Vitamins and minerals are essential for the maintenance of good health and the prevention of a number of diseases. In this article, we look at the properties of vitamins A, B, C, D, E, K and common food sources.
Types of vitamins
There are two types of vitamins:
water-soluble vitamins B and C
fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.
Water-soluble vitamins cannot be stored in the body, so you need to get them from food every day. They can be destroyed by overcooking.
Vitamins and minerals are found in a wide variety of foods and a balanced diet should provide you with the quantities you need.
Vitamin A (retinol)
This vitamin is essential for growth and healthy skin and hair.
It is a powerful antioxidant that plays a key role in the body's immune system.
Vitamin A is found in the following animal products:
milk, butter, cheese and eggs
chicken, kidney, liver, liver pate
fish oils, mackerel, trout, herring.
Another source of vitamin A is a substance called beta-carotene.
This is converted by the body into vitamin A. It is found in orange, yellow and green vegetables and fruits.
Vitamin B complex
The complex of B vitamins includes the following group of substances:
The body requires relatively small amounts of vitamins B1, B2 and B3.
Vitamins B6 and B12 help the body to use folic acid and are vital nutrients in a range of activities, such as cell repair, digestion, the production of energy and in the immune system.
Vitamin B12 is also needed for the breakdown of fat and carbohydrate.
Deficiency of either vitamin will result in anaemia.
Vitamin B6 is found in most foods, so deficiency is rare.
Vegetarians and B12
Vegetarians who eat eggs and dairy produce will get enough B12.
Vitamin B12 deficiency can occur in vegans because all dietary sources are animal in origin.
The British Vegan Society recommends foods fortified with vitamin B12, such as:
soya powder and milk
soya mince or chunks.
The best dietary sources of the B vitamins, especially B12, are:
animal products (meat, poultry)
yeast extracts (brewers' yeast, Marmite).
Other good sources include:
asparagus, broccoli, spinach, bananas, potatoes
dried apricots, dates and figs
milk, eggs, cheese, yoghurt
nuts and pulses
brown rice, wheat germ, wholegrain cereals.
Dietary sources of vitamin B6 are similar to those for vitamin B12 and also include avocado, herring, salmon, sunflower seeds and walnuts.
Folic acid (folate)
Folic acid works closely in the body with vitamin B12. It is vital for the production of healthy blood cells.
Lack of folic acid is one of the main causes of anaemia, particularly in people whose diet is generally poor.
Vitamins B6 and B12 help the body use folate, so are often given alongside folic acid supplements.
In pregnancy, low folate levels increase the risk of the baby's spinal cord system not developing completely (spina bifida).
All women are now advised to take folic acid supplements in the first three months of pregnancy and ideally before conception occurs.
Folate occurs naturally in most foods but often in small amounts.
Many food manufacturers now fortify white flour, cereals, bread, corn, rice and noodle products with folic acid.
One serving of each enriched product will contribute about 10 per cent of the RDA for folic acid.
Wholegrain products are not enriched because they already contain natural folate.
Liver contains the greatest amount of folic acid, with lower levels found in beef, lamb and pork and a range of green vegetables and citrus fruits.
Other sources of folate are dried beans, fresh orange juice, tomatoes, wheat germ (wholemeal bread and cereal) and wholegrain products (pasta and brown rice).
Table 1 :Folate content of foods – an adult needs 200mcg a day
Vitamin C is one of the most potent antioxidant vitamins.
We need vitamin C for growth, healthy body tissue, wound repair and an efficient immune system.
In addition, it also helps with the normal function of blood vessels and helps you absorb iron from plant sources as opposed to the iron in red meat.
Did you know?
Frozen and tinned produce count towards your five-a-day.
Fresh fruit and vegetables are the main source of vitamin C – eating your five a day will easily meet the body's needs.
Too much vitamin C can result in a sensitive, irritable stomach and mouth ulcers.
Also, too much of a good thing can be dangerous; the upper daily limit is currently 1g.
More than this safe level of vitamin C has been linked to damage of the inner lining of arteries, predisposing to the formation of cholesterol plaques and heart disease.
Table 2: Vitamin C content of foods – an adult needs 60mg a day.
Vitamin D (calciferol)
Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones and teeth. It helps the body to absorb calcium.
The action of sunlight on the skin enables the body to manufacture vitamin D – even on a cloudy day. For this reason, most people will get enough vitamin D through their everyday activities. However, there are some groups of people who are at risk of vitamin D deficiency and the Department of Health recommends that the following people take a daily vitamin D supplement:
pregnant and breastfeeding women
infants and children under five years old
people over 65 years old
people who have very little sun exposure, for example people who cover their skin for cultural reasons and people who are housebound or have to stay indoors for long periods of time
people who have darker skin and so are not able to make as much vitamin D, for instance people of African, African-Caribbean or South Asian origin.
Your doctor or pharmacist can give you advice on suitable supplements.
Foods rich in vitamin D are oily fish, liver, cod liver oil and dairy products.
Many foods are also 'fortified' with low levels of vitamin D, such as margarine and breakfast cereals.
However, it is very difficult to get the recommended daily amount of vitamin D through diet alone and an increasing amount of vitamin D deficiency is being detected with more frequent blood testing of susceptible or symptomatic people.
Vitamin E is important in cell maintenance and also plays an active role in the maintenance of a healthy heart, blood and circulation. It is one of the body's main antioxidants.
Deficiency only occurs in cases of severe malabsorption or certain rare genetic disorders.
Fresh herbs not only add flavor without calories, they may also serve up health benefits as healing foods. "Herbal medicine has been used as kitchen medicine for thousands of years, and while our body's response to these natural treatments has not changed, we now have more global choices than ever," says Steven Chasens, an herbalist and acupuncture physician at Coral Gables Acupuncture in Florida. "There is no substitute for competent medical care and routine checkups. However, to avoid disease and live strong, a good dietand sensible eating is critical." A basic knowledge of how food and herbs can help what ails you is key to your sensible eating plan, Chasens explains. Here are 10 healing herbs to add to your recipe rotation.
2. Rosemary for Heart Health
Rosemary is an herb that may help prevent damage to blood vessels and aid with cardiovascular health, says Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN, New York City-based author of The O2 Diet. The healing herb may also help with indigestion and memory function and reduce muscle and joint pain when applied topically. Rosemary's active ingredient, carnosic acid or carnosol, might also prevent the spread of cancer, a study published in the journal Cancer Treatment Reviews found. A very strongly flavored herb, rosemary goes great with hearty foods, such as meat and potatoes. Butterflied rosemary chicken with pan juices is a tasty recipe to help add rosemary to your diet. Read More from WhatUAte.blogspot.com