The importance of vitamins and minerals
You know it’s important to eat a healthy diet and get enough vitamins and minerals. But why are they important? Getting enough vitamins and minerals is essential to overall health and wellbeing. Minerals, such as calcium and iron, come from the earth and water. Plants and animals absorb them to get nutrients.
Vitamins, such as vitamins A, C and E, are natural substances found in plants and animals. Your body uses these substances to stay healthy and support its many functions.
What micronutrients can do for you?
Micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals that are found in food and nourish your body. People who eat a healthy diet get the vitamins and minerals they need from the foods they eat. However, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), adult Americans do not typically get enough of the following nutrients:
• Vitamins A, C and E
Calcium helps build strong bones and teeth in childhood and helps maintain bone mass in adulthood. Potassium helps your body maintain a healthy blood pressure. Magnesium helps your body produce energy and helps your muscles, arteries and heart work properly. Vitamin A is associated with vision development; it also helps your cells grow properly and stay healthy. Vitamin C helps the body form collagen (the main protein used as connective tissue in the body) in blood vessels, bones, cartilage and muscle. Vitamin E is an antioxidant, which is a nutrient that helps fight damage to the cells in the body.
Do I need a supplement?
The best way to get the vitamins and minerals your body needs is from your diet. If you have a varied diet that includes lots of whole grains, vegetables and fruits, you probably don’t need to take additional vitamin and mineral supplements.
If you don’t have a healthy diet or if you have certain health problems, your doctor may suggest taking extra vitamins or minerals. Never take a vitamin or mineral supplement without talking to your doctor first, especially if you take prescription medicines, have health problems or are elderly.
Too much of a good thing
Vitamins and minerals aren’t dangerous unless you get too much of them. It would be hard to “overdose” on the vitamins and minerals from the foods you eat. But if you take supplements, you can easily take too much. This can cause side effects, and it can also cause problems with some medical tests or get in the way of how some drugs work. So be sure to ask your doctor whether taking a supplement is right for you.
Where to find minerals
+ Non-fat or low-fat yogurt
+ Non-fat or low-fat cheese
+ Low-fat or skim milk
+ Sweet potatoes
+ Beans such as white beans, soybeans, lima beans and kidney beans
+ Fruits such as bananas, peaches, cantaloupe and honeydew melon
+ Orange juice
+ Vegetables such as spinach and artichokes
+ Bran cereal
+ Beans such as soybeans, white beans, black beans and navy beans
Where to find vitamins
+ Organ meats such as liver and giblets
+ Vegetables such as sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach and turnip greens
+ Fruits such as guavas, oranges, strawberries, cantaloupe and pineapple
+ Vegetables such as raw red and green peppers, broccoli, sweet potatoes and cauliflower
+ Nuts and seeds such as sunflower seeds, almonds, pine nuts and peanuts
+ Turnip greens
+ Peanut butter
Supplementing during cold and flu season
One time when it is particularly important to be sure you are supplementing and boosting your immunity is during cold and flu season. There are four main dietary supplements commonly taken during this time of year.
There is no current scientific evidence to support the idea that taking large doses of vitamin C will prevent or reduce the symptoms of colds or flu, however you can take dietary supplements to assure that you get enough vitamin C on the days you don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables.
Zinc is a mineral needed for a healthy immune system and is often sold as an over-the-counter natural treatment for the common cold. Several studies on zinc have found that taking it within 24 hours after the start of a cold may help to reduce symptoms.
This herb is available as a dietary supplement and is used to prevent or decrease the duration of the common cold. Research supports the use of Echinacea for this purpose.
These “friendly bacteria” help to keep your digestive tract healthy and appear to have some beneficial effect on your immune system. Probiotics are found in dietary supplements or as a nutritional ingredient in yogurt and other foods. Research supports the use of probiotics for reducing the symptoms and duration of the common cold.
It makes sense
You may need more vitamins and minerals than normal if you are among the following:
+ Women who are trying to get pregnant;
+ Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding;
+ Women who are at risk of osteoporosis.
Source: http://www.MayoClinic.com; www.nutrition.about.com