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Why Vitamins and Minerals Are an Essential Part of a Balanced Diet
The majority of people should be able to get all of the nutrients that they require by eating a healthy and balanced diet. For anyone that does choose to take vitamin and mineral supplements it is important to note that taking these substitutes for too long can have some harmful effects.
Of course some people may need to take these supplements, for instance pregnant women and those trying should be given folic acid supplements as these help reduce the risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida. Similarly those of us who do not see much sun might benefit from vitamin D supplements, and children from six months to four years can benefit from vitamin supplements A, C, and D as growing children they may not be getting enough, particularly if they do not have a varied diet.
There are two types of vitamins; fat-soluble and water-soluble. Not surprisingly fat-soluble vitamins are generally found in fatty foods such as animal fats including butter and lard, vegetable oils, dairy foods, liver, and oily fish. Although your body uses these vitamins everyday this does not mean that you need to eat these foods every day. Your body does not need these vitamins immediately, it stores them in your liver and fatty tissues for future use. These stores can be built up so that they're there when you need them, but if you have excess fat-soluble vitamins can be harmful. Fat-soluble vitamins include:
- Vitamin A
Water-soluble vitamins are not stored in the body like fat-soluble ones, therefore you need top consume these more often. If you have an excess of water-soluble vitamins then your body will get rid of them when you urinate. Because the body does not store water-soluble vitamins these are typically not harmful, however this does not mean that large amounts are harmless. Water-soluble vitamins can be found in foods such as fruit, vegetables and grains. Unlike fat-soluble solutions they can be destroyed through exposure to heat or air, and can be lost in water when cooking. The best way to maintain the water-soluble vitamins in food is to steam or grill them rather than boil. Water-soluble vitamins include:
- Vitamin C
In addition to vitamins minerals are necessary in a balanced diet to:
Minerals are found in foods such as meat, cereals, bread, fish, vegetables, fruit, (especially dried fruit), nuts, milk and other dairy products. Essential minerals include calcium and iron, although there are a variety of other types of minerals that are an important part of a healthy diet.
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