Vitamins and minerals – an essential part of a balanced diet

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A health and balanced diet should always provide the necessary vitamins and minerals that someone requires. Despite this it seems that many people still take vitamin and mineral supplements to compensate for their diet, for anyone that does so it is important to note that taking these supplements on a long-term basis can have some damaging effects. There are of course some instances where individuals might need to take these supplements, for example pregnant women or those trying to conceive might be advised to take folic acid supplements, which help to reduce the risk of spina bifida. For people that do not get as much sun as they should due to environmental factors might benefit from vitamin D supplements, and children from six months to four years old can find that vitamins A, C, and D are beneficial during growth.

There are two main types of vitamins, water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins. As you would expect fat-soluble vitamins are typically found in fatty foods that contain animal fats such as butter and lard, dairy foods, vegetable oils, liver and oily fish. Fat-soluble vitamins are used in the body every day, however this does not mean that they need to be included in a daily diet. Your body will not require thee vitamins immediately, instead they are stored in the liver and fatty tissues for future use. Fat-soluble vitamins can be stored up and left until they are required but having too much of them can also be harmful. Fat-soluble vitamins include vitamins A, D, E and K.

Unlike fat-soluble vitamins water soluble vitamins are not stored in the body and therefore have to be replenished more frequently. An excess of water-soluble vitamins in the body is easily resolved as they are passed when urinating. Because their vitamins can be stored they are typically not harmful, although large amounts can still come with implications. These vitamins are found in foods such as fruit, vegetables and grains. They can be destroyed through exposure to air or heat, and can even be lost in water when cooking. The most effective technique for maintaining these vitamins when cooking is to simply steam or grill the foods rather than boiling them. Water-soluble vitamins include vitamins B, C and folic acid.

Minerals are also essential in a balanced diet, they allow us to build strong bones and teeth, control body fluids inside and outside cells, and turn food into energy. Minerals can be fluid in foods such as meat, bread, cereals, fruit, (especially if it’s dried), vegetables, nuts and various dairy products. Vital minerals include calcium and iron.

To find out more about vitamins and minerals contact your pharmacy direct.