Vitamins and Minerals

What are Vitamins?

In order for you body to work properly, you will need the right amount of vitamins. Since your body can not make the vitamins themselves, except for Vitamin D, you will have to get these vitamins from other sources, particularly the food that you consume everyday. Vitamins can be classified into two main types

  • water-soluble vitamins are vitamins that can not be stored in your body. They have to be replaced frequently in your diet
  • fat-soluble vitamins are vitamins that can be stored in your body. Including fat-soluble vitamins in your diet is important too

You can find most water-soluble vitamins like B6, B12, C, and Folic Acid in fresh fruits and in green vegetables. It is good practice to eat the fruits and the vegetables raw because when they are boiled, the vitamins can easily be lost in the cooking process.

What are Minerals?

In order for your body to function properly, it will need a certain amount of minerals and trace elements. These minerals are important and you need to get them from the food that you eat. Some minerals that you need and why they are needed are

  • calcium so that you will have strong bones
  • sodium so that your fluids can be balanced and so that your nerves function properly
  • iron so that oxygen is transported properly throughout the body and so that energy is metabolized properly as well
  • iodine so that your thyroid glands work properly

You can find minerals and trace elements primarily in meats, fish, cereals, milk, dairy products, vegetables, nuts, and dried fruit.

How much minerals are required by your body?

There are a lot of factors that will influence the mineral requirements of your body. Factors such as a person’s gender, activity level, and age can affect the amount of mineral required by their body. According to the Department of Health of the United Kingdom, there are certain dietary reference values of DRVs that should be followed. These DRVs can be found on food and supplement packs. In order for a person to maintain good health, they will need a certain amount of energy based on the DRV.

How will you be able to get enough vitamins and minerals in your body?

Through a balanced diet, you should be able to get all the vitamins and minerals that are required by your body. As much as possible, you should have five servings of fruits and vegetables everyday. You should consume starchy foods like potatoes, pasta, and bread in order to provide energy for your body. You should have moderate amounts of protein in your diet in the form of dairy products, meat, pulses, and fish.

Should you take supplements for your body?

If your doctor or dietician does not recommend that you take supplements then there is no need to take them. Some people have to take supplements because of existing conditions. For instance, if you are anaemic then you may have to take iron supplements.

There are vitamins that can be harmful if there is too much of it in the body. Fat-soluble vitamins are particularly harmful in excessive amounts. For instance, if you have too much vitamin A in your body then you may have headaches, changes in your skin, and a damaged liver. Pregnant women may also be harmed by an overdose of vitamins.

According to the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Vitamins A, E, and Beta Carotene increase your risk of dying early. Unless advised by your doctor, you should not be taking vitamin supplements.

A look at vitamins and minerals at different stages in life

Here are some circumstances where taking vitamins and minerals change

For People over Fifty

In order to stay healthy, people must eat plenty of foods rich in iron. They must consume foods like red meat, eggs, sardines, and whole meal bread. When you consume the right amount of iron in your diet, you will lower the chances of getting anaemia. When you lack iron in your system, you may end up very tired and weak on a day to day basis. Your immune system will become weak as well. Tea is one beverage that gets in the way of iron absorption. If you like to drink tea then it is not advisable to drink it after a meal so that the absorption of iron is not hindered. You should drink fruit juices instead of tea because the fruit juices will help your body absorb the iron. Make sure that you consume five servings of fruit and vegetables everyday so that your immune system is kept strong.

One of the health issues that are faced by people over fifty, particularly women, is osteoporosis. It is important to load your body with calcium through the consumption of dairy products like milk, yoghurt, and cheese. You can also get ample amounts of calcium from canned fish with bones like sardines and pilchards.

You should consult with your doctor if you think that you need food supplements. Your doctor will check what amounts of vitamins and minerals you will need. It is important that you take the right amount of vitamins and minerals at this age.

For Women who are Pregnant

You must eat a balanced diet when you are pregnant in order to stay healthy. The supply of iron in your blood can drop significantly when you are pregnant so you must have countermeasures on how to maintain proper levels of iron in your body. Some great sources of iron for pregnant women are red meat, fortified breakfast cereals, green leafy vegetables, and pulses. In order to help your body absorb the iron, you can consume fruit juices when you eat your meals.

Eating foods that are rich in folate is important. Folate is the natural form of folic acid and it can be found in oranges, broccoli, and wholegrain foods. It is also a great idea to consume a lot of dairy foods so that your baby will have strong bones.

According to the Food Standards Agency or FSA, women must take four hundred micrograms of folic acid supplements when attempting to get pregnant and during the first trimester of pregnancy. This will lower the chances of your baby from getting disorders in their neural tube or spina bifida. The Food Standards Agency also recommends that you take a Vitamin D supplement when you are breastfeeding or when you are pregnant. You should talk to your midwife or to your general practitioner when planning to take supplements so that you can assure whether they are safe to take or not.

For Vegetarians and Vegans

It is absolutely possible to get all the needed vitamins and minerals on a vegan diet. Your goals should be to

  • consume at least five portions of fruits and vegetables everyday
  • get a lot of foods that are rich in iron like green leafy vegetables and fortified breakfast cereals
  • make sure your main meals are based on starchy foods like bread, rice, and pasta
  • make sure that you include good sources of protein in your main meals like pulses, nuts, dairy products, or soya products
  • eat seeds and nuts in order to keep your selenium levels high
  • drink soya milk, oat milk, or rice milk fortified with calcium in order to maintain high levels of calcium

Keys to a Great Diet

  • when you have a balanced diet, you will have all the vitamins and minerals that your body requires
  • always make sure that you eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables everyday
  • avoid taking vitamin supplements with vitamin A, E, and beta carotene unless your doctor tells you to do so
  • if you think that you are not getting enough vitamins for your body, you should consult with a dietician or a doctor. Do not take supplements unless you have permission from your doctor

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