Vitamins and minerals are essential for optimum health.
There are a number of major vitamins, but only 2 - vitamin D and vitamin K - are produced by the body. The other vitamins need to be gained from elsewhere. Some of these vitamins, such as vitamin C and the B-group vitamins are easily lost during cooking. They need to actually be replaced every day.
Of course, you also require a varied diet with protein, carbohydrates and plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. The trouble with today's living is that we all have such rushed lifestyles that eating good food is not looked upon as a top priority.
Our Food is Lacking Essential Nutrients
Essential nutrients so important to our health, are supposed to come from the food we eat, but the food we eat in our industrialized society often has a low content of certain essential nutrients. We are not all the same however, and our requirements for essential nutrients will vary from individual to individual because of lifestyles, our genetic make-up as well as other influences.
If we are eating over-processed, highly refined foods, then something will be missing from our diet - vital nutrients. The soils our fruit and vegetables are grown in may lack minerals because of the random use of pesticides. Human populations are burgeoning out of control and to meet the demand, fruits and vegetables are force-grown in unnatural conditions and ripened artificially.
It has therefore become necessary, although not always possible, top eat organic fruits and vegetables. Since these are not always available, it becomes necessary to take vitamin and mineral supplements. Certain research indicates that nutritional supplements including vitamins and minerals have excellent immune-enhancing abilities. It is necessary to take vitamins if -
●you are a vegetarian
●you eat junk food
●you're simply too busy to eat or you eat unhealthily
●you're under stress
●you participate in strenuous sport
●you're on a weight loss diet or fitness program
●you are an expectant or breastfeeding mother
●you smoke or drink alcohol
●you've been ill
Some highly processed foods are fortified with just some of the 'B' vitamins and some iron, but not with copper, zinc, manganese or chromium. Vitamins are needed as enzymes and co-enzymes for every function in the body. If levels are inadequate, degenerative disorders such as fatigue, inflammatory diseases, arthritis, heart disease and digestive disturbances set in.
Food malabsorption syndromes, more so in the elderly, also come about when there is a deficiency of nutrients in the diet. Where this was once considered a problem with the elderly, it is common in anyone whose diets is made up of packaged and processed foods.
Things start getting complicated however, because even if we eat fresh fish and organic fresh produce, it can be guaranteed that every nutrient in the right amount will be taken in. Certainly by eating organic foods, we can increase our chances of getting the nutrition we need, but stress, pollution and our genetic make-up means that we need to take supplements. Just some of the very essential nutritional supplements we need are -
●all the B vitamins, with important ones being B6 and B12
If your diet is lacking, these kinds of nutrients can certainly help you live a longer, healthier life without degenerative diseases. Just look at vitamin B6 for instance - it is required for maintaining hormone levels, the formation of proteins and for a healthy immune and nervous system. The best way to take vitamin B6 is with other B vitamins in a complex. Magnesium is a cofactor required for vitamin B6 absorption.
Vitamin A - if you are deficient in this vitamin, you will be prone to infections. You may even find that you have got wounds that are not healing quickly. Vitamin A has two important functions - it helps mucous membranes maintain their structural integrity to keep invaders out and it also normalizes cell division. The thymus will also shrink with a vitamin A deficiency and this can mean an impaired immune system. Foods high in vitamin A include dark green, orange and red fruit and vegetables. Beta carotene, a pre-cursor to vitamin A, is a safer nutrient to take.
Vitamin B - referred to as vitamin B complex, the vitamins - B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9 and B12 are all important for keeping the mind and body running well and providing energy. Vitamin B6 is important for maintaining hormone levels, for the formation of proteins and for a healthy immune system. A moderate vitamin B6 deficiency is common and everyone needs to supplement their diet with the nutrient simply because more than 50 enzymatic reactions depend on vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 should be taken in conjunction with the other B vitamins in a complex. Magnesium for instance is a co-factor required for vitamin B6 absorption. Food sources of B vitamins are meat and fish, nuts, green leafy vegetables and potatoes. Vitamin C - there really is no other vitamin which has received so much attention. You will find heaps of magazines, books and research papers on this essential nutrient. Vitamin C provides protection against viral infection by strengthening connective tissue. Research has shown that vitamin C is anti-viral, anti-bacterial and also anti-cancer. Researchers even believe that vitamin C is effective in treating malignant tumors and in preventing infections. Foods high in vitamin C include many fruits, cabbage, broccoli, parsley and kale.
Vitamin D - Keeps Calcium in the Body
We have always been warned about the dangers of the sun, but the way parents smother their children in sun lotion, hats and protective clothing, getting too little sun is evident. You will find vitamin D deficiencies in northern latitude areas where there is less sun, and people living here will certainly require supplementation. The Vitamin D Council says that our bodies need vitamin D to absorb calcium and suggests that too little vitamin D causes rickets and a vitamin D deficiency is linked to depression, weight gain and several cancers.
Vitamin E - vitamin E is a potent immune protector, increasing resistance to infection. Vitamin E is known as the 'fountain of youth' as it is an active antioxidant with many protective benefits. It boosts the immune system, but it also has benefits for fighting cardiovascular disease, cancer, skin disorders inflammation and arthritis - the list is endless. Low or deficient levels of vitamin E in the body are related to certain cancers, but particularly those of the lungs and gastrointestinal tract. Vitamin E is difficult to get in enough quantities in our food because of the food processing methods used. You want to be sure you are taking a vitamin E supplement to ensure you are adequately protected.
Zinc - this is an important mineral to the thymus gland, and even if you have a malfunctioning thymus, zinc supplements can help. Zinc deficiency during growth periods actually results in growth failure. Immune-, epidermal-, central nervous-, gastrointestinal, skeletal, and reproductive systems are the organs most affected by a zinc deficiency. Zinc is an essential trace mineral and is used by more than 100 different enzymes in the body. It is used to make the hormone (TRH) that signals the thyroid to make thyroid hormones and also converts the protein we eat into amino acids.
Magnesium - Magnesium is important because it is responsible for no less than 300 enzymatic reactions in the body. A deficiency of magnesium can lead to heart attacks, insomnia, kidney stones and cancer and supplementation lowers blood pressure and also prevents diabetes. A magnesium deficiency causes an increase in pro-inflammatory conditions. Certainly if you are drinking caffeinated drinks and are also under great stress, you will need higher doses. When you take magnesium as a supplement, make sure that calcium and potassium are included as these nutrients increase the effectiveness of the magnesium.
Selenium - viruses and free radical damage is our due without adequate quantities of selenium. In fact parts of the world where there are low selenium levels also have high levels of viruses and cancer. Selenium is essential for the production of a powerful enzyme known as glutathione peroxidase which is essential for detoxifying the body of environmental toxins. Brazil nuts are an excellent source of selenium.
Co-Enzyme Q10 - scientists believe that a low level of coenzyme Q10 is directly related to an increase in heart damage. This is because the heart muscle is rich in CoQ10. All women would do well to supplement their diets with adequate level of CoQ10 as a breast cancer protective nutrient. CoQ10 also has antiviral, anti-tumor and antibacterial effects. Peanuts, sardines and organ meats contain CoQ10 but you will have to consume so much, that supplementation becomes necessary.
The 21st century is full of stress, pollution and tired, depleted soils. Trying to get hold of organic produce is the best you can do, but it is not enough - it would not provide you with all the immune-boosting benefits you require to fight off disease and keep you healthy. Good nutrition as well as adequate supplementation is the foundation for a strong immunity so you can enjoy a long life.
- Harvard T.H. Chan. The Nutrition Source. Available at https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/vitamins/
- University of Maryland Medical Center. Vitamin B12. (Cobalamin). Available at http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/vitamin-b12-cobalamin
- NCBI. Nair, R and Maseeh, A. Vitamin D: The “sunshine”. Available at vitamin.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3356951/
- Goodnet. 11 Essential Vitamins and Minerals Your Body Needs. Available at www.goodnet.org/articles/11-essential-vitamins-minerals-your-body-needs