Vitamins and Supplements You Need to Talk to Help with Heart Disease
Generally speaking, those who consistently eat a varied, healthy diet should be able to obtain all the vitamins and minerals they require. However, for some groups in the population supplements may prove beneficial.
In the US the requirements for vitamins and minerals are expressed as Dietary Reference Intakes, or DRIs. These guideline amounts are designed to enhance health and lower the risk for chronic conditions, such as heart disease and cancer.
The fact is that few people in westernized society are deficient in nutrients, however many die from major diseases that could have been prevented with better diets.
There are 13 vitamins, and 16 minerals. While it is true that most nutrients are only needed in tiny amounts, not having them in your diet virtually guarantees disease. Think of vitamin C deficiency leading to scurvy, vitamin A deficiency leading to blindness, and vitamin D deficiency leading to rickets.
Vitamins or minerals – what’s the difference?
ü Vitamins can be broken down by heat, air, or acid.
ü Minerals are chemical elements that do not change.
Lets take a closer look at our 13 vitamins:
Vitamin A (retinol, carotene)
- Growth and repair
- Good night vision
- Immune function
Dairy products, eggs, fatty fish, dark green and yellow-orange vegetables and fruits
Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)
- Supplying energy to tissues
- Nervous system
- Carbohydrate metabolism
Fortified breakfast cereals, wholegrains, wheat germ, legumes, pork
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
- Carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism
- Involved in making Vitamin B6 active in the body
- Production of red blood cells
Dairy products, meat, fish, poultry, fortified breads, fortified breakfast cereals, green leafy vegetables, eggs
Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
- Carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolism
- Maintaining healthy skin and nerves
- Blood circulation
Meat, fish, legumes, wholegrain cereals, eggs, nuts
- Vitamin utilization
- Making new fats and proteins in the body
- Nerve function
Lean meat, wholegrains, legumes, oat-based cereals, tomatoes, eggs
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
- Formation of antibodies and red blood cells
- Cognitive ability
- Carbohydrate and protein metabolism
Fish, poultry, lean meat, fortified breakfast cereals, legumes, wholegrains, potatoes, tofu and other soy products
Vitamin B12 (Cyano-cobalamin)
- Formation of new cells
- Normal nerve function
- Red blood cell formation
Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products, fortified cereals, fortified soy milk
Folic Acid (folate)
- Preventing brain and spinal birth defects
- Protein metabolism
- Maintaining good heart health
Green leafy vegetables, fortified cereals, orange juice, tomato juice, nuts, legumes
- Carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism
- Fatty acid production
- Ridding the body of wastes from breakdown of proteins
Meat, dairy products, wholegrains, egg yolk, dark green vegetables.
Note: eating raw egg whites prevents absorption of biotin.
Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid)
- Protects against oxidative damage
- Wound healing
- Infection resistance
- Aids absorption of iron and copper
- Helps stabilise vitamins, such as vitamin E or folate
Citrus fruits, tomatoes, berries, peppers, sweet peppers, broccoli, sprouts
Vitamin D (calciferol)
- Maintenance of calcium and phosphorus – bone strengthening
- Helps form teeth and bones
Vitamin D is synthesised under skin in response to sunlight. Small amounts found in oily fish (salmon, mackerel), fortified margarine, fortified cereals, eggs
Vitamin E (Tocopherol)
- Acts as antioxidant
- Possible role in immune function
- Maintains heart, circulation, skin and nervous system in good condition
Vegetable oil, margarine, wheat germ, wholegrains, nuts, dark green vegetables, beans
Vitamin K (phylloquinone)
- Normal blood clotting
- Bone formation
Green leafy vegetables, soybean oil, canola oil, margarines
As already noted, for most of the population it is much better to get your vitamins and minerals from the foods you eat, rather than rely on supplements. This is because food contains other beneficial components, besides the necessary nutrients.
If you do decide to take a supplement, please avoid mega dose vitamin and mineral supplements - check the label carefully prior to purchase, and opt for those stating 100% of the DRIs.
Next week we’ll take a look at the 16 minerals, including some of their properties and sources.
Melanie Thomassian is a professional dietitian and author of the award winning Dietriffic.com.