Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins  and minerals are crucial to your health. Even though they do not provide you with energy per se, they are important to various functions in the body. A deficiency of a particular vitamin or mineral can cause disease. Many folks cures are based on the fact that a specific food could replenish the missing nutrient. Around the turn of the century, chemists were able to isolate these compounds. They were given letter names, and later on, more specific names. Deficiency diseases were also identified. The United States Recommended Daily Allowance (USRDA) recommendations for vitamins and minerals were established based on the levels required to prevent those diseases.

Water Soluble Vitamins

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and the B vitamins can be dissolved in water. This means that you need to replenish stores of these vitamins daily, since they are readily lost from the body in waste fluids. They are also sensitive to prolonged exposure to heat, air and light. Cooking foods to retain maximum levels of the water soluble vitamins is a challenge for the chef. Since the body can excrete water soluble vitamins with ease, you normally need not worry about building up toxic levels of these vitamins. It is possible to take too much of these vitamins, however.

Phytochemicals

Phytochemicals are those compounds found in plant-based foods. They have been linked with a variety of health benefits.

Beta-Carotene

This vitamin is found in red and orange vegetables, leafy greens, and members of the cabbage family. Beta-carotene is a precursor for vitamin A, and has been shown to have a variety of health benefits.

Anti-Oxidants

The antioxidants include vitamins C and E. These compounds help to prevent other substances, such as the membranes of red blood cells and vitamin A from being destroyed. They do this by bonding with the oxygen that would otherwise destroy white and red blood cells, as well as cell membranes in the lungs. This means that the mechanisms required to keep the immune system strong and functioning are preserved.

Fat-Soluble Vitamins

Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat soluble. This means that they are stored in fat, which is far less simple to remove from the body than water. Mega-doses of vitamin supplements can easily cause toxic levels to build up. leading to serious disease, even fatal. Unlike water-soluble vitamins, these vitamins are much more stable during cooking.

Major Minerals

Calcium, potassium and sodium are required by our body in significant quantities. They are essential to maintaining a proper balance of fluids in our body, as well as the proper acid/base balance. Calcium is associated with bone strength and density. Potassium has been linked to maintaining the heart's rhythm, while sodium has a great deal to do with blood pressure. These minerals need to be part of your daily diet.

Trace Minerals

Other minerals known to be important to maintaining health are required in very small amounts. Iron, zinc, manganese and fluoride are all trace minerals.

Dietary Requirements for Vitamins and Minerals

Today, as we continue to learn more about the role of vitamins and minerals in maintaining health, questions about the value of supplementation are cropping up. Many people are attempting to use vitamin and mineral supplements to bolster their immune systems, fight diseases, and prevent the development of everything from osteoporosis to cancer. Self-medication can have serious consequences if an individual takes mega-doses, especially of the fat-soluble vitamins and some minerals.

For most people, supplementation is unnecessary if a varied diet rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables is followed. For those who do not get a good dietary source of some vitamins or minerals, supplementation may be suggested.

Water - "The Forgotten Nutrient"

Like vitamins and minerals, water is a non-caloric essential nutrient, which means that you need it to keep your body running properly, but it does not provide you with energy or with building materials for growth or repair of tissues. Our bodies are mainly water. Drinking the recommended eight glasses of water per day keeps joints properly cushioned, and increases the body's ability to get the necessary nutrients to the spot where we need them, and to clean out toxins from your system.

Back to Food Articles

Visitors Currently Online: 19