, there is sometimes a danger of toxicity (usually only when over-supplementation is involved). Vitamin A is important for vision, healthy skin, and maintaining your immune system. Vitamin D helps us properly absorb calcium for our bones, and might also play a role in preventing depression. Vitamin E protects our cell walls, and Vitamin K is crucial for blood clotting. Here are the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) for these fat-soluble vitamins:
The water-soluble vitamins are Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, Niacin, Riboflavin, Thiamine, and Folate. Unlike the fat-soluble vitamins, these are not stored in body tissues and must be replenished each day. Reaching toxic levels of these is much more difficult since we’re constantly excreting them, but there are certain overdoses that can cause nerve problems (Vitamin B6), kidney stones (Vitamin C), or even mask other deficiencies or health problems. This is worth mentioning since many supplements and energy shots feature CRAZY amounts of vitamins. For example, 5-Hour Energy shots contain 2000% of the recommended amount of Vitamin B6–a perfect potion for flirting with nerve damage! What’s ironic about these so-called health or energy supplements is that their excess vitamins are basically useless–our bodies can only use so much at once, and the money spent on them will literally go down the toilet with your urine.
That said, making sure we consume enough of these vitamins will ensure a strong metabolism, healthy nerve function, vision, skin, red blood cell production, cell replication, absorption of nutrients, digestive function, and much more. Here’s an overview of the DRIs for water-soluble vitamins:
In some cases, research hasn’t yet been able to pinpoint a specific amount needed by most people for the various vitamins and minerals. Instead, the recommendations we’re given reflect what seems to be beneficial without going overboard and producing adverse effects. This is the case with many of the essential mineral recommendations, but since most are needed in only tiny amounts, they’re easy to achieve with a generally balanced diet.
The three minerals most worth mentioning are Calcium, Iron, and Sodium. We all know calcium is important for strong and healthy bones, but it’s especially important to maintain adequate intake of calcium through your 20s, when bone demineralization naturally begins to occur. Iron is important in red blood cell formation, meaning too little can cause anemia. Sodium helps maintain the body’s fluid balance, blood pressure, nerve transmission, and muscle contraction, but for most of us, it’s much easier to consume too much than too little. Too much sodium can cause high blood pressure, which puts our bodies at risk for a stroke or heart attack. Here are the DRIs for essential minerals:
Maintaining optimal stats can be a challenge, but learning how your body works and what it needs is the first simple step toward making it the best it can be. Here’s to long, strong, healthy lives of completed quests and limitless adventure!