Vitamins are essential chemicals the body needs for cell formation, development and growth. Except for vitamin D, the human body cannot produce its own. The rest must come from foods or supplementation.
Antioxidant vitamins include A (retinol and carotenoids), C and E. Antioxidants are important because they can reduce cell damage and may decrease chronic illnesses and slow the aging process. Research shows that they may also help boost the immune system. Beta carotene can be found in red peppers, broccoli and other fruits and vegetables. Vitamin A helps to maintain healthy skin, bones, mucus membranes and soft tissue. Cantaloupe, pumpkin and carrots contain alpha-carotene, another carotenoid with antioxidants. Lycopene is in guava, watermelon and tomatoes. Beta-carotene rich foods include cantaloupe, apricots, broccoli, kale, spinach, watermelon and tomatoes.
Vitamin or ascorbic acid helps in red blood cell formation, aids in the healing of wounds and promotes healthy teeth and bones. Vitamin C helps with the absorption of iron too. It can improve levels of the brain chemical noradrenaline that helps augment alertness and boosts concentration. During the aging progression or when the body is stressed ascorbic levels in the body have shown to be lowered. Broccoli, peppers, kiwi, grapefruit, strawberries, potatoes and tomatoes are good sources.
Tocopherol or vitamin E aids in the maintenance of cell membranes and assists in red blood cell formation. It may help to slow down age related changes. A vitamin E deficiency may be linked to adults with intestinal disorders that involve mal-absorption. Too much vitamin E can cause bleeding. Hazelnuts, cod oil, corn oil, peanut butter, sunflower seeds and wheat germ contain vitamin E.
Vitamin B is an important part of one’s diet. Specifically, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, B12 and folic acid are essential to many bodily functions. B1 or thiamine aids the body in changing carbohydrates into energy. B2 or riboflavin works with other B vitamins and is involved in red blood cell production and body growth. B3 or niacin helps to maintain healthy nerves and skin. Folate or folic acid is vital in the progression of the central nervous system. They are essential in brain function, building DNA and red blood cell formation. Some excellent sources are vegetables like spinach, asparagus, citrus fruits, melons, beans, legumes, strawberries, eggs and organ meats. Taking vitamin B folic acid is crucial to help decrease neural tube defects during pregnancy. Vitamin B deficiency is associated with symptoms of irritability, confusion and depression. Vitamin B6 is important for brain function and metabolism. Bananas, avocadoes, cereals, oatmeal, seeds, meats and poultry are good food sources. Vitamin B12 is crucial in protein synthesis, metabolism, and cell division. Deficiency of this vitamin causes anemia. Some people over the age of 50 may have issues absorbing vitamin B from their diet because of changes in their stomachs. Yogurt, cheese, milk, eggs, fish and meat are all food sources that contain B12.
Supporting the activation of calcium and phosphorus, Vitamins D helps keep bones strong and healthy. When there is a deficiency in the diet, the body turns to the bones to replenish, which can contribute to osteoporosis. Fish and getting outdoors for some old fashioned sunshine are great sources. Many foods are fortified with vitamin D as well. Vitamin K although not an essential vitamin, plays a key role in healthy bones and blood clotting. Fish oil, green leafy veggies, soybean oil, alfalfa and cooked spinach are some of the best sources for vitamin K.
Many people have a difficult time eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables as well as a healthy variety of other whole foods their bodies need each day to get adequate antioxidants and vitamins into their diet. It is important to keep in mind that a diet must consist of a variety of foods in order for vitamins to do their job.
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