VALUE YOUR VITAMINS
Mother is right when she says, “Get your vitamins.” These substances are just that – vital to life. In the early 1900s these nutrients in foods were thought to be “amines” or organic compounds. Since they also appear to be vital to life, they were known as vit- amines. Unlike the big three nutrients: fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, vitamins contain no calories and are not sources of energy, yet they work at the cellular level to help metabolize the nutrients from food. Vitamins are important to the health and well-being of every family member, so to be your family’s nutritionist, you must know how to value your vitamins.
VITAMIN FACTS YOU SHOULD KNOW
There are thirteen vitamins that are essential for humans. Vitamins are divided into two categories, according to the way the body absorbs them. Fat- soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) are absorbed with the help of fats in the diet and are stored in the fats of the body. Because your body can store these vitamins for a long time, unless your diet is chronically lacking one of these, it is unusual to have a deficiency of fat-soluble vitamins. The other vitamins: vitamin C, and the eight B-complex vitamins are water-soluble, meaning they do not need fat for absorption, yet most are not stored very long in the body. (Because pantothenic acid and Biotin are found in so many foods and their deficiencies are rare, they are not included in the following list.) If there’s an excess of these water-soluble vitamins, either from food or from a supplement, they are flushed through the body rapidly and are eliminated quickly in the urine.
Except for vitamin D, and a bit of vitamin K, your body cannot make vitamins. You must get them from foods. So, if your diet is deficient in one or more vitamins, your body will feel the effects of these missing essentials.
It’s best to get your vitamins from foods and not supplements, since one nutrient in a food may help another one be better absorbed. Except for vitamin A, it’s impossible to overdose on vitamins in food. Vitamin supplements are drugs, which like any drug have both benefits and risks. Taken in just the right amount, they can help the body; overdosing, like any drug, has side effects and may harm the body. If you and your family eat a balanced diet, you don’t need to worry that you or your children are getting enough vitamins. What is lacking in one food will be found in another. This is particularly true in fruits and vegetables. Many of the vitamins that are found in vegetables, which children may shun, are also found in fruits, which most kids enjoy.