Where do Vitamins & Minerals Come From?
I often get asked “what is the difference between a vitamin and a mineral and where do they come from, and why does my animal need extra?” In this short blog I will try and answer some of the questions I get asked.
What is a Vitamin?
Vitamins are any of a group of organic compounds which are essential for normal growth and nutrition and are required in small quantities in the diet because they cannot be synthesized by the body. Vitamins are found in natural food sources and are abundant in plants, including herbs. As they cannot be made in the body, it is key that they are ingested as part of a healthy balanced diet. This is where things can go wrong as we will see below!
What is a Mineral?
Like vitamins, minerals are naturally occurring, we and our animals cannot make them within our bodies, we need to ingest them. Vitamins need minerals to be bio-available in the body. They are abundant in plants, which in turn get them from the soil. The soil gets minerals from water washing over rocks, which releases minerals from the rocks into the soil. this is why we often here ‘vitamins and minerals’ together, as both are needed to be absorbed by the body.
What is an Antioxidant?
Antioxidants are specific vitamins or minerals that protect the cells from the damaging effects of free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that damage cells and contribute to aging and disease.
How can we and our animals get enough Vitamins and Minerals?
Vitamins and minerals must be ingested by us and our animals to get into the body, either from eating fresh foods or from taking supplements. In the wild a typical horse would eat between 40 – 70 species a day! Go and check around your paddock and see how many you have – in most that I see we are lucky to find 5! Most people think that feeding herbs, to provide essential vitamins and minerals, is a luxury, but indeed this couldn’t be further from the truth! As we have removed ourselves and our animals from their natural environments, and as much of our land is now devoid of essential nutrients due to poor soil quality, we have to supplement our animal’s diet (and our own) just to provide the core basics they need for health.
Natural verses Synthetic
The quality of supplements varies tremendously. Some supplements, like the ones Naturally Animals provide, are real foods and herbs, minimally processed that can be ingested by the animal or human to fill the gaps from what they are not able to get from their daily food intake. However many supplements on the market are man-made in a laboratory, and bear little resemblance to their natural counterparts. As such, these man-made supplements, vitamins & minerals are not recognised by the body as ‘real’ vitamins and minerals, and therefore can cause more stress on the body than good when ingested, as they are difficult to digest and assimilate. In addition, many synthetic vitamin and mineral supplements contain harmful fillers, binders and preservative which can do far more damage than good! It is really difficult to tell from the packaging if you are buying synthetic vitamins and mineral, so establishing a trusted list of suppliers is key. This is a particular problem in the animal health market where the majority of supplements and balances are synthetic and full of harmful ingredients!
Herbs are a class of plants that are rich in vitamins and minerals; they provide a source of easily assimilated nutrients. The minerals contained in herbs, vegetables, and most fruits balance the effects of the acidic foods, which are a major cause of imbalance in the body for humans and animals alike. Because of all the processed foods we and our animals often eat, the toxins we’re exposed to on a daily basis, and the increasing amounts of daily stress our bodies need more than just the basic supply of nutrients. In addition, most of the soil used to grow plants on is mineral deficient, so it is really difficult to get the range of vitamins and minerals needed in a normal balanced diet. More and more people are turning to vitamin and mineral supplements for themselves and their animals to balance their bodies and improve their health. But beware, as we have seen above, not all supplements are created equally – in fact many of the supplements that most people reach for are a far cry from healthy.
Food verses Supplements
One of the problems with supplements is that they are intended to be just as their name suggests, a supplement to a healthy lifestyle and diet. However, most people use supplements for their animals as a substitute for healthy living, not a supplement. If you use supplements in this way, you’re simply fooling yourself but not your body. At Naturally Animals and The Catherine Edwards Academy, we encourage and help all our customers to use vitamin and mineral supplements in their most natural, pure, unadulterated form, as herbs and essential oils. In the wild animals would self-select and forage for these, but alas in captivity often they do not have the opportunity to do this. This is why using herbs in their natural form not only provides the physical support that you and your animals need, by providing the full range of natural vitamins and minerals, but they also provide mental stimulation and encourage more natural behaviours and sense stimulation, particularly smell, which is so important to reduce stress in all our animals.
All of our products are what is known as Whole Food Supplements
As the name suggests, whole food supplements are derived and made from whole foods & herbs. This is a supplement that your body can see for what it is – food. Therefore, the body is able to properly digest, assimilate, and use the nutrients for your body’s good. The whole food supplements that you want to choose are the ones that are derived from raw, whole foods. When your body consumes any whole food, the body recognises it as a ‘food’ and therefore knows exactly how and where to use it! When vitamins are synthetic they’ve been isolated from the food source thereby eliminating the vital information needed by the body to recognise, and hence be able to use it. This means the body is able to use only a very little of the already compromised nutrients in the supplement. So even if you are faithfully giving supplements to yourself or your animal on a regular basis, you may not be getting very much nutrition at all.
It’s About What’s Missing and What’s Added
Whole Food Vitamins from herbs offer:
- Uncompromised essential nutrients – no heating of the herbs means no vital compounds are altered or destroyed in any way.
- No toxins formed because there is no heating or alteration of foods.
- Important enzymes remain intact to aid in the digestion and assimilation process
- When you select whole food / herb supplements you are getting the best nutrients available short of the raw fresh herb itself. Choosing a whole food / herb supplement instead of a synthetic supplement is like eating a raw, whole food as opposed to a highly processed one.
What you want to avoid is important as well. Be sure you’re whole food multivitamin doesn’t contain any of the following:
- Artificial Colours
- Fillers and Binders
- Allergens such as dairy, gluten, and soy or animal by-products if feeding to a horse.
When you buy supplements / herbs and essential oils from Naturally Animals you can be sure you are getting the best quality, most natural vitamins and minerals for you and your animals. This can make a dramatic difference to their health.
We will cover what vitamins and minerals are if different herbs in a future blog! So remember:
It’s All in Natures Garden