Thursday, April 7, 2011

Travel Health Basics: Vitamins & Minerals

While the three main nutrients (carbs, protein, and fat) can be thought of as the stones in the Great Wall of China, vitamins and minerals might be the dirt and rubble that binds the stones and makes the unit work as a whole. Eating foods with a large variety of vitamins and minerals is necessary for peak health and performance while traveling.

Vitamins and minerals play important roles throughout the body and are essential to everyday functioning. Adolescents, in particular, need higher amounts of certain vitamins and minerals. Iron and calcium are of specific importance for growth, with iron being the most common nutritional deficiency in adolescents in the United States. When combined with the increased needs for travel health, Student Ambassadors need to take extra steps to make sure they are getting the additional nutrients they need.

Student Ambassadors should focus on getting more of the following vitamins & minerals before and during travel:

Many vitamins and minerals are absorbed better when combined with other food sources. For example, the iron from a spinach salad (pictured below) will be more readily absorbed if eaten with bell peppers, due to their high vitamin C content. Also, the absorption of Vitamin D is enhanced when combined with foods high in calcium (such as in milk or yogurt). You can read more about Vitamin D in "D-Lightful News for Travel" - one of my previous blog posts.

[ Photo credit: Lady Lerandia, ]

Some nutrients can inhibit absorption or cause depletion of vitamins and minerals, as well. Of concern to youth in the United States is the balance between phosphorous and calcium. Soda contains high amounts of phosphorous. In an attempt to maintain the balance between phosphorous and calcium in the blood, calcium is pulled out of the bones. Many adolescents are not meeting their calcium needs due to the overconsumption of soda, which often replaces milk and increases phosphorous intake.

This ends our series on ‘Basic Travel Nutrition.’ There are many exciting topics to come and I promise they will be very applicable to your student traveler. Some of these topics include: ‘Food Remedies to Common Travel Ailments’ and ‘How to Experience Culture through Food’…stay tuned!

By April D. Davis, RD, CD, ACSM CES

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