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Vitamin and Mineral Supplements – A Healthy Subject
Vitamins and minerals are complex chemicals that we need to stay fit and healthy. They occur naturally in food, which is the most natural way to get them into our bodies, and are vital for regulating the body’s metabolic functions. If you don’t get enough vitamins, you can see the effects on your health and well-being in any number of ways.
Vitamins are essential substances that cannot be produced by the body. We need small amounts of vitamins for growth and development. Without vitamins the body cannot survive.
The term vitamin is derived from the phrase vital amine and there are two types.
- Fat soluble vitamins(A, D, E and K) are commonly found in meat, animal fat and vegetable oils, dairy products and fish. They are transported around the body in fat, and your body stores any excess in the liver and fatty tissues. This means you don’t need to get them from food sources every day.
- Water soluble vitamins(B, C, folic acid) are found in meat, fish, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. They are transported through the body in water. This means your body cannot store them because you pass the excess through your urine. You should eat foods that contain these vitamins every day. Water-soluble vitamins can be destroyed by cooking – so steam and grill instead of boiling.
Minerals are inorganic elements that come from soil and water and are absorbed by plants or eaten by animals. Your body needs larger amounts of some minerals, such as calcium, to grow and stay healthy. The 10 most important minerals are: calcium, iodine, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, manganese, chromium, selenium, zinc.
A recent survey – the largest of its kind in the UK – carried out by the Health Supplement Information Service (HSIS) found that many of us are not getting the vitamins we need for our basic nutritional needs. HSIS Nutritionist Dr Pamela Mason states. “Ideally, we would get a healthy balance from our diet, but the nutritional value of much of what we eat has been depleted by modern processing and farming methods. Disordered eating habits, stress, smoking or cigarette smoking and simply aging also affect our intake of vitamins and minerals.’
Survey findings show that over half of the women surveyed are deficient in calcium and many are deficient in B vitamins. Men have low levels of zinc, magnesium and calcium. So what is the solution? “Even taking one or two well-chosen supplements can make a noticeable difference in your health,” says Dr Mason.
The Food Standards Agency has warned that taking too many supplements or taking them for a long time can be harmful. This advice has occasionally been misinterpreted by the media, which has tried to warn people away from vitamin supplements. The truth is that overdoing them, as with most things, can lead to problems. Taking them in recommended amounts, however, is perfectly safe and provides a valuable addition to many people’s diets. This is especially true for the elderly and low-income families who may lack the means to feed a fully varied diet.
So many people find a regular vitamin supplement useful as a daily and occasional health booster. The full benefits of each of the vitamins and minerals is a large and complex topic, but here is a quick overview of some of the main types and how they can help.
(Remember, tablet strengths vary, so follow the directions on the bottle for the recommended dosage).
Multivitamins and minerals: A comprehensive tablet containing the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of essential vitamins and minerals. Good for balancing your diet and making sure you get a full range of vitamins and minerals. They are also very good at fighting chemicals that can build up due to stress and smoking.
Complex of B vitamins: A combination of eight B vitamins, good for helping to stabilize the amino acid homocysteine, reducing the risk of hardened arteries and cardiovascular disease. Vitamin B is water soluble, which means it is easily excreted.
Vitamins A, C and E with selenium: Antioxidant vitamins A, C and E combined with the mineral selenium. Good for neutralizing free radicals, which can contribute to premature aging, cancer and heart disease. Vitamin A can be very toxic in high doses, so stick to the RDA.
Vitamin C: It is found in fresh fruits (mainly citrus) and vegetables, especially greens. Really good for boosting immunity, fighting infection, improving healing and keeping blood vessels healthy. Vitamin C also helps form collagen, so your skin needs it too. Too much can cause diarrhea, so, again, stick to the RDA.
Vitamin E: Found in foods such as seed oils, nuts, wheat and avocados, Vitamin E has excellent antioxidant qualities that may protect against heart disease. It should not be taken if you are taking blood thinners such as warfarin.
Calcium: A mineral found in dairy products that is important for building strong bones, teeth and nails and stimulating nerve impulses. Low calcium intake can lead to osteoporosis. However, you should avoid these supplements if you suffer from kidney problems as they can promote kidney stones.
Fish oils: These are Omega-3 fatty acids, found in oily fish such as mackerel and sardines. Good for circulation, a healthy heart, arthritis pain relief and lowering blood pressure and cholesterol.
So if you generally feel a little tired, or are very active and want to make sure your diet is properly balanced, then you might want to consider taking vitamin and mineral supplements. Home caregivers who care for the elderly and disabled at home may also want to consider supplements for the individuals they care for. People in care may have additional needs for special supplements, especially if they are incontinent and their bodies are moving nutrients through their systems faster than usual. A conversation with a specialist can be of great value here.
Remember, the key is to stick to the recommended daily amount. Do this and you shouldn’t have any ill effects, but you can certainly feel the benefits. As always, if you have any doubts, then consult your doctor.
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