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Functions and Sources of Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins and minerals are chemical compounds needed for proper functioning of the human body 1. There are two types of vitamins: fat-soluble and water-soluble. Fat-soluble vitamins -- A, D, E and K -- dissolve in fat and can be stored in the body. Water-soluble vitamins -- B-complex and C -- dissolve in water. Minerals are inorganic elements. Vitamins and minerals have specific functions and are derived from a variety of food sources 1.

Vitamin A

Vitamin D

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Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin because it is produced by the body after exposure to sunshine. Vitamin D is found in dairy products, fish, sunflower seeds and egg yolks; however, very little vitamin D is needed from dietary sources if sufficient vitamin D is absorbed from sunlight. Vitamin D not only strengthens bones, but also is necessary for the absorption and maintenance of calcium and magnesium in the body.

Vitamin E

A natural antioxidant, vitamin E protects body tissues from oxidative damage. It is also important in the health of red blood cells and the use of vitamin K. It aids in healing, prevention of scarring, and it soothes broken or stressed skin tissue. Green leafy vegetables, wheat germ, whole grains, nuts and vegetable oils are good sources of vitamin E.

Vitamin K

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The primary function of vitamin K is its crucial role in the blood clotting process. Vitamin K aids blood clot formation, stopping bleeding when necessary.

B Complex Vitamins

Nearly all foods contain B vitamins, especially animal products.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C plays a significant role as an antioxidant, protecting the body from tissue damage by oxidation. Free radicals, which are byproducts of normal metabolism and environmental factors, cause cellular damage, leading to disease and illness. Antioxidants stabilize free radicals, preventing damage to the body.

Calcium

Iron

Iron is an essential component of hemoglobin, a protein responsible for helping red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body. Iron-rich foods include:

  • red meat
  • pork
  • fish
  • beans
  • lentils
  • shellfish
  • soy products
  • green leafy vegetables

Magnesium

It is also essential for energy production, bone structure, B vitamin activation and calcium balance. Whole wheat, nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables and fruit are excellent sources of magnesium.

Potassium

Potassium-rich foods include:

  • mango
  • banana
  • kale
  • grapes
  • spinach
  • sweet potato
  • broccoli
  • dried fruits
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