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Eat Your Vitamins

I debated on how best to present this information to you, my reader.  Why the difficulty?  Well, you see, I’m not a big believer in popping my morning vitamins.  Not that it isn’t very important to get the proper vitamins.  It absolutely is. However, I believe that it is exceptionally important to get them from the most effective source possible and I am convinced that the best source of vital vitamins and nutrients is food. Of course, vitamin makers and pharmaceutical companies would disagree, but most everyone else is becoming aware of the dangers associated with trying to get all your daily vitamins from a pill.  I could point you to several studies done on this very subject, but that isn’t what I want this post to focus on.  A quick Google search will turn up enough results for you to do your own investigation. Regardless of what the commercials tell you, it is actually quite easy to gain all the vitamins necessary from simply eating a balanced, colorful diet.  Yes, colorful.  Red, green, purple, blue, yellow…the more colorful the better! So, we’ll start at ‘A’ and work our way through to ‘Z’.  I’ll cover the benefits of the vitamin, as well as a few delicious natural sources of it.  This is by no means a complete list and you may find that it grows with time.  It is likely going to be a 3-5  post series, as well, as there are a lot of vitamins to cover!

Vitamin A Also known as retinol.  You’ve probably heard that it’s good for your eyes, but why, and what else is it good for? Specifically, it promotes healthy eyes and is necessary for helping your eyes to adjust to light changes.  There is much more to Vitamin A than eye health, though.  It is also necessary for healthy skin and teeth, skeletal and soft tissue,  and the mucous membranes. Vitamin A is also known as a carotenoid.  A cartenoid is a dark colored dye that is found in plants and is capable of turning into a form of Vitamin A.  A little confusing?  Yeah, I know.  Basically, if a food contains carotenoids it will convert to Vitamin A when consumed.  One of the more common forms of a carotenoid is beta-carotene, which is a wonderful antioxidant. Antioxidants help protect our bodies from damaged caused by free-radicals.  Diseases such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease and macular degeneration can all be helped by antioxidants. Antioxidants also enhance the immune system.  A lack of Vitamin A can cause poor vision, leave you prone to infections and diarrhea and some other nasty symptoms.  Too much Vitamin A can cause nausea, irritability, blurred vision, growth retardation, hair loss, an enlarged spleen and liver, birth defects and may be linked to increased risk of bone fractures.  Oh, yeah…and it can turn your skin orange. Pretty, no? If you are relying on a pill for your vitamin A, be wary.  The source is not natural and it is absorbed by your system differently than when you are getting it from food.  To avoid overdosing on vitamin A while still getting the needed daily dose, try munching on some of these foods: eggs        meat         milk        cheese       cream       beef liver          kidney        cod       halibut fish oil Natural sources of beta-carotene include: carrots       pumpkin        sweet potatoes        winter squashes          cantaloupe pink grapefruit         apricots        broccoli        spinach       dark green, leafy vegetables

Vitamin B The ‘B’ vitamins are actually six individual vitamins that are often lumped together and called ‘B complex’.   As a whole, the B vitamins are necessary for breaking down carbohydrates into glucose, thus providing energy for the body,  breaking down  fats and proteins which aids the functioning of the nervous system, providing muscle tone in the stomach and intestinal tract and for maintaining the health of the skin, hair, mouth, eyes and liver.  It is rare to find Vitamin B deficiency in the US, but is common in many countries where good nutrition is an issue.  B Vitamin supplements are not needed in most people, providing you have a well-rounded diet. As you will see, it is readily available in  many common foods.

Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) B1 converts food into energy and is essential for maintaining the health of the nervous system, muscular system and cardiovascular system.    Thiamine deficiency is most often seen in alcoholics.  It can cause many problems including anemia, paralysis, muscle spasms, short-term memory problems, sensitivity of the teeth, cheeks and gums, as well as cracked lips.  No health issues are associated with too much B1 because the body simply eliminates the excess.  The best sources of Vitamin B1 are: whole-grain cereals           bread          red meat           egg yolks           green leafy vegetables           legumes       sweet corn          brown rice            berries           yeast                                  the germ and husks of grains and nuts

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) Riboflavin works in conjunction with other B vitamins to process calories from carbohydrates, protein and fat.  It is necessary for growth and red cell production, as well as healthy skin and good vision.  While B2 deficiency is rare, it can cause skin disorders, inflammation of the soft tissue lining around the mouth and nose, anemia and  light-sensitivity.  It can cause painful cracks to develop at the corners of your lips, and inflammation of the tongue.  As with B1, excess Riboflavin is eliminated from the body, so overdosing on B2 is unlikely.   Good sources of B2 include: whole-grain products            milk           meat              eggs             cheese             peas

Vitamin B3 (Niacin) Niacin is essential for converting calories from protein, fat and carbohydrates into energy, aiding the  function of the digestive system, maintaining a normal appetite and for healthy skin and nerves and reducing LDL cholesterol.  Niacin deficiency can cause pellagra, a disease that, in times past,  was often associated with the very poor and was a major cause of mental illness. The symptoms of pellagra are red and painful tongue, diarrhea, dermatitis and dementia, and, ultimately, death.  This is one of the few B vitamins that can cause negative side effects when too much is taken.  High doses of niacin can include flushed skin, itching, headaches, cramps, nausea and skin eruptions. Good sources of Niacin include: meats    fish     brewer’s yeast     milk       eggs       legumes       potatoes           peanuts

Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid) Don’t recognize this one?   Maybe you will recognize it by one of it’s more common associations ~panthenol D.  Remember the girl who swings her long, shiny  hair around in front of the camera while that narrator announces, “made with Panthenol D!”?  B5 is where Panthenol D comes from. It is thought to make hair more manageable, softer, and shinier by filling in cracks in the hair shaft.  While I wouldn’t recommend their product, I would recommend vitamin B5. Yes, this vitamin, like the others in the B complex, is needed to break down carbohydrates, proteins and fats for energy.  There is so much more to this vitamin, though! Vitamin B5 is highly valuable in the secretion of hormones, such as cortisone, because of its role in supporting the adrenal gland. used in the release of energy as well as the metabolism of fat, protein and carbohydrates. It is used in the creation of lipids, neurotransmitters, steroid hormones and hemoglobin.  These hormones assist the metabolism,  fight allergies and help maintain healthy skin, muscles and nerves. We aren’t done yet, though.  Vitamin B5 is critical to the manufacture of red blood cells,  sex and stress-related hormones produced in the adrenal glands, maintaining a healthy digestive tract and it helping the body use other vitamins (particularly B2 [riboflavin]) more effectively. It is also thought to  enhance the activity of the immune system and improve the body’s ability to withstand stressful conditions. Acne sufferers may find Vitamin B5 beneficial also.  It helps the skin more readily absorb other nutrients and promotes healing. B5 deficiency can cause fatigue, insomnia, depression, irritability, vomiting, stomach pains, burning feet, and upper respiratory infections. Good sources of B5 include: brewer’s yeast          corn         cauliflower         kale        broccoli          tomatoes     avocado         legumes        lentils          egg yolks turkey duck milk beef~ especially organ meats such as liver and kidney         chicken    split peas  peanuts         soybeans      sweet potatoes        sunflower seeds salmon whole-grain breads and cereals                  lobster             wheat germ *Note: Pantothenic acid can be lost in cooking, when exposed to acids like vinegar, or alkali such as baking soda and,  to a large degree, in canning.

Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) B6 is essential for red blood cell production  and is needed for more than 100 enzymes involved in protein metabolism.  It assists the immune system and promotes the growth of new cells.  It has been linked to cancer immunity and fights the formation of homocysteine, a chemical detrimental to the heart muscle.  It helps maintain the health of lymphoid organs (thymus, spleen, and lymph nodes) that make your white blood cells, also.  B6 is a valuable ingredient for controlling your mood and  behavior and studies suggest that it may benefit  children with learning difficulties. It is known to help balance  hormonal changes in women  and helps with pre-menstrual fluid retention, severe period pains, emotional PMS symptoms, premenstrual acne and nausea in early pregnancy.  It is also valuable in the prevention of dandruff, eczema and psoriasis. Deficiency of B5 can produce  mood swings, depression, loss of sexual drive, dermatitis, glossitis (a sore tongue), depression, confusion, and convulsions Good sources of B6 include: brewer’s yeast       eggs     poultry      pork    carrots        fish         liver          kidneys    peas       wheat germ       walnuts      soybeans       oats       whole grains           banana

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