Mind Body Spirit
A Dose-By-Dose Breakdown of Vitamins
Vitamin A, Vitamin K, folic acid and B12; the vitamin aisle at the drugstore can sometimes look like a big, jumbled up serving of alphabet soup. When you’re not sure what you’re looking for, it can be tempting to bypass the whole thing and hope you’re getting what you need from your regular diet.
The problem is, if you have plans to be a successful martial artist, your body needs to be in prime functioning order, and that comes with knowing your essential vitamins and minerals.
Never fear. We’ve put together a crash course on the basics to help you get the facts and unravel the mystery alphabet of vitamins and minerals in order to stay strong, stay health-minded and achieve your goals.
We’re kicking things off with a superhero of a vitamin. This little overachiever not only improves vision, but does everything from boosting your immune system to promoting bone growth, healthy skin and blood cell production. Vitamin A is found in eggs, kale, carrots, sweet potatoes and just about anything with orange coloring.
There are a whole slew of power players on this team (think B6, B12, Biotin, Choline, Riboflavin), and they’re a bunch of heavy-hitters. They help with sleep quality, energy production and mental clarity to keep you ready for training, as well as maintaining metabolism and muscle tone. The good news is that B vitamins are found in a variety of foods, such as whole grains, potatoes, beans, asparagus, cooked broccoli and Brussels sprouts.
“Oh, I know this one,” you’re probably thinking. “It’s for immunity.” While vitamin C does boost antioxidant function, it’s never been proven to fend off a common cold. However, it does come in handy by healing wounds faster, forming new collagen, improving skin elasticity and building up blood vessels. Yes, vitamin C is in oranges, but it’s in a lot of other things too, like guava, red peppers, kiwi, strawberries, tomatoes and even veggies like broccoli.
Grab your sunglasses. The benefits of vitamin D don’t stop at strong bones, but expand to include big health boosts to your teeth, muscle function and immune and nervous systems. Some doctors even believe that the vitamin may help protect against certain cancers. Soak up the vitamin with fortified cereals and milk, canned salmon and egg yolks, or you can just step outside and soak up some sunshine.
You probably hear about vitamin E fairly often, but you might not know exactly what it does for you. This vitamin improves balance and coordination, as well as blood circulation, and can even help guard against chronic disease. Get your daily dose with almonds, hazelnuts, avocados, vegetable oils, sunflower seeds and tomatoes.
Blood coagulation may sound a little scary, but it’s actually a good thing. It’s the clotting of your blood in the way your body needs, like scabs. You can thank vitamin K for that. IT also aids in wound healing and bone development, so stock up on your leafy greens, Popeye-style.
When you’re regularly slamming your arms and legs against boards, targets and other people’s arms and legs, it’s important to know you’ve got strong bones, especially for women, who begin to lose bone density in their 20’s and 30’s. Your go-to mineral for making sure you stay strong is none other than calcium. Muscle function, nerve health and blood pressure also benefit from calcium, which you can find in most dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt, but also in tofu, salmon and lentils.
Having the right amount of oxygen in your bloodstream is critical to good health and overall physical performance and Iron helps make that happen. It also helps build muscle tissue and aids in the production of collagen, amino acids and more. Your best bet for finding iron is in red meat and poultry, but for non-meat-eaters, dark leafy greens, pumpkin seeds, soybeans and fortified cereals get the job done, too.
How does a healthy heart, kidneys, muscles, bones and blood pressure sound? You’ll find all of these qualities in potassium, as well as heightened nervous system communication to keep your reflexes quick and true. Look for banana, raisins, plums, artichokes and baked potatoes when you’re at the grocery store to get your potassium fix.
Author: Jess Ardrey | Originally published in Vol. 22 no. 4 of the ATA World Magazine.