Would you ever think of running your car without gas in the tank, oil in the engine, or air in the tires? It’s doubtful you would get far lacking one or the other and, worse yet, you could do serious and expensive damage to your means of transportation. In actuality, your body operates in much the same way as your car or any machine. It requires fuel for energy and must be maintained and rebuilt periodically to keep running as efficiently as possible. While whole foods and a balanced diet provides the fuel our body’s engine needs to function, not every individual eats properly. As a result, the body misses out on the vitamins and minerals it requires and begins operating at less than peak performance.
According to the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, vitamins (nutrients required for a variety of biological processes) and minerals (the components of teeth and bones, and the building blocks for cells and enzymes) are together referred to as micronutrients. The human body isn’t capable of making most micronutrients so they must be obtained from the foods we eat or from dietary supplements. The Mayo Foundation adds that whole foods are the best source of vitamins and minerals because they are complex and contain a variety of the micronutrients required by the body.
To better understand the importance of vitamins to your health, it helps to understand what vitamins do for your body. The National Institutes of Health describes the role and function of the major vitamins as follows:
Vitamin A is a group of compounds that helps regulate the immune system and also plays an important role in bone growth, cell division and differentiation, reproduction, and vision.
Vitamin B6 performs a wide variety of functions in the body including protein metabolism, red blood cell metabolism, proper function of the nervous and immune systems, and maintenance of blood glucose levels.
Vitamin B12 is important for metabolism, helps in the formation of red blood cells, and in the maintenance of the central nervous system.
Folic acid or folate helps produce and maintain new cells and is vital during periods where rapid cell division occurs such as pregnancy and infancy. Folate is also a necessary element in making DNA and RNA, which are the basic building blocks of our cells.
Vitamin C is necessary for the growth and repair of tissues in all parts of the body. It helps form collagen, a protein necessary to make skin, scar tissue tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels. It is a necessary element for healing wounds and repairing and maintaining cartilage, teeth, and bones. Vitamin C is also an antioxidant necessary in protecting cells against damage by free radicalsby-products of the body’s energy production process.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that is believed to have a role in the immune system, the repair of DNA, and other metabolic processes.
Vitamin K is referred to as the clotting vitamin. Without it, blood would not clot. Studies have also indicated that Vitamin K helps maintain strong bones in the elderly.
When it comes to taking vitamin supplements, the Mayo Foundation suggests the following guidelines:
So here’s to your good healthfollow a balanced diet and, as a backup measure, take that daily multivitamin. Your body will thank you for it.
As with any issue regarding your health, consult your physician before taking any dietary supplements to ensure they are safe for you and will not interact with any prescribed medications.
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