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What Are Vitamins and Minerals?

 By Steve M Hines
Vitamins and minerals are a class of essential nutrients that have to be obtained from the food you eat. Vitamins come as either water soluble or fat soluble.

The water soluble vitamins include the family of nutrients classed as the B vitamins. These include vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, folic acid, B12 and biotin. B vitamins are known as the energy production vitamins as they power the enzymes that convert food into energy. B vitamins such as B12 and B6 are found in animal products, whereas other B vitamins such as folic acid and B3 are found in plant foods. Nuts, seeds, meat and fish are good sources of B vitamins. Certain B vitamins are also required to reduce a toxic amino acid called homocysteine from accumulating in the blood. Increased homocysteine levels have been found to be associated with all cause mortality.

Vitamin C is another water soluble vitamin; it is also an antioxidant that helps support the immune system and plays a role in collagen synthesis and wound healing. Oranges are most associated with containing vitamin C; however cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes and peppers are richer in vitamin C.

The fat soluble vitamins include vitamin A, D, E and K and other fat soluble antioxidants such as beta carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin. Vitamin A is found in animal products such as butter and milk and is important for the lungs, skin and GI tract. Beta carotene gives plants such as carrots and sweet potato its orange colour and can be converted to vitamin A in the body. It also acts as an important antioxidant to protect the eyes among other things.

Vitamin E is found in nuts, seeds, avocado and plant oils. It is an antioxidant and particularly important for cardiovascular health. Vitamin K is found in liver and green vegetables and helps the formation of bone and helps blood to clot.

Vitamin D is acquired via the action of sunlight on the skin that converts cholesterol into vitamin D. Vitamin D is important for bone health, the immune system and neurological health. Vitamin D can be acquired in the diet through eating oily fish, however during winter months a supplement may be very useful. Beta carotene gives plants such as carrots and sweet potato its orange colour and can be converted to vitamin A in the body. It also acts as an important antioxidant to protect the eyes among other things.

Minerals and trace elements are organic compounds and metals found in minute amounts in food. Minerals include sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and molybdenum. Minerals are important for nerve and muscle function, bone formation and act as antioxidants.

Trace elements include zinc, iron, copper, selenium, iodine, manganese and chromium. It is particularly important to acquire zinc as it is used in over 300 chemical reactions in the body. The best source of zinc is animal products. These nutrients are essential for converting food to energy, boosting the immune system and carrying oxygen in the blood. Meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds are great sources of minerals and trace elements.

It is important to get these nutrients from our food, however due to modern farming where there are often times little nutrients left in the soil and due to the burden on our bodies living in this modern toxic world we should also consider taking a multivitamin and mineral supplement. Walter Willet - Harvard professor and lead researcher on some of the largest epidemiological studies ever carried out suggests we should be taking a daily multi vitamin and mineral.
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