The following contains an overview of the vitamins and minerals which are needed for a healthy body. A vitamin is defined as any of a group of organic substances essential in small quantities to maintain normal metabolism, and are found in minute amounts in natural foodstuffs or sometimes produced synthetically. Deficiencies of vitamins produce specific disorders.
A vitamin is both an organic compound (it contains carbon) and an essential nutrient which the body cannot produce enough of on its own, so it has to get small amounts from food.
There are currently 13 recognized vitamins.
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A deficiency of Vitamin A may cause night-blindness and keratomalacia, an eye disorder that results in a dry cornea.
It is used to reduce complications of diseases such as malaria, HIV, measles, and diarrhea in children with vitamin A deficiency.
Women use vitamin A for heavy menstrual periods, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), vaginal infections, yeast infections, “lumpy breasts” (fibrocystic breast disease), and to prevent breast cancer.
Men use vitamin A to raise their sperm count.
Vitamin A is also used for skin conditions including acne, eczema, psoriasis, cold sores, wounds, burns, and sunburn.
Good sources of Vitamin A include: liver, cod liver oil, carrots, broccoli, sweet potato, butter, kale, spinach, pumpkin, collard greens, some cheeses, egg, apricot, cantaloupe melon, milk. It can also be made in a laboratory.
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Vitamin B1 is also calledThiamine. A deficiency of Vitamin B1 may cause beriberi, which is marked by inflammatory or degenerative changes of the nerves, digestive system, and heart.
Good sources include: yeast, pork, cereal grains, sunflower seeds, brown rice, whole grain rye, asparagus, kale, cauliflower, potatoes, oranges, liver, and eggs.
Vitamin B2 is also called riboflavin. It is characterized by sores on the mouth.
Good sources include: asparagus, bananas, persimmons, okra, chard, cottage cheese, milk, yogurt, meat, eggs, fish, and green beans.
Vitamin B3 is also called niacin or niacinamide. A deficiency may cause pellagra, which is a disease marked by dermatitis, gastrointestinal disorders, and mental disturbances.
Good sources include: liver, heart, kidney, chicken, beef, fish (tuna, salmon), milk, eggs, avocados, dates, tomatoes, leafy vegetables, broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes, asparagus, nuts, whole grains, legumes, mushrooms, and brewer's yeast.
Vitamin B6 is also known as pyridoxine, pyridoxamine, and pyridoxal. A deficiency may cause anemia and peripheral neuropathy.
Good sources include: meats, bananas, whole grains, vegetables, and nuts. When milk is dried it loses about half of its B6. Freezing and canning can also reduce the B6 content.
Vitamin B9 is also known as Folic Acid. A deficiency is linked to birth defects.
Good sources include: leafy vegetables, legumes, liver, baker's yeast, some fortified grain products, sunflower seeds. Several fruits have moderate amounts, as does beer.
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Vitamin B12 is also known as cyanocobalamin and hydroxycobalamin. A deficiency may cause megaloblastic anemia.
Good sources include: fish, shellfish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and dairy products. Some fortified cereals and soy products, as well as fortified nutritional yeast.
The chemical name for Vitamin C is ascorbic acid. A deficiency may cause megaloblastic anemia.
Good sources include: fruit and vegetables. The Kakadu plum and the camu camu fruit have the highest vitamin C contents of all foods. Liver also has vitamin C.
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The chemical names for Vitamin D are ergocalciferol and cholecalciferol. A deficiency may cause rickets or osteomalacia, both of which cause a softening or weakening of the bones.
Good sources are produced in the skin after exposure to ultraviolet B light from the sun or artificial sources. It is also found in fatty fish, eggs, beef liver, and mushrooms.
The chemical names for Vitamin E are tocopherols and tocotrienols. It aids in blood circulation and protection from free radicals.
Good sources are almonds, sunflower seeds, other nuts, and tomatoes.
The chemical names for Vitamin K are phylloquinone and menaquinones. A deficiency may cause bleeding diathesis, which is abnormal blood clotting.
Good sources include: leafy green vegetables, avocado, kiwi fruit. Parsley contain a lot of vitamin K.
Besides vitamins, our bodies cannot produce the inorganic substances found in foods known as minerals. The Institute of Medicine prescribes the amount of minerals that are necessary for a healthy body.
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The body needs calcium to build strong bones and teeth. Calcium also plays a role in nerve transmissions, muscle function (including that of the heart), and hormone secretion. Adults should consume 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams of calcium per day.
Good sources of calcium include dairy products like milk and yogurt and vegetables like kale, broccoli and cabbage.
Potassium controls the electrical activity of your heart, making it vital to maintaining a normal heart rhythm. The body also needs potassium to build proteins, break down and use carbohydrates, maintain the pH balance of the blood and support normal growth. Adults should consume 4,700 milligrams of potassium per day.
Good sources of potassium are beef, fish, chicken, cantaloupe, potatoes, tomatoes and lima beans.
Too much sodium can increase one’s risk for developing high blood pressure. The body needs sodium to stimulate nerve and muscle function, maintain the correct balance of fluid in the cells and support the absorption of other nutrients including chloride, amino acids and glucose. The body only requires 180 to 500 milligrams of sodium per day, but the amount needed to meet or exceed normal circulating nutrient values is 1,500 milligrams per day. Persons over 51 or with certain health conditions should consume no more than the adequate intake of 1,500 milligrams.
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The body needs magnesium to support more than 300 biochemical reactions. Magnesium supports muscle and nerve function, keeps your heart beating regularly, builds strong bones and boosts immunity. Adult women should consume 310 to 320 milligrams per day, while men need 400 to 420 milligrams per day.
Good sources of magnesium are beans, nuts, whole grains and green vegetables.
Phosphorus plays an important role in building strong bones and teeth, producing proteins the body needs and repairing cells. Adult men and women should consume 700 milligrams of phosphorus a day.
Good sources of phosphorus are dairy foods, meat and whole grains
Chloride, or sodium chloride, better known as table salt, balances the fluids in the body and plays an essential role in the production of digestive juices in the stomach. Due to the high salt content in foods, most people meet the daily recommended intake of 1,800 to 2,300 milligrams per day.
Trace minerals are those minerals which your body only needs in small amounts. The body uses iron to produce hemoglobin and myoglobin, which are proteins that carry oxygen in your body. Iodine is needed for the production of thyroid hormones that regulate nearly every cell in the body. Manganese regulates blood sugar, enhances the absorption of calcium and plays a role in the production of connective tissues and bones. Chromium enhances the action of insulin making it important in regulating blood sugar. Fluoride keeps your teeth strong and healthy. The body also needs copper, selenium, mylobdenum and zinc to produce enzymes important in various reactions throughout the body.
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