Firstly, what are vitamins and minerals? The word ‘vitamin’ is derived from the Greek word for ‘vital for life’. Vitamins are organic compounds made by plants, animals and humans. In other words, vitamins are derived from living things. Minerals are inorganic, occurring naturally in water and soil.
As we already know, the vast majority of the food we eat comprises three main macronutrients: CARBS, fats and protein. In terms of weight, the three headline acts make up more than 90%. When we want to get our weight under control, the balance of these three ingredients is essential. After digestion, our body converts all CARBS into sugar, most proteins into amino acids, and fats into fatty acids. On top of our fuel, it’s also necessary to top up our engine with certain things that will make it run smoothly, efﬁciently and for as long as possible. You might see these as the oils in our engine or the additives they add to premium unleaded fuels. As BP say on their website about their ﬁnest fuel, “A formulation designed to bust the dirt in your engine and restore performance”. Welcome to vitamins and minerals, the premium fuels for our body.
Let us ﬁrst get a basic understanding of vitamins. Vitamins form in all living things, from cows to humans, from grapes to broccoli. While not every organic compound found in plants and animals are essential in our diet, some are. When our body’s health is negatively affected by a deﬁciency in an organic compound, it is labelled as a vitamin.
All vitamins are considered essential for a healthy life, and it’s ironic that there are 13 of them. Maybe it’s unlucky to miss by just one! The 13 vitamins that are essential for the human body fall into two categories: either they are fat-soluble or water-soluble. Fat-soluble vitamins are A, D, E, and K. I remember these with a mnemonic – ‘A Drunken Elephant Kills’. Those that are soluble in water are all the B vitamins and vitamin C. These are easier to remember if you picture a nervous news reporter struggling to announce their employer – ‘BBBBC’. But why is it good to recognise which are which? The answer is because, as A, D, E and K aren’t soluble in water, the body is very good at storing these vitamins and therefore worrying about our precise daily consumption isn’t always necessary. For example, experts once measured sailors in a submarine and found that after ten weeks below the ocean, their vitamin D level fell by only 50%. However, vitamin C and all of the B vitamins dissolve in water, making them harder for our body to retain, and for this reason, we should try to ensure that we consume them in our daily diet or through the use of supplements.
Vitamins, just like minerals, don’t just work in isolation, but in partnerships too. Some vitamins need the presence of others to perform certain tasks, while others partner with minerals to get their job done. For example, we all know that calcium is good for our bones, but our body needs sufficient levels of vitamin D for our skeleton to make full use of it.
What The Experts Say: Author Patrick Holford
In the 1980s, we did an experiment with 90 children. We first measured their IQ and then puta third on to a high strength multivitamin and mineral tablet, a third onto a dummy pill which looked identical, and a third took nothing.
The study was run by a professor of phycology, David Benson, who actually thought we were nuts. He really didn’t believe that simply taking a multivitamin tablet could change your IQ. The BBC Horizon program filmed it.
At the end of the seven months, we had an increase of ten points on what is called the non-verbal IQ for those taking the vitamins and three points on those taking the placebo. A seven-point difference. And that would be enough to get half of all children specified as special educational needs back into the normal category. After the news broke, the very next day, virtually every multivitamin in the UK sold out!
Government Guidelines for Vitamins
Alongside all vitamins and minerals mentioned on the following pages, you will find the official daily recommended amount that we should consume. But before you get brainwashed by governmental data, let me start by saying that all these guidelines are founded on the basis of deficiency. Set by a panel of EU nutritional experts, the recommended Nutritional Reference Values (NRVs – or as I call them the Not Really Viable doses) are said to represent the required intake levels of all vitamins and a selection of minerals to help prevent deficiencies in the vast majority of healthy people in Europe. And always remember that the European Union NRVs are assembled around avoiding deficiency, not optimal health. Let me also provide an example of how you have to take them with a pinch of salt; how on earth can the minimum level of vitamin D be the same for someone who works outdoors in the south of Italy as an office worker in Great Britain?
Understanding NRV Amounts
• Mg = 1/1,000th of a gram (one thousandth of a gram) - milligram
• µg = 1/1,000,000 of a gram (one millionth of a gram) - microgram
When it comes to vitamins and minerals, we should always consider the recommended Nutritional Reference Values (NRVs) like a kind of a safety net, an entry point, not necessarily the optimal amount anyone would really desire. As I have pointed out, we are all very different. We eat different diets, are different ages, experience different stresses and lifestyles. We all have different microbiomes, and even every day, our nutritional requirements will vary a little. The key thing to remember is this; most chronic illnesses are a result of a nutritional deficiency. Whether it be a short-term deficiency or one that has built up over time, it is crucial for our wellbeing to understand that the key to our health, happiness and longevity lies in fuelling our body with optimal nutrients, especially vitamins and minerals.
Let me introduce you to a new word and one that, if more people knew it, would undoubtedly halt our nation’s decline into ill health - orthomolecular medicine. The phrase was first coined in 1968 by American biochemist Linus Pauling and refers to an approach to health that involves not the use of drugs but a focus on nutrition. Or, as one orthomolecular practitioner, Dr Carl C. Pfeiffer, says, “For every drug that benefits a patient, there is a natural substance that can achieve the same effect”. Prevention by ensuring our bodies are optimally fuelled with sufficient vitamins and minerals is what I 100% recommend.
Vitamin A (NRV 800 µg)
Plays an important role in maintaining healthy vision (especially improving our sight in low light), neurological functions and our immune system, and helps maintain healthy bones.
Vitamin D (NRV 5 µg)
Plays a vital role in calcium absorption in our bones, helping to fend off osteoporosis. By boosting the immune system, amongst other things, vitamin D helps the body to defend against cancer and Alzheimer’s. Getting plenty of sunlight is a great way for the body to synthesise vitamin D.
When it comes to food, we can find rich sources of vitamin D in oily fish such as tuna, mackerel and salmon, plus dairy products and eggs, which are all useful secondary sources. Plus, most multivitamin tablets also contain a sufficient quantity. When you think about how much vitamin D you need, try and compare your lifestyle to that of the caveman. How much time do you spend outdoors compared to the caveman leaving his cave?
Vitamin E (NRV 12 Mg)
A powerful antioxidant and plays a vital role in the body’s fight against free radicals. Among many other things, vitamin E helps protect against Alzheimer’s and high blood pressure. There are many natural sources, the best being sunflower seeds, almonds and hazelnuts, and just one portion can surpass our daily needs. If you are not big on nuts and seeds, then a secondary source is greens such as broccoli and spinach and one of the biggest superfruits of all – avocado.
Vitamin K (NRV 75 µg)
Plays a leading role in keeping our bones healthy. If we cut ourselves, the blood clotting self-defence mechanism that kicks in is courtesy of vitamin K. It also fights against cancer and maintains a healthy heart. There are actually two types of vitamin K, simply called K1 and K2. K1 is found in vegetables such as kale; it is also one of the best sources, with just half a cup providing more than 100% of our recommended daily intake. We also get vitamin K1 from broccoli, cabbage, spring onions and spinach. K2 is found in dairy products, and a healthy microbiome will also synthesise K2.
Vitamin C (NRV 80 Mg)
A powerful antioxidant with numerous health beneﬁts, including curtailing high blood pressure, protecting against gallbladder infections, and defending against both strokes and certain cancers. It’s also great for keeping wrinkly skin at bay, as well as colds and the ﬂu too. The only problem is that the body can neither create nor store it. Therefore, we must consume plenty of vitamin C on a daily basis.
The best source is the Indian fruit guava, where consuming just one provides six times the daily- recommended amount. The trouble is, in the UK, it’s hard to get hold of it anything other than a juice. Alternatively, a cup of blackcurrants or raw red peppers will provide three times our daily requirement, with a kiwi or a cup of raw green peppers doubling what we need. An orange, a cup of strawberries, a portion of broccoli, kale or Brussels sprouts will also sufﬁce. Or a cupful of grapefruit or pineapple chunks would do nicely too. All of the following either surpass or come very close to providing us with our daily requirement of vitamin C:
- 1 yellow bell pepper (5 x NRV)
- 1 red bell pepper (3 x NRV)
- 1 green bell pepper (2 x NRV)
- 1 kiwi
- 1 cup of broccoli
- 1 cup of Brussels sprouts
- 1 cup of green peas
- 1 cup of cauliflower
- 1 orange
- 1 grapefruit
- 2 large tomatoes
- 2 cups of blackberries
- 2 cups of raspberries
- 5 large strawberries
However, there is a word of warning. I actually believe the daily recommendation for vitamins, especially vitamin C, is way understated for most people. While the recommendation is just 80mg per day, I personally feel that we need closer to 2,000mg (2 grams).
You will find a great speech by Dr Thomas Levy on YouTube, where he claims vitamin C is the very best antioxidant of all. Also, in his bestselling book Stop America’s Number 1 Killer, he claims that atherosclerosis (the build-up of plaque in the arteries) is preventable and even sometimes reversible through high dose vitamin C and that it is the lack of vitamin C that causes it. Put simply, Dr Thomas Levy believes the number one cause of heart disease is a lack of vitamin C. He is not alone. Linus Pauling, a winner of two Nobel prizes, very vocally promoted vitamin C as he believed that a lack of vitamin C primarily caused CVD, and to prevent it, you just need to take a higher daily dose of vitamin C. Tests on guinea pigs (just like humans they can’t make their own vitamin C) in the 1960s showed how vitamin C deprivation causes atherosclerosis and heart disease.
Vitamin Bs can be a little confusing as there are eight of them, but there isn’t a B4, B8, B10 or B11. It’s all to do with when they were discovered and how some vitamins that were once thought to be one vitamin later turned out to be several different types. Many in the scientific and medical community prefer to use names for B vitamins instead of numbers to avoid confusion.
Vitamin B1 - Thiamine (NRV 1.1 Mg)
Boosts the immune system, and is believed to be great for cognitive functions, reducing both stress and memory loss. In January 2017, The Independent newspaper ran an article with the headline, “A diet rich in thiamine can reduce your risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease, but some groups, such as the elderly, aren’t getting enough”. Levels of vitamin B1 are often deﬁcient in individuals who consume too much alcohol, as it blocks its absorption. Vegetables, meat, ﬁsh, seeds and nuts are all good sources of thiamine.
Vitamin B2 - Riboflavin (NRV 1.4 Mg)
Like several other B vitamins, B2 works alongside other co-enzymes to help us extract nutrients from protein and carbohydrates. It is yet another vitamin that acts as a powerful antioxidant, and as we age, it can prevent cracks from appearing around the mouth and nose, as well as counteract depression and sore throats. Foods rich in B2 include meats and poultry (especially organs such as chicken liver), seaweed, shellﬁsh, cheese, yoghurt, eggs and green vegetables such as broccoli and spinach, as well as nuts and seeds.
Vitamin B3 - Niacin (NRV 16 Mg)
B3 is one of the most powerful vitamins of all and plays a role in over 500 different reactions in the human body. It helps to maintain a healthy cardiovascular system, as well as balancing blood cholesterol levels. As we age, it helps with cognitive functions and joint mobility, as well as preventing the skin from drying out. The best sources are chicken, beef, lamb and ﬁshes such as tuna, sardines and salmon.
There is a great book called Niacin: The Real Story, where the authors talk about using large doses of niacin to cure a whole range of children’s learning and behavioural disorders. It’s a must-read for anyone with a family member who has ADHD. After all, Dr Lendon H Smith believes that “ADHD is not a disease; it is a nutritional deﬁciency”. Niacin was almost worshipped by the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Bill Wilson, who used mega doses (orthomolecular medicine) to cure many of his patients of their addiction.
Vitamin B5 - Pantothenic Acid (NRV 6 Mg)
Plays an important role in extracting valuable nutrients from food and a critical role in maintaining the health of our nervous system. As the vitamin is found in lots of fresh foods, its name is derived from the Greek ‘pantos’ meaning ‘everywhere’. However, it is easily lost during processing, so if we eat only packaged foods, beware. Avocado, sunflower seeds, beef, duck, chicken (especially its organs), salmon, mushrooms, eggs, kale, broccoli and yoghurt are all rich sources of pantothenic acid.
Vitamin B6 - Pyridoxine (NRV 1.4 Mg)
Instrumental in producing the happiness neurotransmitter serotonin. It plays an important role in removing excessive homocysteine (a form of amino acid) from our blood after eating meat. Some researchers, therefore, suggest it is as important to monitor our pyridoxine levels as it is cholesterol. Just like vitamin B1, individuals that consume too much alcohol can often suffer from pyridoxine deficiency. Good sources include vegetables such as carrots, spinach, meat and poultry (especially turkey and organs such as liver), fish, milk, cheese, nuts and seeds, avocado and eggs.
Vitamin B7 - Biotin (NRV 50 µg)
Often referred to as the beauty vitamin, as it thickens hair, nails and beautifies skin. So much so, you are likely to find biotin added to many beauty products in your bathroom cabinet. There are, in fact, eight different types of biotin, but only one is natural, with all seven others being synthesised. Don’t believe any company that tells you that the synthetics are just as good.
Marketers who talk of vitamin H (for hair) or vitamin 8 are normally referring to synthetic versions of biotin. Vitamin B7 works as a co-enzyme with other vitamin Bs to metabolise all three macronutrients. Sources include liver from both meat and poultry, eggs, salmon, nuts, cheese, avocado and berries.
Vitamin B9 - Folate (NRV 200 µg)
Plays a leading role in producing and repairing damaged cells, as well as supporting nerve and immune functions. It is said to prevent both cancer and cognitive decline. Some experts say that, in sufficient quantities, it delays or even prevents the onset of grey hair. I wish I had known this a few years ago so that I could have avoided my silver highlights! People who consume too much alcohol are often deficient in vitamin B9. Liver, vegetables such as spinach, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and fruits (especially mango, avocado and oranges) are rich in folate.
Vitamin B12 - Cobalamin (NRV 2.5 µg)
Plays a major role in creating new red blood cells (preventing anaemia) and maintaining the nervous system. It also helps vitamin B6 control homocysteine and is said to inﬂuence many parts of our health, including energy levels, mood, digestion and cognitive functions. It’s a unique vitamin that contains a mineral, and it’s also the only one that’s not found in plants. The best source for vitamin B12 is to get our gut in order and have bacteria produce it for us, but food sources include liver from cows and chickens, ﬁsh such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna and trout, plus dairy products such as yoghurt and milk. B12 also highlights another ﬂaw in the subject of NRVs, because as we age, our bodies get less efﬁcient at processing this vitamin, resulting in the need for a higher daily intake.
I don’t expect you to memorise any of the above, and to be quite frank, it would be pretty much a waste of time if you did. But if you scan back through them, you will notice how so many food types appear time after time. This is one of the ways that we compiled our Superfood (see separate sheet) list. For example, look how many different vitamins olives, green vegetables, offal, avocados, nuts and seeds contain. Compare these to fast foods and packaged foods, and the difference is chalk and cheese!
Also, fresh fruits and vegetables are often richer in vitamins than those that are approaching their sell- by dates, and the more raw, uncooked vegetables we can eat, the better. When it comes to cooking them, those that are quickly stir-fried or brieﬂy steamed will often retain more vitamins and healthy nutrients than those that are cooked slowly or overheated. And for frozen foods, as they are often packed and frozen very quickly after picking, they can, in some instances, provide a richer source than those found in the fruit and vegetable aisle in the supermarket.
What The Experts Say: Dr Dan Maggs
Avoid crap foods void of nutrition, and live longer and happier with natural foods full of vitamins and minerals. I also feel that taking a multivitamin tablet is relevant for many people.
If we were playing the 20-question game, where the first question is animal, vegetable or mineral, virtually everything you will ever eat would fall into the first two categories. Minerals are not naturally found in animals or plants and only climb on board the food we consume through water and soil. The soil of our primal ancestors’ food was rich in minerals, and their water was quite simply mineral water. With the Earth’s crust historically providing such a rich layer of diverse minerals, plants absorbed them en masse through their roots, in turn, themselves becoming part plant, part mineral. Then, when animals ate the mineral-loaded plants, they too became part mineral.
Being so incredibly clever, nature decided that if plants and animals were constantly consuming minerals, and then in due course, so were us humans, it made sense to put them to good use and incorporate them in many bodily tasks and functions. Over millennia, these minerals have become integral to our wellbeing, but sadly, they have pretty much come to an end like all good things. Over recent generations, we have damaged our soil so badly that plants no longer ﬁnd abundant minerals to absorb; therefore animals lack them in their diet. As we humans are ‘what we eat - eats’, we too have become very lacking in minerals.
As the deﬁnition of a mineral is ’a solid, naturally occurring inorganic substance’, another way we might want to picture them in our diet is as a foundation. In the same way that houses are always built on a solid foundation, so our diet should be too. See minerals as building blocks for the body. They help construct healthy bones and teeth. They participate in producing muscles, skin, hair and blood, and are an essential tool in the metabolic process. Depending on what deﬁnition we apply to nutrients, thereare between 40 to 70 of them that are essential to our health and that we must ingest frequently. But, as over the past few generations, we have completely ruined our soil with chemicals and pesticides, so very little is available to be absorbed by today’s plants. This is another reason why more than ever, we need to eat a diverse and healthy diet. Let’s say one vegetable contains ten minerals that the body needs. That leaves some 30 to 60 that are missing. The answer is to eat a wide and varied diet of natural organic food, just as our primal ancestors did and to also take a quality multivitamin and mineral tablet.
Here is our Health Results mineral list. Some of them we need in big measures, normally milligrams (Mg), as these are the building blocks on which some bodily functions are cemented, while others, we only need tiny trace elements.
Calcium (NRV 800 Mg)
Helps build strong bones and healthy teeth. In fact, our skeleton and teeth contain about 1.5kg (3lbs) of calcium, and for this reason, we need to make sure we keep our levels regularly topped up. It is also used by our nerve cells to communicate with one another and for keeping our muscles nice and flexible. It’s believed that calcium helps us to fight off certain cancers, in particular colon cancer. And for those looking to shed a little weight, calcium is a definite fat buster. While there are several cases to be made against milk, it certainly packs a punch when it comes to calcium, with one pint of whole milk containing around 85% of the NHS’s recommended daily intake. Our mothers were correct that milk is a rich source of calcium, but so are other dairy products such as yoghurt and cheese. Leafy greens such as broccoli and cabbage also contain it, as well as some nuts and seeds and small fish such as sardines, pilchards and whitebait.
Phosphorus (NRV 700 Mg)
Has very similar properties to calcium and is used by the body to build and maintain healthy bones and teeth. Phosphorus is also a messenger between cells, carrying vital information from one to another about our DNA. If we don’t have sufﬁcient phosphorus in our system, we might become somebody totally different! Okay, that might be a bit far-fetched, but hopefully, you get the message. Phosphorus also prevents our body from becoming too acidic or alkaline (it balances our pH levels). Red meat, dairy produce, ﬁsh, poultry, nuts and seeds are rich in phosphorus, and therefore it is rare for someone to become deﬁcient.
Magnesium (NRV 375 Mg)
One of the most important minerals, essential for our wellbeing, and is required by more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body. Magnesium plays a leading role in regulating our body temperature, detoxification, formation and maintenance of healthy bones, blood glucose control, regulation of blood pressure and more.
Researchers in America found that approximately 75% of people tested were deﬁcient in magnesium, and this is a real health issue. Being deﬁcient in a mineral that is critical for us to function properly can lead to an onslaught of illnesses, especially as we age. In her bestselling book The Magnesium Miracle, author Dr Carolyn Dean quotes 56 conditions that are associated with magnesium deﬁciency, including acid reﬂux, Alzheimer’s disease, angina, anxiety attacks, arthritis, asthma, blood clots, bowel disease, depression, diabetes, heart diseases, hypertension, indigestion, inﬂammation, insomnia, kidney stones, migraines, osteoporosis, Parkinson’s disease, tooth decay and more.
I believe so much in the curing powers of magnesium that I am going to dive into a little more detail:
Magnesium May Reverse Osteoporosis - Numerous research studies have concluded that calcium supplemented with magnesium improves bone mineral density. So much so that many women in the USA who are susceptible to the disease take magnesium supplements as a preservative measure.
Magnesium As A Treatment For Diabetes - Magnesium aids in the metabolism of CARBS which helps control blood glucose levels.
Magnesium Treats Headaches and Migraines - For those who suffer from frequent headaches or migraines, increasing your intake of magnesium might prove more effective in the long term than taking painkillers.
Taking Magnesium Before Bedtime - Can help you get a good night’s sleep and can even help those suffering from insomnia.
Magnesium Prevents Cardiovascular Diseases - Magnesium has been demonstrated to lower the risk of coronary heart disease.
Magnesium May Boost Exercise Performance - Magnesium helps move glucose into our muscles and helps remove lactate, which often builds up in our muscles during exercise and can often lead to muscle cramping.
Now that you are aware of how beneficial magnesium can be, take a look at the NRV recommendations by the EU. As you can see, these are quite high, but in my opinion still very conservative. Let’s look at the types of food that we can find magnesium in and how much we would need to consume.
As you can see, it’s pretty difficult to consume enough magnesium through food alone.
Iron (NRV 14 Mg)
Works alongside the two proteins, haemoglobin and myoglobin, which transport oxygen via the blood to our cells. The human body ﬁnds it easier to absorb iron from animals than it does from plants. Liver, meat, nuts, seeds, eggs and leafy greens such as watercress and curly kale are all rich in iron.
Zinc (NRV 10 Mg)
Plays a role in creating new cells, hormones and enzymes. It also aids the metabolism of all three macronutrients. It’s a vital mineral, and our body is better at absorbing it from meat and shellfish than from plants. That said, leafy greens are a reasonable secondary source.
Fluoride (NRV 3.5 Mg)
Not to be confused with ﬂuorine, which is poisonous. A small amount of ﬂuoride is believed to be good for our teeth and possibly our bones too. It’s commonly found in toothpaste and in drinking water, and you can always top your level up with avocado and strawberries. We don’t require much of it, and as a result, the NHS doesn’t detail any daily recommendations for our consumption, though doctors in America do.
Let’s turn our attention to some of the trace minerals that we should ensure are in our diet. While the doses we need are minimal, they are just as vital to our wellbeing as they are to making Emeralds green and Rubies red!
Manganese (NRV 2 Mg)
Helps both create and activate several enzymes, and therefore most of it resides in our glands - with a smaller amount located in our bones. Tea is a rich source of manganese, as well as nuts, seeds, offal and some green vegetables such as peas and runner beans.
Copper (NRV 1,000 µg
Used in the production of both white and red blood cells, and acts as a trigger to release iron to form haemoglobin - the protein that carries oxygen in blood cells. Copper also reduces free radicals and can help defend the body against certain infections. Offal, nuts, tea and coffee, dark chocolate, most green vegetables and shellfish all contain copper. As we only need a small trace amount, primal diets are rich enough not to overly concern ourselves with it.
Iodine (NRV 150 µg)
Contributes to the creation of thyroid hormones. It also helps rebuild and repair bones, as well as supporting a healthy nervous system. Good sources include fish, shellfish and seaweed. Iodine used to also be found in vegetables, but sadly today most soil is depleted.
What The Experts Say: Dr James DiNicolantonio
One of the important things about real mineral salts, Himalayan salts and rock salt, is that they contain iodine. We lose 50 to 100 micrograms of iodine per hour of exercise. There are now 36 countries where people are iodine deﬁcient.
There are some very important fun sodium plays with iodine. Sodium helps bring iodine into the thyroid hormone. It also helps form thyroid horm the active thyroid hormone which has three iodine molecules, T4, which is the inactive thyroid hormone, has fo molecules.
Selenium (NRV 55 µg)
Prevents damage to cells and tissue, and helps the immune system work properly. Researchers have also suggested that it helps prevent cancer and other diseases, including heart failure. Sources include nuts (especially Brazil nuts), meat (especially organs), fish and eggs. In some countries, you can get selenium from vegetables, but in the UK, our soil is now so poor that this is no longer likely.
Molybdenum (NRV 50 µg)
Pronounced ‘molib-dunum’, it helps create and then activate some enzymes. Sources include green vegetables like broccoli and spinach, cauliflower, nuts and seeds, beans, legumes and yoghurt.
Chromium (NRV 40 µg)
Influences how insulin behaves in the body, affecting the amount of energy we absorb from food. Good sources include meat, green vegetables (especially broccoli), nuts and seeds and various spices.
The Six Electrolytes
While it might sound like a band name, electrolytes are a group of nutrients that produce an electrically conducting solution when dissolved in our body. In harmony, they perform many vital tasks in our body.
Nutritionist and primal living expert Nate Morrow says, “Your body is a complex and carefully-balanced superhighway of cells, tissues and fluids that, almost every second, directs an incomprehensible array of electrical impulses. This is only possible because those cells, tissues and fluids thrive in a homeostatic (a condition of balance or equilibrium) environment where they conduct electricity well enough to carry the signals to their intended destinations. The key to maintaining this conductive superhighway lies with our friend the electrolyte”.
The name electrolyte is derived from the fact that they effectively carry an electrical current around our body. They regulate our heartbeat, enabling our muscles to contract for us to move properly. Electrolytes are essential for all of our cells and organs, and maintaining a healthy balance of them is critical. The core six electrolytes are sodium, potassium and chloride, plus calcium, phosphorus and magnesium, which we have just discussed.
Balancing our electrolytes can greatly improve our health, but be aware that they can actually kill us if they are way out of balance. What throws our electrolytes off balance? Dehydration, especially as a result of illness or excessive exercise without fluid intake, is the biggest cause. When we have diarrhoea or are sweating profusely, it’s crucial that we up our intake of both water and electrolytes. Other causes of electrolyte imbalances include excessive urinating (caused by various infections), drinking too much alcohol or, believe it or not, even drinking too much water, poor diets and over-exercising.
As we age, we become more susceptible to both dehydration and overhydration, and therefore more prone to abnormal electrolyte levels. This is largely because our kidneys do not work as efficiently as when we were younger. Electrolyte imbalances can cause irregular heartbeats, twitching and muscle spasms, changes in blood pressure, confusion, seizures, numbness, headaches, fever, trouble sleeping, anxiety, weakness and fatigue, joint pain and dizziness, plus various nervous system disorders.
So how do we keep our electrolytes in balance? As we have already discussed, we would be wise to ensure we consume appropriate amounts of calcium, phosphorus and magnesium. In addition, we must consider the level of sodium, chloride and potassium that is in our diet.
Sodium Chloride and Potassium
Salt that we sprinkle on our food is made of sodium chloride. Most people who eat packaged food and fast food will likely have too much sodium and chloride in their diet, and therefore their electrolyte balance might be compromised. The NHS report that the average British citizen eats double their daily recommendation. When we live more healthily, our diet and exercise routine might mean that we occasionally need to add a little to our food to top up our intake. The governmental daily-recommended amount for sodium is 1,600mg (1.6g) and for chloride it is 2,500mg (2.5g). If you add the two together, it equates to about 4g of salt.
Potassium is found in various foods, and while it is recommended that we consume 3,500mg per day (3.5g), it’s normally quite easy to do when we are eating the Health Results way. Fruit (especially bananas), vegetables such as broccoli, parsnips and Brussels sprouts, nuts and seeds, beef, chicken, turkey and fish are all excellent sources.