According to the experts, the human body consists of millions of cells and in each cell, multiple biomedical reactions occur every second. Since vitamins participate in many of these reactions, they are essential to basic life processes, such as the conversion of food to energy, tissue growth and repair and resistance to disease.
Vitamins must be present in the proper proportions in order for the body to function correctly. If anyone vitamin is missing, the reactions that depend on it cannot take place.
Fortunately, most of these vitamins can be obtained through diets. Many of them can be obtained from vegetables and fruits which are in abundance in this country. Experts however say a large number of these vitamins and nutrients are destroyed through cooking and other processes to which we subject our foods before they are eaten thus making a daily vitamin supplement very important to any health conscious individual.
In reality, nutrient value is one of the last things people consider when they shop for, prepare and eat food. Among the priorities governing food selection, the primary considerations are: taste, cost and convenience. The nutritional value is considered only after these primary concerns have been satisfied.
But we must pay attention to vitamins – if we must remain in good health all the time. We must make converted efforts to ensure that they re obtained either through our diets, where possible or through nutritional supplement. Here are some tips on a few of the essential vitamins and where to obtain them.
Vitamin a is a fat soluble nutrient which, according to the experts, has profound effect on nearly every tissue of the body, It is very important in maintaining the health of the human tissues, especially in maintaining good vision. It is also required for bone growth, reproduction and foetal development and also aids the maintenance of skin and mucous membrane, practically all yellow vegetables or yellow plants contain a pigment that can be converted by the body into Vitamin A. This vitamin can also be obtained from carrot, palm oil, liver, eggs, milk, butter, margarine.
Vitamin A deficiency disease is considered to be one of the major causes of child mortality and blindness (xerophthalmia) in the world today, afflicting as many as a million children per year in underdeveloped countries. Apart from children, others at risk of Vitamin a deficiency include pregnant and lactating women, regular alcohol drinkers, people with disease and infection s and those engaged on physical exertion or stress. According to the WHO, an estimated 250 million preschool children are vitamin A deficient and it is likely that in vitamin A deficient areas a substantial proportion of pregnant women is vitamin A deficient.
Also, an estimated 250 000 to 500 000 vitamin A-deficient children become blind every year, half of them dying within 12 months of losing their sight.
The vitamin B complex consists of eight water soluble vitamins which all work together to boost metabolism, enhance the immune system and nervous system, keep the skin and muscles healthy, encourage cell growth and division, and other benefits to the body.
Vitamin B1, known as thiamine, in particular, serves as a catalyst in carbohydrate metabolism and helps synthesize nerve-regulating substances. Deficiency can cause heart swelling, leg cramps, and muscular weakness. Rich food sources high in thiamine include liver, heart, and kidney meats, eggs, leafy green vegetables, nuts, legumes, berries, wheat germs, and enriched cereals. Deficiency in Vitamin B1 could lead to nervous disorder and beriberi. Those mostly at risk include dieters, people with chronic infection, pregnant and lactating women. Those engaged in physical exerting/stress, regular alcohol drinkers, cigarette smokers, women on oral contraceptives and the elderly.
VITAMIN C (Ascorbic acid)
Discovered by a physician in the British Royal Navy, Dr. James Lind in 1753, this substance became known as Vitamin C in 1920 and was later called “Ascorbic Acid” in 1933. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, meaning that it is not stored by the human body. Rather, it is obtainable from food. It is an antioxidant which helps in keeping the body cells healthy. It is essential for the maintenance of the immune system, healthy gums, teeth, blood capillaries and connective tissues and also the absorption of iron. Vitamin C also contains certain substances which helps protect against cataracts, cardiovascular diseases and also improves resistance against cold and flu.
Vitamin C is also taken by many people to enhance wound healing and to stimulate the immune system during infect ion or the common cold. This vitamin can be found in many fruits such as oranges, tomatoes and strawberries and vegetables such as potatoes, broccoli and cabbage.
Smoking cigarettes lowers the amount of vitamin C in the body, so smokers are at a higher risk of deficiency. Signs of vitamin deficiency include dry and splitting hair; gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and bleeding gums; rough, dry, scaly skin; decreased wound-healing rate, easy bruising; nosebleeds; and a decreased ability to ward off infection. A severe form of vitamin C deficiency is known as scurvy.
Low levels of vitamin C have been associated with a number of conditions, including high blood pressure, gallbladder disease, stroke, some cancers, and atherosclerosis (the build-up plaque in blood vessels that can lead to heart attack and stroke). Getting enough vitamin C from your diet (by eating lots of fruit and vegetables) may help reduce the risk of developing some of these conditions. The evidence that taking vitamin C supplements will help or prevent any of these conditions is lacking, however.
This vitamin is also found in carrots, spinach and many other vegetables. It has the ability to clear excessive or harmful radicals from the body and prevent their formation. There is an increasing evidence that beta carotene could prevent certain cancers , in particular, lung cancer which of course is related to smoking and stomach cancer. People mostly at risk of beta-carotene deficiency include cigarette smokers, people with cardiovascular diseases anf cancer and the elderly.
Vitamin E” is the collective name for a group of fat-soluble compounds with distinctive antioxidant activities. Some members of the vitamin E family are called tocopherols. These members include alpha tocopherol, beta tocopherol, gamma tocopherol, and delta tocopherol. Other members of the vitamin E family are called tocotrienols. These members include alpha, beta, gamma, and delta tocotrienol. As increasing information has become available about these forms of vitamin E, more and more of them are understood to have unique functions. It has been documented that Vitamin E protects the skin from ultraviolet light, prevents cell damage from free radicals, allows the body cells to communicate effectively and helps protect against prostate cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Several studies have shown that a high dose of Vitamin E has a beneficial effect on certain circulatory disorders such as intermittence claudication (pain and cramping in the legs due to restericted blood flow) and a condition which leads to blindness in premature infants known as retrolental finroplasis.
Vitamin E is present in vegetables oils, nuts and whole grain cereals. Very good sources include almonds and spinach.
A deficiency of Vitamin E could result in wasting of the muscles and neurological disorders (neuropathy),. The elderly, people with cardiovascular diseases and cancer, regular alcohol drinkers and cigarette smokers are especially at risk of Vitamin E deficiency.