Vitamins, Minerals, & Supplements – How They Affect Your Health
Vitamins and minerals are as important as oxygen and water. You cannot survive without them. Unfortunately, there are millions of people who fail to get enough of these. Are you sure that you’re getting the right amount of nutrients? Do you know which foods are rich in vitamins and minerals? Read on for a healthier and better existence.
The word “vitamin” comes from the words “vital amine.” Our body cannot manufacture vitamins, yet they are essential for its proper functioning. Vitamins are of two types:
* Fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) – you can get them from dairy products, oils, animal fats, nuts, and a few vegetables. The body stores excess of these vitamins in fatty tissues and liver. This indicates that you need not get them daily.
* Water-soluble vitamins (B, C, and folic acid) – the B group consists of B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, which are known as thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantotheinic acid, pyridoxine, biotin, and folic acid, respectively. You can get them from whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. They reach the various body parts through the medium of water. The excess amount is passed out through urine. This means that your body does not store them and you need to get them daily. Cooking destroys these vitamins. You must eat steamed or grilled food to retain them.
The best way to get all the vitamins in adequate quantities are to eat a variety of foods particularly, fresh food. This is because processing techniques decrease the nutrient value of foods. Also, cut fruits or vegetables kept for long lose their vitamins. Frozen vegetables are sometimes better than vegetables stored at room temperature, as the freezing temperature helps retain the nutrient value.
Minerals assist the vitamins in proper functioning of your body. The important ones are iron, calcium, magnesium, copper, iodine, manganese, selenium, chromium, and zinc.
Vitamins and minerals are vital nutrients with specific functions in the body. For example, vitamin A helps maintain sharp eyesight and promotes healthy bone development. Vitamin E builds immunity and supports DNA repair. Minerals like calcium strengthen the bones and teeth and prevent the onset of osteoporosis in women. Iron is crucial for hemoglobin formation while sodium prevents goiter.
When it comes to vitamins and minerals, moderation is the key. Too little causes deficiency that can lead to various disorders, whereas too much (especially the fat-soluble vitamins) may cause problems too, as the body finds it hard to remove the excess amounts. Deficiency of vitamins and minerals hampers the body’s ability to protect and heal itself. The body’s immune system weakens and it becomes vulnerable to various diseases.
For millions, popping multivitamin pills has become a daily ritual. Many commercials make nutritional supplements look like “alma mater” without which your body would be incomplete. An article published in the Journal of The American Medical Association states that to prevent chronic diseases, adults must take vitamin supplements. Now, this has sparked a debate because, till now, it was established that supplements are hardly necessary if you take a balanced diet.
The word “supplement” means “something in addition to”. The pills “supplement” your natural intake of vitamins and minerals. This indicates that you ought to take a balanced diet first. Nutritional supplements are not substitutes for nutrients from food. You cannot relinquish fresh fruits and veggies, and whole grains from your diet and expect the supplements to keep your body healthy.
In fact, doctors prescribe nutritional supplements in case of deficiency of vitamins, minerals, or other nutrients. They can be used as a short term guard against nutrient shortfall in the body. Pregnant women and the elderly might need them to fulfill the nutritional needs of their body.
There is a redundancy of information on claims that supplements can cure diseases. The hundreds of supplements available make the situation even more perplexing. According to the Dietary Supplement Health & Education Act (DSHEA), dietary supplement is something that supplements your diet, contains vitamins or minerals, amino acids, or other substances or a combination of these. You can get them as tablets, pills, capsules, or in liquid form.
Nutritional supplements are of various types. Vitamin and mineral pills are loaded with micronutrients while herbal tablets are prescribed for medicinal purposes. The latter is meant for specific body areas like bones, skin, or liver. Vitamin supplements usually contain extracts of natural foods. For example, vitamin A pills contain fish liver oil, vitamin B pills have extracts of yeast or liver, vitamin C and vitamin E pills contains extracts of rosehips, and maize or soybeans, respectively. Synthetic supplements are also available, but they may not work as effectively as natural-based ones.
Who Needs Supplements the Most?
Certain people may need to supplement the nutritional requirement of their bodies either because of their lifestyle, medical condition, or other reasons. They include:
* Pregnant and lactating women
* Girls after puberty may need extra iron and calcium
* Elderly people
* Kids and teens with erratic food habits
* People allergic to certain foods
* People with deficiency diseases, lactose tolerance, absorption disorders, eating disorders
* People who eat excess of junk food
Important Tips to Remember
Always take supplements after consulting your doctor. This is not something that you take because your friends are taking it or because someone told you about its benefits. Your doctor will prescribe you the needed supplements after examining your body.
Many times, people complain that supplements don’t work as desired. They will not be effective if you keep them in sunlight, which strips them of their nutrients. A cool, dark place is ideal for storing vitamin pills. You can also put them in an airtight jar and keep them in the refrigerator.
Take vitamin pills after meals and during the day. Taking them on an empty stomach is a big mistake, as they will pass out through urine, especially the water-soluble vitamins.
The first step towards healthy living is eating a balanced diet. Only when you cannot meet the nutritional requirements of your body should you turn to supplements. Remember, nature has bestowed us with abundant varieties of food to fulfill our vitamin and mineral needs.