The human body needs proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins minerals, and water. For energy, the body uses carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. For growth and repair, it uses proteins, minerals, and water. And for the control of its functions, it uses proteins , vitamins, minerals, and water. But where do vitamins and minerals come from? The answer is from food and drinks we consume. Eating and drinking are therefore vital activities. But it is important to select right food and drink.
Where Do Vitamins and Minerals Come From: Meat
Meat is a vital part of our diet, as it is one of the best sources of protein. But most people eat more than they need and neglect other important protein foods such as fish, eggs, cheese, pulses, grain, and nuts. However, meat is also high in the B vitamins and iron. Try to choose meat which is relatively low in fat, as there is no evidence that too much animal (saturated) fat increases the level of cholesterol in the body, giving a predisposition to heart problems. Cook meat in its fat, then drain, skim off or remove excess fat before eating. Do not add fat when cooking unless necessary; then use a minimum of vegetable oil. Vary your choice of meat to include poultry and offal at least once a week.
Beef: This is an important source of protein, the B vitamins, iron, and phosphorus. Select lean cuts.
Lamb: Although as good a source of protein as beef, lamb is almost as high in fat as pork.
Pork: Although an excellent source of B vitamins and protein, pork is particularly high in fat.
Veal: This low in fat and a good source of protein.
Rabbit, venison, hare, grouse, pheasant, and partridge: All are high in protein and low in fat. Goose and duck are higher in fat.
Turkey and chicken: These are an excellent source of protein, low in fat if you remove pads of fat inside. They are also high in B vitamins, iron and phosphorus.
Offal: Very high in protein and low in fat, liver, and kidneys contain vitamin A, plenty of B vitamins, iron and other minerals. Liver is also a source of Vitamin C, Vitamin D and vitamin E. Tripe is lower in protein than many other cuts of meat, while oxtail is high in protein but also usually high in fat.
Pates, sausages, and salami: Generally higher in fat than protein.
Where Do Vitamins and Minerals Come From: Seafood
Fish is an excellent food which we should include in a meal at least twice a week. It is an important source of protein and contains a wide range of the minerals that we need. By varying your choice of fish you can add plenty of calcium and iron to your diet, as well as fluorine, magnesium, potassium, sodium, phosphorus, sulfur and iodine. Fish also supplies Vitamin A, the B vitamins; Vitamin D, Vitamin E and Vitamin K, and fish rose are a source of Vitamin C. It is best to grill, steam or boil fish. Cooking in lemon or vinegar releases valuable additional calcium from the bones of the fish.
Whitefish: cod, plaice, sole, and whiting. A good source of protein and low in fat, these are not so good for vitamins, iron, and calcium.
Oily fish: herring and mackerel. These have a high nutritional value and provide protein, Vitamin A, the B vitamins, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, vitamin K, and minerals; but they are high in fat content.
Salmon: This is high in protein and a good source of B vitamins.
Sardines: high in protein, but also very high in fat, sardines provide vitamins A, D, E and K.
Crustaceans: crabs, prawns, shrimps, and lobster: All are excellent sources of protein, vitamins, and minerals and are low in fat.
Shellfish: cockles, winkles, whelks, and mussels. All are high in protein, low in fat and valuable sources of minerals, especially iron and calcium.
Oysters: These provide protein and supply plenty of B vitamins.
Roes: cod’s roe and herring‘s roe. Roe is particularly high in cholesterol but provides protein and Vitamin C.
Where Do Vitamins and Minerals Come From: Grain, Nuts & Pulses
Grain, nuts, and pulses provide us with carbohydrates which give us energy, but an excess is stored in the body as fatty tissue. It is important, therefore, to limit your intake to what you need and to select those carbohydrate foods which also provide vitamins, minerals, proteins and vegetable fats, so that they can be a valuable addition to the diet.
Grain: Although some vitamins are usually added to refined products, it is fair to say that the whiter the bread, flour, or pasta the lower the nutritional value. Wholemeal versions of these foods are an acquired taste, but are generally more satisfying to the appetite and provide valuable roughage which helps the digestive system.
By eating wholemeal foods, brown rice, muesli or rolled oats instead of sweet, manufactured breakfast cereals, there should be no need for the fashionable addition of bran to our diet. Wholemeal products, wheat germ, and brewer’s yeast provide the whole range of B vitamins in quantity, which because they are water-soluble should replenish every day. They are also valuable sources of vitamins E and K and contain a wide range of minerals, as well as proteins, which in conjunction with other vegetable proteins from nuts and pulses provide the necessary range of amino acids for those who do not eat meat or dairy products.
Pulses: lentils, dried peas, soybeans, chickpeas and haricot beans. A good source of vegetable protein, these also provide iron and other minerals and the B vitamins.
Nuts: Brazil nuts, almonds, and peanuts. Valuable as a source of vegetable protein, these also supply B vitamins, iron, and other minerals and are high in vegetable fats. All nuts provide protein, but those mentioned are especially nutritious.
Where Do Vitamins and Minerals Come From: Fruit and Vegetables
Fruit and vegetables should represent the largest group of foods in our diet, providing all three of the carbohydrates which we use. The sugars in fruit are an immediate source of energy. The starch in root and tuber vegetables is converted by the body into glucose to provide more energy. Cellulose, which forms the structure, fiber, and husks of the plant, provides valuable fiber or roughage which helps the body to excrete waste material, preventing constipation and other disorders of the lower digestive system. Fruit and vegetables also contain many of the essential vitamins and minerals required for health.
The most important are the water-soluble B vitamins and vitamin C. These needs to be replenished on a daily basis since the body does not store them as it does the fat-soluble vitamins – A, D, E, and K – but excretes any excess in urine or perspiration. The water-soluble vitamins can be reduced or lost altogether by over- washing or too much soaking, by boiling for too long or in too much water, or by leaving to keep warm after cooking. When selecting fruit and vegetables vary your choice as much as possible, taking the seasons into account to ensure that the foods are at their best and freshest and have not been stored or forced.
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Eat fruit and vegetables raw and in their skins whenever practicable. If cooking, do so for the minimum amount of time and eat immediately. Particularly valuable are the green leafy vegetables – broccoli cabbage, sprouts, kale, lettuce, and parsley, tops of vegetables such as turnips, spinach, and watercress. Include plenty of these in your diet, varying your choice, and they will provide much of the body’s need for vitamin A, the B vitamins, Vitamin C, Vitamin E and Vitamin K, as well iron, iodine, and other valuable minerals. Radishes, parsnips, turnips, and onions all provide vitamin C, radishes being a particularly good source. Cauliflower, leeks, avocados, peas, mushrooms, potatoes, French beans and runner beans provide many of the B vitamins: peas also contain iron and vitamin A; cauliflower, leeks, and avocados have vitamin C; beans contain vitamin A; and potatoes supply vitamin C and vitamin K, as of potassium.
The colorful vegetables – carrots, tomatoes and red and green peppers – all provide vitamin A. Carrots also contain Vitamin E. Peppers and tomatoes have vitamin C. Among the fruits, all the currants – with blackcurrants highest on the list – provide vitamin C. Citrus fruits, such as grapefruit, oranges, lemons and tangerines, the berries, such as raspberries and strawberries, and pineapple, are good source of vitamin C. Apples are a moderate source of vitamin C, while bananas contain vitamin A, the B vitamins, vitamin C and several minerals. Peaches and apricots are also well stocked with vitamin C and minerals. Dried fruits retain their sugar but lose vitamin C.
Where Do Vitamins and Minerals Come From: Liquids
Water is vital to a healthy human body, second only in importance to the air we breathe. We can survive without food for many days, even weeks, but without water, we would soon become dehydrated and die. Under normal circumstances, we need to drink about 1 2/3 pt (liter) of water a day. But the amount is almost always more, since we also take in water with our food – fruit and vegetables, for example, are 90 percent water. Provided our kidneys are functioning properly, no matter how much fluid we drink the level of water in our bodies well stay constant, although some women find that they retain more liquid just before menstruation.
The healthiest way of taking in the fluid we need is by drinking plain water. All other drinks contain extra calories, usually in the form of sweet carbohydrate which is surplus to our needs. A few drinks may contain some minerals or vitamins, but these do not contribute to our dietary needs in any significant way. Alcohol is swiftly absorbed and converted into energy, but taken in excess; food intake is reduced causing vitamin deficiencies.
- Sherry is high in carbohydrate and of insignificant nutritional value.
- Fresh lemon or orange juice is high in water if desired but without sugar if possible.
- Colas and canned drinks are high in sweet carbohydrate, mostly colored and flavored with chemicals. They are of no nutritional value and are of no nutritional value and are harmful to teeth.
- Gin and vodka contain only a trace of carbohydrate and no additional nutrients. There are probably more calories in the mixers than the spirits.
- Wine contains small quantities of B vitamins and minerals; dry red wine provides iron. The sweeter the wine, the higher the carbohydrate content.
- More of food than a drink, milk contains animal fats, proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. It is a useful source of calcium for children and pregnant women. Skimmed milk contains the same nutrients but less fat.
- Lagers and barley-wine have some B vitamins, but a high carbohydrate value.
- Tea contains the drug bromine, is a diuretic and stimulant, can induce nervousness and insomnia if drunk in excess and is mildly addictive. Take with lemon if dieting.
- Brandy is highly alcoholic and a stimulant, with no nutritional value.
- Beer provides B vitamins but is high in carbohydrate.
- Vermouth is little value in vitamins or minerals. The sweeter it is, the higher the carbohydrate content.
- Port is high in carbohydrate but contains some iron.
- Chocolate milk drinks contain many calories. Can be used to persuade a child to drink milk.
- Bottled or canned fruit juices contain vitamin C and often sweeteners and chemical preservatives. Squashes usually contain chemical colorants and flavorings, and sometimes vitamins.
- Tap water, particularly in hard-water areas, contains trace minerals, especially calcium. Fluoride is sometimes added to help prevent tooth decay. Mineral waters are usually no more beneficial than tap water, as the minerals are generally provided in a balanced diet.
- Whisky is a dry spirit with no additional nutrients.
- Coffee contains caffeine, a mildly addictive stimulant drug, has the effect of reducing appetite and is a diuretic. If drunk strong and in quantity, coffee can cause insomnia, nervousness, and irritability.
- Stout contains some B vitamins but is high in carbohydrate.
Where Do Vitamins and Minerals Come From: Dairy Products
Fats provide the most concentrated source of energy in our diet, reducing the amount of carbohydrate we would otherwise need to consume. They also constitute a good source of the fat-soluble vitamins, A, D, E and K. Like carbohydrates, fats are hydrogen. In fats these form three fatty acids and glycerin. Animal (saturated) fats are usually solid at room temperature; vegetable (polyunsaturated) fats usually remain liquid. Animal fats contain cholesterol in varying quantities, and vegetable fats do not. Because of the cholesterol in animal fats, and the link between increased cholesterol levels and heart problems, it is wise to limit the number of animal fats we consume in dairy products and where possible to avoid using butter or dripping for cooking, replacing them with the polyunsaturated vegetable oils.
We can also reduce our intake of animal fats by choosing less creamy milk or by substituting cottage cheese for cream cheese. However, dairy products contain high levels of calcium, vital for growth, several other minerals, vitamin A, the B group of vitamins and vitamin D. Milk, yogurt, and cheese, particularly hard cheeses such as cheddar and Parmesan, are high in protein. Wholemeal pasta with Parmesan cheese or cauliflower cheese with a sauce made from grated cheddar and reconstituted dried milk would make a nutritious meal. Eggs, together with human milk, are top-value proteins.
Although eggs have significantly suffered from the cholesterol controversy, they are an excellent food taken in moderation, providing proteins, vitamins, and minerals in good quantities. A boiled egg and wholemeal toast make an excellent start to the day.