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Vitamins, Minerals, and Phytonutrients Variety on Your Plate

Vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients: your body needs them—perhaps more of them— for your good health. That’s positive nutrition! Just how much do you need for optimal health? What foods are your best sources? And how do these food substances keep you fit? Although headlines may seem confounding, there’s plenty that’s well known about the roles of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients (plant substances) in health.

Over the past century, research has unlocked puzzles related to widespread deficiencies. Today’s nutrition breakthroughs focus less on cures and more on the roles of nutrients, phytonutrients, and other food components in health promotion and in protection from cancer, heart disease, and osteoporosis, among other health concerns.

Vitamins: The Basics

Vitamins belong in two groups: water-soluble and fat-soluble. Their category describes how they are carried in food and transported in your body. As their name implies, water-soluble vitamins (Bcomplex vitamins and vitamin C) dissolve in water.

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On the Label

Without looking, do you know which vitamins and minerals appear on food labels? The four required on the Nutrition Facts need your special attention: vitamins A and C, calcium, and iron. Consume enough of these nutrients to reduce your risk for some common health problems. Other nutrients may appear on the label: some voluntarily, others required if these nutrients are added. Be aware: Daily Values (DVs) for nutrients, used with food labeling, may differ from today’s DRIs. DVs for nutrients are based on previous RDAs. See “% Daily Values: What Are They Based On?” in the Appendices

Major Minerals: Electrolytes

If you consume excess amounts: For people who are sensitive, along with sodium, there may be a link to high blood pressure, but more study is needed. The Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) is 3,400 milligrams daily for kids ages nine to thirteen; after that, the UL is 3,600 milligrams daily for teens and adults

How much you need: An Adequate Intake (AI) for fluoride has been set. AI levels for children are as follows: ages four to eight, 1 milligram of fluoride daily, and ages nine to thirteen, 2 milligrams of fluoride daily. For teens the AI is set at 3 milligrams of fluoride daily. For adults, the guideline is 4 milligrams of fluoride daily for males and 3 milligrams daily for females.

Calcium: A Closer Look

The human body contains more calcium than any other mineral. For an average 130-pound adult, about 1,200 grams—almost 3 pounds—of the body is calcium. Your body composition, of course, depends on the size of your body frame; the density of your bones; and, if you’re older, how much bone you’ve lost through aging.

Phytonutrients: What Role in Health?

As public interest in phytonutrients soars, science is exploring their benefits. In fact, consumer and media interest often is ahead of scientific evidence. Functional benefits are those that extend beyond basic nutritional effects.

Last word

Research has revealed a few things. Most fruits and vegetables contain phytonutrients. Different plantbased foods supply different kinds and amounts; some have a remarkable variety. An orange, for example, has more than 170 different phytonutrients! In any fruit or vegetable, these substances appear to work together with nutrients and fiber for your good health.

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