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The art and science of good health is more than a philosophy in a dream but a reality to be conceptualized. Both vitamins and minerals are needed by the body in very small amounts to trigger the thousands of chemical reactions necessary to maintain good health. Many of these chemical reactions are linked, with one triggering another. If there is a missing or deficient vitamin or mineralor linkanywhere in this chain, this process may break down, with potentially devastating health effects. Although similar in supporting critical functions in the human body, vitamins and minerals have key differences.

Among their many functions, vitamins enhance the body's use of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. They are critical in the formation of blood cells, hormones, nervous system chemicals known as neurotransmitters, and the genetic material deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). Vitamins are classified into two groups: fat soluble and water soluble. Fat-soluble vitamins, which include vitamins A, D, E, and K, are usually absorbed with the help of foods that contain fat. Fat containing these vitamins is broken down by bile, a liquid released by the liver, and the body then absorbs the breakdown products and vitamins. Excess amounts of fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the body's fat, liver, and kidneys. Because these vitamins can be stored in the body, they do not need to be consumed every day to meet the body's needs.

Water-soluble vitamins, which include vitamins C (also known as ascorbic acid), B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B6, B12, and folic acid, cannot be stored and rapidly leave the body in urine if taken in greater quantities than the body can use. Foods that contain water-soluble vitamins need to be eaten daily to replenish the body's needs.

In addition to the roles noted in the vitamin and mineral chart accompanying this article, vitamins A (in the form of beta-carotene), C, and E function as antioxidants, which are vital in countering the potential harm of chemicals known as free radicals. If these chemicals remain unchecked they can make cells more vulnerable to cancer-causing substances. Free radicals can also transform chemicals in the body into cancer-causing agents. Environmental pollutants, such as cigarette smoke, are sources of free radicals.

Minerals are minute amounts of metallic elements that are vital for the healthy growth of teeth and bones. They also help in such cellular activity as enzyme action, muscle contraction, nerve reaction, and blood clotting. Mineral nutrients are classified as major elements (calcium, chlorine, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and sulfur) and trace elements (chromium, copper, fluoride, iodine, iron, selenium, and zinc).

Vitamins and minerals not only help the body perform its various functions, but also prevent the onset of many disorders. For example, vitamin C is important in maintaining our bones and teeth; scurvy, a disorder that attacks the gums, skin, and muscles, occurs in its absence. Diets lacking vitamin B1, which supports neuromuscular function, can result in beriberi, a disease characterized by mental confusion, muscle weakness, and inflammation of the heart. Adequate intake of folic acid by pregnant women is critical to avoid nervous system defects in the developing fetus. The mineral calcium plays a critical role in building and maintaining strong bones; without it, children develop weak bones and adults experience the progressive loss of bone mass known as osteoporosis, which increases their risk of bone fractures.

Vitamins and minerals are found in a wide variety of foods, but some foods are better sources of specific vitamins and minerals than others. For example, oranges contain large amounts of vitamin C and folic acid but very little of the other vitamins. Milk contains large amounts of calcium but no vitamin C. Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamin A, but white potatoes contain almost none of this vitamin. Because of these differences in vitamin and mineral content, it is wise to eat a wide variety of foods.

It is really interesting that each and every time you have taken a giant step to discover the remedies of good health through informative articles like this one; however, the content becomes really meaningless without a pragmatic community that wants to reap the best out of their health. Good health is costly when you leave it to worst and many of our health institution are not equipped with the best health technology or human resource hence the need to avoid diseases before they strike. The vitamins and minerals discussed herein should now become part of your diet to maintain good health.

Motivational speaker, health commentator &
Health practitioner
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Mobile; 0966565670/0979362525

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article." © JONES H. MUNANG’ANDU

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