Eight Guidelines for a healthy diet by Flourish Organics Diet & Nutrition

VITAMINS

If you eat a wide variety of food and a balanced diet you should get all the vitamins you require, with no need for supplements. If you do take supplements, it is sensible not to exceed the recommended dose. There are two main types of vitamins; fat-soluble vitamins, A,D and E, are stored in the body and taking excessive amounts could be harmful. The water-soluble vitamins,C and the B complex, are not stored in the body and any excess amounts are excreted in the urine. A good mixed diet should contain adequate amounts of all these vitamins.

Vitamin A (retinol)

Vitamin A is essential for vision in dim light and for the maintenance of healthy skin and surface tissues of the body. It is stored in the liver and is toxic in very excessive amounts.

Vitamin A is found in natural fats, such as milk and butter, and liver has a very high content.

It can also be made in the body from carotene, which is found in red and yellow vegetables such as carrots and peppers.

Vitamin D (cholecalciferol)

Vitamin D is essential for maintaining the right level of calcium and phosphorus in the blood and for building healthy bones and teeth. Deficiency causes rickets in children and osteomalacia (bone thinning) in adults.

The best source of Vitamin D is the action of sunlight on the skin. Dietary sources are less important, except for people who cannot go out or who do not expose their skin to light.

Sources include fatty fish, milk, butter and egg yolk. Vitamin D is added to margarine, and some manufacturers add Vitamin D to breakfast cereals and some types of yogurt.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is necessary for growth and the maintenance of healthy connective tissue in the body. Lack of Vitamin C leads to gum bleeding, bruising and poor wound healing. Only humans and guinea pigs need to get Vitamin C from their diet. All other animals can make the vitamin within their bodies.

The best source of Vitamin C are vegetables and fruit. Potatoes are a good source of the vitamin because of the large amounts eaten.

Blackcurrants are very high in the vitamin and citrus fruits are good sources. Green salads and vegetables diminishes with storing and cooking. Frozen vegetables may therefore sometimes have a higher Vitamin C content than fresh vegetables which have been stored for some time.

Vitamin B

The Vitamin B complex include thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2) and niacin, also Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), B12 biotin, pantothenic acid and folic acid.

Thiamin, riboflavin and niacin are essential for the release of energy from the food we eat, particularly from carbohydrate. These vitamins are widely distributed in foods, including milk, offal, eggs, vegetables, fruit and wholegrain cereals. Many breakfast cereals are fortified with B Vitamins.

Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) is involved in the metabolism of amino acids (the breakdown products of protein), and is necessary for the formation of haemoglobin. Deficiency of B6 is rare, and very high intakes could be dangerous. It occurs widely in food, especially in meat, fish eggs, wholegrain cereals and some vegetables.

Vitamin B12 is a mixture of compounds, and is necessary (with folic acid) for the development and maintenance of cells in the blood. It occurs only in animal products, particularly liver eggs, cheese, milk, meat and fish. It is also available from yeast extracts, and is added to some breakfast cereals. Deficiency leads to a form of anaemia.

Folic acid has a number of functions, but is important for the development of rapidly dividing cells. Folic acid deficiency can arise from poor diet and also when there are increased needs for synthesis of red blood cells, for example in pregnancy.

There is some evidence that adequate folic acid in the diet can protect against the development of spina bifida in the very early stages of pregnancy. The best dietary sources of folic acid are offal and leafy green vegetables. Folic acid is easily destroyed by cooking vegetables as it is lost in the water used.

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