When it comes to vitamins, there are no set answers. Guidelines change with age, diet, and general health. Here is some information to help you better understand what vitamins can do for you.
WHAT IS A VITAMIN?
A vitamin is an organic substance necessary for everyday life. Unfortunately, your body can not manufacture its own vitamins internally and therefore requires supplements.
HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH?
There are 13 vitamins necessary for body functions. You must get them from foods or vitamin supplements. All vitamins are either fat-soluble or water-soluble. Water-soluble vitamins are common in watery foods like fruits. Fat-soluble vitamins are found in oily foods like meat or seeds. Fat-soluble vitamins can be stored in human tissues. If over consumed, they can build up to toxic levels. There are four fat-soluble vitamins: A, D, E and K. Because they are capable of being stored, a person does not need to consume them daily. Some vitamins like A, C, and E are important antioxidants. Antioxidants prevent your cells from being damaged by oxygen free radicals which are formed by stress and pollution. Free radicals promote heart disease and cancer.
The Minimum Daily Requirements (MDR) provide the smallest amount of nutrients a person needs to consume to avoid deficiencies. The Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) provides guidelines for specific groups of people. Men are often larger than women and require more nutrients. In addition, children often require different amounts for growing bones. The biological effects of pregnancy and menopause can also change a person’s nutritional needs.
|Vitamin A||Needed for eyesight , immune system function, and growth of bones. Helps maintain healthy epithelial tissues which line surfaces and cavities such as the skin. Helps bone growth and vision by maintaining the cornea. Found in liver, egg yolks, milk, and dark green or leafy vegetables.|
|Vitamin B||Needed for nerve function, red blood cell formation. Promotes energy into cells. (Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Pyridoxine, Folic acid,and Cobalamin)|
|Vitamin C||Needed to make collagen and provide antioxidant protection.|
|Vitamin D||Needed to regulate calcium and phosphorus absorption for strong bones.|
|Vitamin E||Needed for antioxidant protection for cell membranes, for improving immunity, and prevention of heart disease.|
|Vitamin K||Needed for proper clotting of blood.|
Our ancestors ate many whole foods that commonly fell from trees or grew from the ground. Today we eat a large number of foods that have lost through processing some of their natural constituents like fiber and vitamins. In 1990, the government reacted to people’s growing concern over nutrition. The Nutrition Education and Labeling Act of 1990 required all food labels to list their ingredients in order of decreasing weight. Nutritionists used to group food in four basic categories: grains, meats, dairy and fruits or vegetables. Recently, the food pyramid we often see on the side of cereal boxes divides food into six basic groups. Grains compromise the base while fruits and vegetables compromise the next tier. The pyramid recommends six to eleven servings of grains, three to five servings of vegetables and two to four fruits per day.
It is recommended that 55-75% of our daily caloric intake stem from carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are the nutrient from which all other nutrients are derived. The basic carbohydrate is glucose. It can be rearranged to form fructose or galactose. They contain the same number of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms, but their three-dimensional structures differ.
Sucrose,(also known as table sugar), is made of glucose and fructose. It is found in many fruits and vegetables. There is a world of difference between the sucrose found in fruits and vegetables and the sucrose found in deserts and candy. Fruits and vegetables contain fiber, vitamins, minerals and nutrients. Sweets contain little more than sugar.
Fiber itself is indigestible, but that does not mean it is not helpful. Fiber may bind with potentially cancer causing chemicals and speed their removal from the body. Fibers are classified as soluble or insoluble. Insoluble fiber is associated with the large intestine. It helps prevent constipation, hemorrhoids and colon cancer. Soluble fiber staves off hunger by slowing the absorption of glucose. It can lower cholesterol levels as well.
American fixation on weight has also created a market for sugar substitutes like Equal and NutraSweet. These sweeteners are as caloric as sugar but two hundred times sweeter. Hence minimal amounts are required. Saccharin has been on the market the longest. It is found to be mildly carcinogenic in rats. The Food and Drug Administration proposed banning it in 1977, but did not since no human cases have been linked to it. Saccharin still exists on the market today, but a warning label now accompanies it.
Fats are the most concentrated form of energy available to the body. Almost all fats found in a person’s diet are triglycerides. Saturated fats are typically solid at room temperature. The majority of saturated fats are found in meat and dairy products. Some products have fat blended in while others are essentially all fat like butter. Unsaturated fats are usually liquid at room temperature. They are usually extracted from seeds.
Many people consider fat a substance to be avoided at all costs. However, the body needs fat. Fat provides protection for some of the body’s organs by holding them in place and cushions any impact. Women usually have an extra layer of fat under their skin which helps insulate body temperature. Fat also aids in the absorption if fat-soluble vitamins and minerals in the small intestine.
In theory, when too few calories are eaten, the body should burn its stores of fat and weight loss should occur. However, the central nervous system can only burn carbohydrates. When carbohydrates are not available, the body turns to protein stored in muscles and organs. This in turn slows the metabolic rate.
The body is capable of producing its own fat from excess carbohydrates and protein. There are two types of fat the body needs but can not produce. These fats are called essential fatty acids. Linolenic acid is an essential fatty acid. It is found in cold water marine fish (like salmon). It can also be found in seeds, grains, eggs and poultry
High cholesterol levels are linked to heart disease. There are two types of cholesterol. LDL is considered "bad" and HDL is considered "good." LDL cholesterol is usually high in fat and can be deposited on artery walls. On the other hand, HDL cholesterol is generated by aerobic activities and protects the body from heart disease.
Cholesterol levels are measured in milligrams(mg) per deciliter(dl), and total levels below 200mg/dl are considered normal. A ratio of four LDL to one HDL is considered normal but higher ratios are considered a risk.
Three fat substitutes, Olestra, Simplesse, and Z-trim have recently been developed which strive to give the flavor and texture of fat without the fat itself. Olestra has the texture of fat but is not absorbed in the body. Unfortunately, side effects like abdominal cramping, loose bowel movements, and malabsorption of vitamins A, D, E and K are associated with Olestra.
Simplesse, unlike Olestra, is digestible. Only a fraction of its calories comes from fat. It is made of egg whites or milk and used in ice cream and condiments. It can not be used for cooking.
Z-trim is created from the hulls of grains. It adds fiber to the diet as well as reducing the fat content. Z-trim is used for cooking. It is expected to be used in commercial food preparations more often than in home cooking.
Enzymes are proteins that speed up all biological and chemical reactions but do not start these reactions. They require nutrient helpers as vitamins, minerals and other proteins (co enzymes). Most enzymes come from foods and need to be replenished. Every cell has 100.000 enzymes. Enzymes break down every part of the food we eat (proteins, fats, and sugars).
The most important enzymes come from the pancreas. If inadequate supplies are present, foods will pass undigested. Enzymes in the bowel have lactase to break down the sugar in milk and milk products. If deficient in lactase there is as and bloating. If there is an alpha galactodase deficiency there is gas and cramping after eating beans, cabbage and cauliflower.
PANCREATIC ENZYMES are used to kill viruses by digesting their protein coats. They also dissolve the coating of cancer cells so the white blood cells and immune system can destroy the cancer.
Should a healthy person take enzymes? Plant enzymes are found in raw vegetables, nuts, and seeds. They act on the food in the stomach and help predigest the food. (Acid in the stomach neutralizes the plant enzymes). However if you only eat cooked food, you lose the benefit of predigestion. Plant enzymes are deactivated by pasteurization, canning, micro waving, and cooking above 118 degrees.
If the pancreas must make more enzymes and cannot keep up, the colon becomes toxic with wastes and toxins. These toxins get to the liver and the immune system is disturbed. This results in infection, cancer, allergies, or acne. The solution is to get some added enzymes from fresh uncooked foods.
Many people fast during Lent, Yom Kippur, and Ramadan. By resting the colon detoxification can occur. This can help Rheumatoid arthritis and allergies. Fewer toxins are consumed and the blood thins without fat intake. Energy spent on digestion can now strengthen the immune system. (Many feel that cancer patients should not be encouraged to eat big meals.)
DANGERS OF PROLONGED FASTING: The blood sugar drops. Nitrogen by products are raised and you may become weak and depressed. Long fasts are dangerous as the uric acid rises predisposing to gout and the kidneys can't excrete the toxins. Calcium, potassium, and minerals fall and one can get cardiac arrhythmias, anemia, and headaches.