Vitamins, why you need them



We all should supplement our daily nutrition intake with vitamins and minerals. Chances are we really don't do a very good job.

Why, because they are inconvenient or you were late and forgot to take them. Been there, done that. The other problem I have is knowing which one to take and in what dosage.

If you've ever been in a health food store you've seen shelf after shelf of vitamins, minerals, supplements, powders and diets. Confused? I certainly was.

You need 13 different vitamins every day. Vitamins are not food or a substitute for food. They have no calories and give you no energy directly.

Vitamins are used by your body to convert food to energy. In general there are two types:

Fat-Soluble Vitamins

These are stored in your body in fatty tissue and the liver. Because you can store these, you don't need to have them every day. They are Vitamins A, D, E, and K.

If you get too much of these, they can build up in your body and cause problems.

Water-Soluble Vitamins

These vitamins can't really be stored in your body because they dissolve in water.

Vitamin C and all the B vitamins can't be stored in your body. You need a fresh supply every day.

How much do we need?

It depends on who you ask. The information provided here is based on the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine.

These guidelines are based on an average, healthy, adult man or woman.

The Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) are the minimum amounts that you should be getting in your food and vitamin pills.

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Adult RDA for Vitamins

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Vitamin RDA for Men

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Fat-Soluble

Vitamin A 900 mcg RAE* 3,000 IU**

Vitamin E 15 mg or 22 IU**

Vitamin K 80 mcg

Water-Soluble

Vitamin C 90 mg

B Vitamins:

Thiamin 1.2 mg

Riboflavin 1.3 mg

Niacin 16 mg

Pyridoxine 1.3 mg

Folic acid 400 mcg

Cobalamin 2.4 mcg

These are the minimum daily requirements, nutritionists, doctors and researchers that the RDA is not nearly enough to maintain good health.

As for the measurements they are metric. Most vitamins, minerals and other supplements are listed in the metric format.

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Vitamin RDA for Women

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Fat-Soluble

Vitamin A 700 mcg RAE* 2,330 IU

Vitamin E 15 mg or 22 IU

Vitamin K 65 mcg

Water-Soluble

Vitamin C 75 mg

B Vitamins:

Thiamin 1.1 mg

Riboflavin 1.1 mg

Niacin 14 mg

Pyridoxine 1.3 mg

Folic acid 400 mcg

Cobalamin 2.4 mcg

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*RAE = Retinol Activity Equivalent **IU = International Unit

Three additional B vitamins - biotin, pantothenic acid and choline arn't listed because they don't have a RDA. These vitamins are readly available in food. Also

Vitamin D was dropped from the RDA in 1997.

Mining for Minerals Essential Elements for your Health

Minerals are inorganic chemical elements like magnesium and calcium. Our body needs very small amounts to insure normal growth, metabolism and health. As with vitamins, minerals need to come from food or supplements.

As with the vitamins, the minerals are needed every day . They are calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodiumand sulfur. The RDA's recommended daily consumption is listed in the chart below.

Adult RDA's for Minerals

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Minerals RDA for Adults

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Calcium 1,000 to 1,200 mg

Chloride 2,300 mg

Fluoride 0.03 to 4.0 mg

Magnesium 320 to 460 mg

Phosphorus 700 mg

Potassium 4,700 mg

Sodium 1,500 mg

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Sulfur is missing from the chart because you only need 100 mg and it is very common in the foods we eat.

More Mining, More Minerals

The additional trace minerals that we need in small amounts are arsenic, boron, chromium, copper, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, selenium, silicon, vanadium and zinc. Do you feel like a miner yet?

These are trace amounts that you can get from you daily diet. What foods provide the minerals, click on the links above to see what foods provide these minerals and adjust you diet to get the required daily dose.

Time to get Real!

Most people do not get the proper RDA's by eating a reasonable diet. The perfect RDA assumes that your an average adult younger than 60 an in good health.

You have perfect digestion, are not overweight and lead a stress-free life. Is this you? No? Let's test this a bit further. What were your eating habits today?

What did you have for breakfast? Did you get your fiber? Did you get your calcium? Here are some facts that the Department of Agriculture gathered between 1999 and 2000:

90 % of Americans had A DIET THAT WAS POOR OR NEEDED IMPROVEMENT

ONLY 17% OF ALL AMERICANS ATE AT LEAST TWO SERVINGS OF FRUIT DAILY

ONLY 28% OF AMERICANS ATE AT LEAST OF THREE SERVINGS OF VEGETABLES DAILY

Most adult men don't meet the RDA's for magnesium and zinc.

More than half of all Americans have inadequate consumption of magnesium.

American chemist, Linus Carl Pauling (1901 - 1994), was twice recipient of the Nobel Prize stated "You can trace sickness, every disease, and every ailment to a mineral deficiency!"

Supplements should be used to enhance your diet and not as a replacement for bad eating habits. The following are guidelines recommended by the FDA:

• Consume a variety of nutrient-dense foods and beverages within and among the basic food groups. At the same time, choose foods that limit the intake of saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars, salt, and alcohol.

• Meet recommended nutrient intakes within energy needs by adopting a balanced eating pattern, such as one of those recommended in the USDA Food Guide or the National Institute of Health’s Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan.

• If you’re over age 50, consume vitamin B-12 in its crystalline form, which is found in fortified foods or supplements.

• If you’re a woman of childbearing age who may become pregnant, eat foods high in heme-iron and/or consume iron-rich plant foods or iron-fortified foods with an iron-absorption enhancer, such as foods high in vitamin C.

• If you’re a woman of childbearing age who may become pregnant or is in the first trimester of pregnancy, consume adequate synthetic folic acid daily (from fortified foods or supplements) in addition to food forms of folate from a varied diet.

• If you are an older adult, have dark skin, or are exposed to insufficient ultraviolet band radiation (such as sunlight), consume extra vitamin D from vitamin D-fortified foods and/or supplements.

Compared with the many people who consume a dietary pattern with only small amounts of fruits and vegetables, those who eat more generous amounts as part of a healthful diet are likely to have reduced risk of chronic diseases, including stroke and perhaps other cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, and cancers in certain sites (oral cavity and pharynx, larynx, lung, esophagus, stomach, and colon-rectum). Diets rich in foods containing fiber, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Diets rich in milk and milk products can reduce the risk of low bone mass throughout the life cycle.

The consumption of milk products is especially important for children and adolescents who are building their peak bone mass and developing lifelong habits.

Although each of these food groups may have a different relationship with disease outcomes, the adequate consumption of all food groups contributes to overall health.

KEY RECOMMENDATIONS

* Consume a sufficient amount of fruits and vegetables while staying within energy needs. Two cups of fruit and 2½ cups of vegetables per day are recommended for a reference 2,000-calorie intake, with higher or lower amounts depending on the calorie level.

* Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables each day. In particular, select from all five vegetable subgroups (dark green, orange, legumes, starchy vegetables, and other vegetables) several times a week.

* Consume 3 or more ounce-equivalents of whole-grain products per day, with the rest of the recommended grains coming from enriched or whole-grain products. In general, at least half the grains should come from whole grains.

* Consume 3 cups per day of fat-free or low-fat milk or equivalent milk products.

Recommendations for Specific Groups

* Children and adolescents consume whole-grain products often; at least half the grains should be whole grains. Children 2 to 8 years should consume 2 cups per day of fat-free or low-fat milk or equivalent milk products. Children 9 years of age and older should consume 3 cups per day of fat-free or low-fat milk or equivalent milk

products.

More Information

Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and milk products are all important to a healthful diet and can be good sources of the nutrients When increasing intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products. Its important to decrease one's intake of less-nutrient-dense foods to control calories. A 2,000-calorie level used in the discussion is a reference level only; it is not a recommended calorie intake because many Americans should be consuming fewer calories to maintain a healthy weight.

Fruits and Vegetables

Four and one-half cups (nine servings) of fruits and vegetables are recommended daily 2,000-calorie level, with higher or lower amounts depending on the caloric level.

This results in a range of 2½ to 6½ cups (5 to 13 servings) of fruits and vegetables each day for the 1,200- to 3,200-calorie levels. Fruits and vegetables provide a variety of micro nutrients and fiber. A list of fruits and vegetables that are good sources of vitamins A (as carotenoids) and C, folate, and potassium are:

The benefits of Blueberries
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Acroia berries, one of the richest sources of vitamin C

The benefits of cranberries

The fruits should be whole fruits (fresh, frozen, canned, dried) and not fruit juice for the majority of the daily diet to ensure adequate fiber. Various vegetables are rich in other nutrients. In the vegetable group, weekly intake of specific amounts from each of five vegetable subgroups (dark green, orange, legumes [dry beans], starchy, and other vegetables are recommended for adequate nutrients. Each subgroup provides a somewhat different variety of nutrients. In the USDA Food Guide at the reference 2,000-calorie level, the following weekly amounts are recommended:

Dark green vegetables 3 cups/week

Legumes (dry beans) 3 cups/week

Orange vegetables 2 cups/week

Starchy vegetables 3 cups/week

Other vegetables 6 ½ cups/week

Most current consumption dose not achieve the recommended intakes of many of these vegetables. The DASH Eating Plan and the USDA Food Guide suggest increasing intakes of dark green vegetables, orange vegetables, and legumes (dry beans) as part of the overall recommendation to have an adequate intake of fruits and vegetables.

Whole Grains

Whole grains are an important source of fiber and other nutrients. Whole grains, as well as foods made from them, consist of the entire grain seed, usually called the kernel. The kernel is made of three components—the bran, the germ, and the endosperm.

If the kernel has been cracked, crushed, or flaked, then it must retain nearly the same relative proportions of bran, germ, and endosperm as the original grain to be called whole grain. In the grain-refining process, most of the bran and some of the germ is removed, resulting in the loss of dietary fiber (also known as cereal fiber), vitamins, minerals, lignans, phytoestrogens, phenolic compounds, and phytic acid. Some manufacturers add bran to grain products to increase the dietary fiber content. Refined grains are the resulting product of the grain-refining processing. Most refined grains are enriched before being further processed into foods. Enriched refined grain products that conform to standards of identity are required by law to be fortified with folic acid, as well as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and iron. Food manufacturers may fortify whole-grain foods where regulations permit the addition of folic acid. Currently, a number of whole-grain, ready-to-eat breakfast cereals are fortified with folic acid. Many nutrients occur at higher or similar levels in whole grains when compared to enriched grains, but whole grains have less folate unless they have been fortified with folic acid.

Consuming at least 3 or more ounce-equivalents of whole grains per day can reduce the risk of several chronic diseases and may help with weight maintenance. Thus, daily intake of at least 3 ounce-equivalents of whole grains per day is recommended by substituting whole grains for refined grains. However, because three servings may be difficult for younger children to achieve, it is recommended that they increase whole grains into their diets as they grow. At all calorie levels, all age groups should consume at least half the grains as whole grains to achieve the fiber recommendation.

All grain servings can be whole-grain; however, it is advisable to include some folate-fortified products, such as folate-fortified whole-grain cereals, in these whole-grain choices.

Whole grains cannot be identified by the color of the food; label-reading skills are needed. For information about the ingredients in whole-grain and enriched-grain products, read the ingredient list on the food label. For many whole-grain products, the words "whole" or "whole grain" will appear before the grain ingredient's name. The whole grain should be the first ingredient listed. Wheat flour, enriched flour, and degerminated cornmeal are not whole grains. The Food and Drug Administration requires foods that bear the whole-grain health claim to (1) contain 51 percent or more whole-grain ingredients by weight per reference amount and (2) be low in fat.

Milk and Milk Products

Another source of nutrients is milk and milk products. Milk product consumption has been associated with overall diet quality and adequacy of intake of many nutrients. The intake of milk products is especially important to bone health during childhood and adolescence. Studies specifically on milk and other milk products, such as yogurt and cheese, showed a positive relationship between the intake of milk and milk products and bone mineral content or bone mineral density in one or more skeletal sites.

Adults and children should not avoid milk and milk products because of concerns that these foods lead to weight gain. There are many fat-free and low-fat choices without added sugars that are available and consistent with an overall healthy dietary plan. If a person wants to consider milk alternatives because of lactose intolerance, the most reliable and easiest ways to derive the health benefits associated with milk and milk product consumption is to choose alternatives within the milk food group, such as yogurt or lactose-free milk, or to consume the enzyme lactase prior to the consumption of milk products. For individuals who choose to or must avoid all milk products (e.g., individuals with lactose intolerance, vegans), non-dairy calcium-containing alternatives may be selected to help meet calcium needs.

Fruits, Vegetables, and Legumes (Dry Beans) That Contain Vitamin A (Carotenoids), Vitamin C, Folate, and Potassium

Many fruits, vegetables, and legumes (beans) are considered important sources of vitamin A (as carotenoids), vitamin C, and potassium in the adult population.

Nutrients, based on dietary intake data or evidence of public health problems, may be of concern. Also listed are sources of naturally occurring folate, a nutrient considered to be of concern for women of childbearing age and those in the first trimester of pregnancy. Folic acid-fortified grain products, are also good sources.

Sources for vitamin A (carotenoids)

* Bright orange vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin

* Leafy greens such as spinach, collards, turnip greens, kale, beet and mustard greens, green leaf lettuce, and romaine

* Tomatoes and tomato products, red sweet pepper

* Orange fruits like mango, cantaloupe, apricots, and red or pink grapefruit

Sources for vitamin C

* Citrus fruits and juices, cantaloupe, guava, kiwi fruit, papaya, and strawberries

* Broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, peppers, potatoes, and tomatoes

* Leafy greens such as romaine, turnip greens, and spinach

Sources for folate

* Cooked dry beans and peas

* Oranges and orange juice

* Deep green leaves like spinach and mustard greens

Sources for potassium

* Baked white or sweet potatoes, cooked spinach, winter squash

* Bananas, cantaloupe, dried fruits, honeydew melons, oranges and orange juice

* Cooked dry beans

* Soybeans (green and mature)

* Tomato sauce, paste, puree

* Beet greens

Sources of nutrients in whole wheat

Some of the nutrients and the fortification nutrients in 100 percent whole-wheat flour and enriched, bleached, all-purpose white (wheat) flour. Dietary fiber, calcium, magnesium and potassium, nutrients of concern, occur in much higher concentrations in the whole-wheat flour on a 100-gram basis (percent). The fortification nutrients-thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and iron-are similar in concentration between the two flours, but folate, as Dietary Folate Equivalent (DFE), µg, is higher in the enriched white flour.

100 Percent Whole-Grain Wheat Flour All-Purpose White Flour

Calories, kcal 339.0 364.0

Dietary fiber, g 12.2 2.7

Calcium, mg 34.0 15.0

Magnesium, mg 138.0 22.0

Potassium, mg 405.0 107.0

Folate, DFE, µg 44.0 291.0

Thiamin, mg 0.5 0.8

Riboflavin, mg 0.2 0.5

Niacin, mg 6.4 5.9

Iron, mg 3.9 4.6

Source: Agricultural Research Service Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 17.

Sources of whole grains

Whole grains consumed in the United States either as a single food or as an ingredient in a multi-ingredient food. This listing of whole grains was determined from a breakdown of foods reported consumed in nationwide food consumption surveys, by amount consumed. The foods are listed in approximate order of amount consumed, but the order may change over time. In addition, other whole grains may be consumed that are not yet represented in the surveys.

Whole Wheat

Whole oats/oatmeal

Whole-grain corn

Popcorn

Brown rice

Whole rye

Whole-grain barley

Wild rice

Buckwheat

Triticale

Bulgur (cracked wheat)

Millet

Quinoa

Sorghum

Source: Agriculture Research Service Database for CSFII 1994-1996.

If you are not getting your vitamins by what you are eating, its' important to your health to add supplements to your daily diet. Vitamins create the chemical reaction in your body to support your immune system, repair damage caused by "free radicals" and create energy from the food you eat. For a healthier live style, consider supplements that include vitamins, antioxidants and natural energy to support your life style.



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