Ana Theresa Williams bsn rn
Everyone should eat well to live right. But lack of pro-per nutrition like food that is filled with loads of vi-tamins and minerals — instead, replacing it with junk foods — will put your health at risk.
Indeed, vitamins and minerals are very impor-tant for the maintenance of good health and the pre-vention of a number of diseases.
In college, we learned that there are two types of vitamins: water-soluble vitamins B and C and fat-soluble vitamins A,D,E and K.
Water-soluble vita-mins cannot be stored in the body, so you need to get them from food every day because they can be destroyed easily by over-cooking.
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 or retinol 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 like milk, butter, cheese and eggs; chicken, kidney, liver; and fish oils, mac-kerel.
Another source of vitamin A is a substance called beta-carotene. This is converted by the body into vitamin A found in orange, yellow and green vegetables and fruits.
The complex of vita-min B includes the follo-wing group of substances: B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (nicotinic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B12 (cobalamin) and folate or folic acid.
Our former nutrition teacher told us that the body requires relatively small amounts of vitamins B1, B2 and B3.
But vitamins B6 and B12 help the body to use folic acid and are vital nutrients in a range of acti-vities, such as cell repair, digestion, the production of energy and in the immune system.
Also, vitamin B12 is also nee-ded for the breakdown of fat and carbohydrate. Obviously, a deficiency of either vita-min will result in anemia.
It is good to note, however, that vitamin B6 is found in most foods; thus, deficiency is rare in this case.
Vegetarians who eat eggs and dairy produce will get enough vitamin B12 or cobalamine while a deficiency on this vitamin can occur in vegans because all dietary sources are animal in origin.
But the British Vegan Society recommends foods fortified with vitamin B12 like breakfast cereals, yeast extract, margarine, soya powder and milk.
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 anemia, particu-larly in people whose diet is generally poor.
Vitamins B6 and B12 help the body use folate, so are often given alongside with folic acid supple-ments.
In pregnancy, low folate levels increase the risk of the baby’s spinal cord system not developing completely called spina bifida.
All women are in fact advised to take folic acid supplements in the first three months of pregnancy and ideally before conception occurs.
Do you know that Vitamin C is one of the most potent antioxidant vitamins? We all need vitamin C for growth, healthy body tissue, wound repair and an efficient immune system.
In addition to that, 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.
However, 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.
Studies show 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.
Vitamin D or calciferol 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; and 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.
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. Foods rich in vitamin E include avocados, toma-toes, sweet potatoes, spi-nach, watercress, brussels sprouts; blackberries and mangoes; corn oil, olive oil, sunflower oil; mackerel, salmon; nuts, wholemeal and wholegrain products.
Finally, vitamin K is involved in the blood clotting process and in the maintenance of strong bones. It is found in small quantities in meat, most vegetables and wholegrain cereals.
Your body also makes vitamin K in the large intestine, through the acti-vity of ‘healthy bacteria’. For this reason, there is no recommended daily amount.
These bacteria are also referred to as the gut flora. They form part of our defense against more harmful organisms.
Diets rich in fatty and sugary foods can adversely change the balance of the gut flora, as can the additives and pesticides that are often a part of modern food production.
HEALTHWATCHING: Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. James 1:22