Feb 21, 2011

Vitamin Basics 101

Here is a quick summary... (for more info, click on "Vitamins" on the right-hand side, under "Other Topics", or visit a comprehensive site:
1. http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/ (click by food source--with pictures)
2. www.everynutrient.com (not as thorough or organized, but you can also look up info by nutrient, while the other site only has info by food source)

The Essential Vitamins & Minerals
There are two types of vitamins, fat soluble vitamins (vitamins which dissolve in fat) which are vitamins A, D, E and K, and Water soluble vitamins which are B complex, C, and folate (folic acid).

The functions of fat soluble vitamins:
1. Vitamin A - Growth, development, enhancement of our immune system, and essential for eyesight (& night vision).
* Deficiency signs - Night blindness, skin problems with an increase in the rate of acquiring infections
* Natural sources - liver, kidney, eggs and fish liver oil.

2. Vitamin D - Important for bone formation, by controlling calcium absorption and excretion. Recent studies show that vitamin D inhibits some forms of cancer growth.
* Deficiency signs - Rickets (disease characterized by deformities in the skeleton -- especially hands, legs and chest bones, and pain in the bones and muscle weakness).
* Natural sources - Cod liver oil, milk, eggs, liver and oily fish.

3. Vitamin E - Works as an antioxidant (protects our tissues from free-radical damage) and has other functions such as improving blood circulation and removing wound scars.
* Deficiency signs - none reported
* Natural sources - wheat germ oil, almonds, sun flower oil and peanuts.

4. Vitamin K - Mostly deals with the blood coagulation process to prevent our body from bleeding to death.
* Deficiency signs - Excessive bleeding or poor blood coagulation action.
* Natural sources - spinach, broccoli, eggs and meat.

The functions of water soluble vitamins:
1. Vitamin C – vital in the formation of several enzymes, absorption of iron, antioxidant function, formation of collagen (leading to healthy skin/joints) and wound healing.
* Deficiency signs - Scurvy (a disease characterized by bleeding from the gums, bleeding from the skin, fatigue and delayed wound healing).
* Natural sources - Kiwi and citrus fruits, guava, mango and broccoli.

2. Vitamin B complex - A complex of vitamins that total more than ten nutrients; the most essential being B1 (Thiamine), B2 (Riboflavin), B3 (Niacin), B5 (Pantothenic acid), B6 (Pyridoxine) and B12 (Cyanocobalamin).
* Functions - These vitamins play an important role in the body's energy production, nervous system, immune system, and iron absorption.
* Deficiency signs - Vitamin B12 anemia (a disease characterized by fatigue, pallor, an increased heart beat rate and lack of energy). Some other signs include emotional disturbance, skin disease, tongue inflammation and hair loss.
* Natural sources - Meat, liver, milk, yeast and its products, nuts and whole grain cereals.

3. Folic acid - Essential in the formation of RNA and DNA.
* Deficiency signs - Megaloblastic anemia (a disease characterized by fatigue, pallor, increased heart beat rate and lack of energy) and possible infertility.
* Natural sources - spinach, Brussels sprouts, green beans and cauliflower.

The Essential Minerals
The minerals are classified into three parts: macro, trace, and ultra trace minerals. The essential minerals which we need to be healthy are calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, iron, zinc, and fluorine. The essential trace elements are copper, chromium, manganese, molybdenum, selenium and iodine.

1. Calcium – Involved with bone and teeth formation and nervous system health.
* Deficiency - Leads to stunted growth, increased rate of bone fractures and nervous system problems.
* Natural source - milk.

2. Iron - Helps red blood cell formation.
* Deficiency - Leads to iron deficiency anemia which is characterized by fatigue, pallor, concave nails with white lines and an increased heart beat rate--extreme cases include shortness of breath..
* Natural sources - eggs, meat, liver and fish.

3. Zinc - Essential for growth and development, immune function and wound healing, and increases fertility.
* Deficiency - Leads to skin inflammation, hair loss, sore throat, delayed growth and diarrhea.
* Natural sources - meat, vegetables with leaves, whole grains, milk and eggs.

Trace minerals:
1. Iodine - This is essential for growth and development because it is a component of thyroid hormones.
* Deficiency - goiter (a disease characterized by an enlarged thyroid gland and decreased heart rate).
* Natural sources - milk, sea fish, and iodized salt.

2. Chromium - Assists in glucose utilization by enhancement of insulin action.
* Deficiency - weight loss and an inability to tolerate glucose.
* Natural sources - meat, whole grains and nuts.

Quick look:
Vitamin sources in common foods

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