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Healthy Eating Guidelines - Why Vitamins?

Mar 14, 2008
Vitamins are something we must have in our diet if we are to follow healthy eating guidelines but do we actually know what those all important vitamins do? Do we know why we should eat some daily and some less often? The main reason for that is that some vitamins are soluble in water and some in fat. Those which are water soluble such as Vitamins B and C need to be eaten daily because the body finds it very difficult to story them in the body. The fat soluble vitamins such as A, D, E and K are stored in the liver so you don't need to have them daily, once or twice a week is adequate in most cases.

Knowing how often you should eat them is one thing, but what is their actual function. Vitamin A is essential for normal growth, good vision, a healthy skin and is part of the requirements for renewing the body tissues. It is manufactured in the body from carotene which is in all those green leafy vegetables we know are part of a healthy diet, as well as in yellow and red vegetables. Retinol, which is found in eggs butter and liver amongst other foods also contains a very pure form of Vitamin A which has been manufactured in the body of the animal from which it came.

There are eight B vitamins, Thiamine is needed to metabolize carbohydrates, and is found in wholewheat, pork, liver, yeasts and pulses. It is badly affected by cooking and particularly by Bicarbonate of Soda. Riboflavin allows energy to be released from other foods and is essential for healthy eyes and skin. Again it can be found in liver, red meat, milk and cheese. It can be damaged by exposure to light. Pyridoxine is particularly important for the maintenance of nerves, skin, body tissue and hormone production. This can be found in cereals, pulses, liver, avocados, fish eggs, nuts and bananas. Folic Acid is part of the Vitamin B complex and is hugely important during pregnancy, again it can be found in many foods but leafy vegetables, liver, pulses, rice and eggs are among the best sources. It does not respond well to cooking.

Vitamin C is critical for the maintenance of bones and connective tissue, helps the body absorb iron and is crucial in aiding swift healing and resistance to infection. The richest source is Rosehips but it can also be found in all citrus fruits, leafy vegetables and liver. It is very vulnerable to heat and can be destroyed by cooking.

Vitamin D enables the body to absorb calcium and is vital for the growth and repair of body tissue. A good source is oily fish but best of all is sunlight. Vitamin E is found in found in wheatgerm, wholewheat and sunflower oil. Many claims are made for it in terms of healing and sexual performance but these have yet to be proved.

One is unlikely to be deficient in Vitamin K because it is manufactured in the intestines by bacteria. It is used by the liver to produce chemicals which allow the blood to clot. It can also be found in green leafy vegetables and cereals.

A well balanced diet following normal healthy eating guidelines should provide an adequacy of most vitamins and you should not need supplements unless there are other health issues involved, or unless you have a very restricted diet.
About the Author
Annie Horthorne grew up in the catering business and has always been an enthusiastic and highly regarded cook. She has a special interest in healthy eating and how to make it tasty and fun. Annie's delicious healthy eating recipes can be found at The Healthy Eating Guide
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