Minerals, vitamins, and water do not require digestion. Foods containing them must be labeled. Minerals, vitamins, and water, on the other hand, must be absorbed by the body into the bloodstream. What meal does not require digestion by the stomach? The answer is none! Digestion is needed for nutrients to be used by the body. Some nutrients require more attention than others; for example, proteins need to be broken down into their component parts which can then be used by the body. Other nutrients are so small that they can pass through the digestive system undigested.
In fact, digestion is necessary for any food we eat to be used by the body. Some foods, such as milk and eggs, also contain important nutrients that must be released from the food before they can be used by the body. These nutrients include calcium and protein in milk and vitamin C and zinc in eggs. Therefore, these foods must be ingested along with something capable of breaking down these substances so that they can be absorbed by the intestinal wall. Without this step, the body cannot use the nutrients contained in milk and eggs.
Some nutrients are so valuable to our health that we must ingest them regularly. For example, people who do not get enough fiber in their diets may experience constipation or other problems related to an insufficient supply of healthy bacteria in the gut.
Minerals, vitamins, and water are already tiny enough to be absorbed by the body without being broken down, thus they do not require digestion. Dietary fiber cannot be broken down by digestive enzymes, therefore the body cannot absorb it. Fiber that has not been digested will move through the digestive system and accumulate in your feces.
Vitamins and minerals are made up of tiny molecules that are absorbed without being broken down further. Through the gut wall, nutrients are absorbed into the circulation. Food that is not digested and absorbed exits the body as waste. However, some substances in food can bind to certain metals and prevent them from being absorbed by the body. Examples include phytates found in seeds and nuts and oxalates found in vegetables and fruits. These compounds can block the absorption of metals such as iron, zinc, calcium, and copper.
Mineral supplements may contain various salts of minerals that are insoluble in water. For example, magnesium oxide contains only magnesium oxide, which cannot be dissolved in water. Instead, it must be consumed with food or taken orally as a supplement. A mineral's ability to be absorbed by the body is dependent on its form; for example, iron sulfate is more soluble than iron oxide. Also, some minerals are more easily absorbed than others; for example, calcium is more readily absorbed than magnesium.
Some vitamins and minerals are sensitive to heat or acidity levels in the stomach and intestines. For example, vitamin C is destroyed by acids, and vitamin B12 is destroyed by heat. Therefore, these substances cannot be incorporated into supplements that are taken orally. Instead, supplements must be taken intravenously or intramuscularly.
Digestion is important because your body needs nutrients from food and drink to work properly and stay healthy. Proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and water are nutrients. Food contains these elements in different amounts. Your body can't use something as big as a protein, fat, or carbohydrate entirely intact, so it must be broken down into smaller pieces called amino acids, fatty acids, and sugars, respectively. It also uses some of the water content in foods as it processes the nutrients.
The process of breaking down or digesting food is called digestion. The two main types of digestion are chemical and biological. Chemical digestion occurs when enzymes in the stomach break down complex molecules such as proteins and carbohydrates into simple molecules such as amino acids and glucose, respectively. Biological digestion takes place when bacteria in the gut break down complex molecules such as fibers into simpler molecules that the body can use as energy. These include:
- Sugars - Glucose
- Glycogen - Stored sugar found in muscles and the liver
- Lipids - Fatty acids and triglycerides
These are the only two ways nutrients can be processed by the body. If you don't digest certain foods properly, they will enter your colon as undigested particles. This can cause problems such as constipation or diarrhea.
When food enters the stomach, hydrochloric acid and other stomach enzymes aid in the digestion of the meal. Your pancreas contributes to digestion by secreting bile. The vitamins and minerals are then transported to the small intestine, where they are absorbed into the circulation.
Vitamins are organic, or carbon-containing, compounds that your body needs in little amounts to function properly. Although they occur naturally in conjunction with many meals and may be transferred through your gastrointestinal system when your foods are digested, they are tiny enough to be absorbed by your small intestine without digestion.
They are taken straight into the circulation as food is digested or a supplement dissolves. Because water makes up so much of your body, many water-soluble vitamins flow freely. Fatty acids are also able to cross cell membranes and enter cells, where they are metabolized to provide energy for living organisms.
Vitamins and minerals are needed by the body in small amounts for normal function. If you are eating a healthy diet that includes fruits, vegetables, grains, meat, fish, and dairy products, you should be getting all you need. However, because we live in today's world this isn't always the case. Due to pollution, poor nutrition, and lack of exercise, many people do not get their required doses of vitamins and minerals daily. This can lead to vitamin deficiencies which can have serious health consequences.
The best way to ensure you are getting enough of these essential nutrients is through your diet. It is also important to take some form of vitamin B12 with meals to reduce the chance of developing pernicious anemia. That's why most doctors recommend that adults get 1.5 mg per day of this vitamin.
You can also supplement your diet with vitamins and minerals. However, it is important to only take supplements under supervision from a doctor. Supplements can cause adverse effects if not used properly.