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Vitamin - Essential Nutrients for Health


Vitamins are the stars of the nutrition scene. Nutrition,the science of food, is the study of the nutrients andsubstances in foods. Scientists examine how the balancesof food compounds relate to health and disease, and explorehow they interact during the process of ingestion,absorption, utilization, and excretion.

There are six essential nutrients for health and bodymaintenance: vitamins, minerals, water, fats, proteins, andcarbohydrates. They are the building blocks of life, and weobtain them through our diet. Our bodies don't make them.

At this time, it is known that there are fourteen vitaminsrequired by humans. Vitamins, first discovered in thelate 1800s, are organic compounds found in foods. Sincethey are organic - containing carbon - they can bedestroyed by heat, unlike their companion essentialnutrient group, the incombustible minerals.

In the early 1900s, when scientists were continuing todiscover new vitamins, they named newly found compounds byalphabet: A, B, C, D, E~. K. Note: The compounds that hadbeen named F, G, H, I, J were later disqualified asvitamins, not fitting the definition: organic compoundsneeded in small quantities for life growth and maintenance.Compounds that have been given letters with numbers, B-1, B-2~ were originally thought to be one compound, but laterdetermined to be several different compounds with specificfunctions for each.

Vitamins are in one of two classes: fat soluble or watersoluble. Vitamin C and the B vitamins (such as niacin andriboflavin) are water soluble. Vitamins A, D, E, and K arefat soluble. Which type of solubility each vitamin haswill indicate which foods contain them. Basically, non-fatfood has no fat soluble vitamins. However, highly coloredvegetables like carrots do contain beta-carotene - a proto-vitamin which can be converted to active vitamin A.

Water soluble vitamins are easily shed by the body andlost from foods during preparation. Since they aren'tstored by the body, we need to ingest them every day.Nevertheless it is best to avoid taking them excessively.On the other hand, fat soluble vitamins are readily storedby the body. Thus caution is necessary to avoid excessivequantities; it is possible to build up toxic levels of thefat soluble vitamins.

People commonly wonder if they need to take vitaminsupplements, and which vitamins should be taken for goodhealth. The situation today is that our foods are comingto us from conditions that previously were never the casefor humans. Modern food is highly processed, and isfrequently grown in depleted soils. Our foods are pickedunripe and therefore incomplete from the standpoint ofnutrition. Then they are shipped and handled more than theideal. Therefore, it seems unlikely that the averageperson's diet provides sufficient amounts of necessarynutrients - vitamins and minerals in particular. Instead,we are consuming excessive amounts of harmful compoundslike preservatives and refined sugars.

A suggestion. Do your own research project. Keep trackof what you eat for a week or two. Eat normally, and justwrite down what you ate and how much of it. Then eitherbuy or check out from your library a book on vitamins thatwill tell you approximately what you got from each foodsource. Add it up and compare to the recommended dailyallowances. See how you're doing, and if you think it's agood idea to make some improvements, consult with aprofessional nutritionist, naturopathic physician, or otherhealthcare professional to come up with a good plan of dietand nutritional supplements. You'll see what a profounddifference good nutrition can make in your health.

Carina Snowden writes on topics related to vitamins. Herarticles are published in The News at Alta Vitaminthe single on-line resource for a world of news aboutvitamins. Be sure to refer to all Carina's articles athttp://www.altavitamin.com/


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