The 14 essential vitamins can be classified into two groups: fat-soluble and water-soluble. The fat-soluble vitamins include A, D, E and K, and have many functions, including promoting healthy eyes and bones. The water-soluble vitamins include all the B vitamins, choline and vitamin C. Most of these are involved in essential enzyme systems and energy metabolism. The word “vitamin” was invented by researchers studying beriberi, a disease caused by severe deficiency of vitamin B1 (thiamin). The researchers described a compound believed to act as a cure, as a “vital amine” after its chemical characteristics. Make sure you get vitamins from whole foods as taking vitamin supplement pills may pose health risks ranging from toxicity to nutrient displacement.
The Journal of Clinical Investigation found vitamin E pills actually increased LDL (bad) cholesterol in animal studies. A National Institutes of Health "state-of-the-science" panel found insufficient evidence on the benefits and safety of multivitamins/minerals to recommend their regular consumption.
A Vitamin (A, AC, AO)
A nutrient needed for healthy skin - it helps maintain the epithelial tissues that make up the skin’s surface, eyesight - inadequate intake can lead to poor vision in dim light and possibly age-related macular degeneration, and immune function - vital for development of immune cells. Top sources include sweet potatoes, butternut squash, carrots, pumpkin, cantaloupe, pink and red grapefruit, Apples, Asparagus, Cantaloupe, spinach, Broccoli, and …
B vitamin (B, B12, B6, BC, BF, BR)
B vitamins help convert food to energy and promote healthy skin, hair, muscles and brain function. Top sources include mushrooms, legumes, oats, Bananas, beans, and green leafy vegetables. However, vitamin B12 is only found in animal sources (e.g. clams, oysters, sardines, and salmon) or fortified products and is often lacking in a strict vegetarian diet. Vitamin B6 helps with protein metabolism, red blood cell formation, DNA repair, and nervous and immune system function. Vitamin B12 deficiency has been linked to heart disease and stroke
C Vitamin (C, Ca, Carb, Ct, Chol)
Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that promotes skin health by encouraging skin cell turnover and supporting collagen formation. Vitamin C also supports the immune system by enhancing white blood cell function and may also lower the severity and duration of colds by reducing free radicals and levels of histamine - a chemical responsible for congestion and stuffiness. Research shows vitamin C may promote bone health and enhance the body's absorption of iron as well. Also, Arizona State University researchers have reported that vitamin C may boost the body’s ability to metabolize fat. A recent report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) found that about 10% of American adults do not get enough of this nutrient. Top sources include red/yellow bell peppers, kiwi, oranges, broccoli, papaya, and strawberries, all of which provide well over 100% of the Daily Value of vitamin C per serving.
Vitamin D plays a critical role in maintaining healthy bones, eyes, teeth and skin. The nutrient is unique in that our skin can create it from exposure to the sun. Since we need vitamin D to utilize calcium, low levels of the nutrient may lead to increased fracture risk and dental decay. Among those 50 and older, those with lowest vitamin D levels were found to have at least 25% more tooth loss. Researchers around the world are finding that vitamin D deficiency may contribute to other ailments, including breast, colon, pancreatic and prostate cancer, multiple sclerosis, hypertension and diabetes. Top sources include oysters, button mushrooms, sardines, fortified non-fat milk, and sunshine. In a dazzling dietary breakthrough, Dole food researchers have figured out how to naturally boost vitamin D levels in mushrooms to over 100% of daily requirements, simply by exposing the mushrooms to more light. Vitamin D is found in Dates and Daikon.
Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant that may slow the effects of aging and help bolster the immune system. It shields immune cells from free radicals and may boost the production of bacteria-busting white blood cells. A recent report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) found that about 90% of American men and 97% of women do not get enough of this nutrient. But don't go reaching for the supplement shelf! The Lancet's large-scale review found that antioxidant pills, like vitamin E, increased overall mortality. Another report found vitamin E pills actually increased LDL "bad" cholesterol in animal studies. Top dietary sources include almonds, sunflower seeds, red bell peppers, butternut squash, and dark green leafy vegetables.
Fats are a necessary part of a healthy diet, but both the amount and type of fat makes a significant difference to heart health. High intake of saturated fats and trans fats increases blood cholesterol levels and the risk of coronary heart disease. Saturated fats derive mainly from animal sources, such as meat, cheese and other whole milk dairy products. Trans fats are primarily produced through hydrogenation -- a process that turns liquid vegetable oils into solids, such as the shortening and margarine often used in baked goods and snack foods. Fried food and fast food, in general, tend to be high in trans fats. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that total fat intake be kept between 20 to 35% of calories, with most fats coming from sources of "heart-healthy" polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids. These fats have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease when used in place of saturated and trans fats. Sources of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids include soybean oil, canola oil, walnuts, flaxseed, salmon, and trout. Sources that are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids include olives, olive oil, canola oil, avocado and nuts.
The two types of dietary fiber, water-soluble and insoluble, act differently in the body and both are beneficial. All fiber-containing foods contain a combination of both types of fiber. Water-soluble fiber - found in oats, beans, apples, carrots and oranges - helps lower cholesterol, while slowing both the rate at which food leaves the stomach as well as the rate at which sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream, keeping you full longer. Insoluble fiber acts to promote regularity. Best sources of insoluble fiber are whole grains like wheat bran and brown rice, and fruits and vegetables such as figs, raspberries, blackberries, broccoli, artichokes, and green peas. Prebiotic fiber, most commonly as polysaccharides - found in plants such as bananas, onions, leeks, garlic, chicory, and artichokes-selectively feed our intestinal defense team.
Folic acid (or folate) is a vitamin belonging to the B-complex family and is particularly important for pregnant women in protecting against birth defects, including neural tube defects such as spina bifida. Folate deficiency has also been linked to depression, osteoporosis, and increased colorectal cancer risk. Folate lowers levels of homocysteine, an amino acid linked to increased risk of fractures - as well as cardiovascular and Alzheimer's disease. However, excessive foliate supplementation may actually increase replication of colorectal precancerous cells in lab research. Top natural sources include beans, spinach, broccoli, romaine lettuce, chicory, oranges and papaya.
Glucosinolates are a group of sulfur-rich phytochemicals found in cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. Two of the most researched glucosinolate metabolites include indole-3-carbinol and sulforaphane. Preliminary studies indicate that indole-3-carbinol may be effective in models of estrogen-sensitive cancers, such as breast and ovarian cancer. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University speculated that sulforaphane may prompt the body's own natural enzyme systems and so may act against a variety of cancers, including breast and stomach cancers.
Iron supports the formation of hemoglobin, a blood protein that carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Fifteen percent of pre-menopausal women fall short on iron while pregnant women and toddlers are also at high risk of a deficiency, which may manifest in a lack of energy, difficulty in maintaining body temperature, and impaired immune response. Among pregnant women, iron deficiency may result in premature deliveries and low birth weights. A study from the University of Rochester demonstrated significantly higher prevalence of iron deficiency in obese children, demonstrating the link between nutrition deficiencies and obesity. Although many different foods contain iron, animal derived sources are more easily absorbed than plant sources. Because of the low-absorption rate of plant-derived iron, vegetarians have higher iron Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs). Vitamin C-rich foods enhance iron absorption when eaten with iron-rich plants. Tannins, found in coffee and tea, interfere with iron absorption. Some of the best animal sources for dietary iron include: cooked clams, lean beef, and dark meat turkey. The best plant-derived sources include: cooked spinach, green peas, dried figs and apricots, and beans (kidney, garbanzo and soy).
Vitamin K is one of the four fat-soluble vitamins (A, D and E are the others). The "K" is derived from the German word "koagulation", which means "blood clotting." Vitamin K plays a major biological role because it enables the liver to manufacture prothrombin and other proteins that bind calcium and are necessary for blood clotting and bone crystal formation. Vitamin K has been linked to bone health and a reduced risk of bone fractures. The Framingham Heart Study found male and female seniors with a dietary intake of 250 micrograms of vitamin K per day had a 65% lower risk of hip fractures than those with an intake of 50mcg/day (adequate intake is 120mcg for men, 90mcg for women. Other research suggests vitamin K may play a role in inhibiting the growth of tumors. Some of the best sources of vitamin K include kale, collard greens, spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and chicory. The bacteria that line the gastrointestinal tract also make some vitamin K.
Lutein is an antioxidant carotenoid that may reduce the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration - a leading cause of blindness among the elderly. Lutien may filter direct sunlight waves that may cause free radical damage to the eyes. Top sources of lutein include spinach, kale, chicory, collard greens, green peas, and lettuce. Keep in mind that cooking these foods releases lutein from the cell walls, making it more available to the body, while adding a bit of healthy fat (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) may help enhance absorption.
Magnesium is a mineral that plays a role in the contraction and relaxation of muscles (e.g. helps regulate heart rhythm), the synthesis of protein and DNA, and the production and transport of energy from carbohydrates, fat and proteins. In addition, magnesium promotes strong bones and brain health. Researchers have also found that adequate magnesium levels may help prevent several chronic diseases, including heart disease, stroke, and osteoporosis. Unfortunately, about 2/3 of Americans do not get enough magnesium sources, which include spinach, green peas, soybeans, and almonds.
Manganese is a trace mineral involved in the formation and maintenance of bone and connective tissue. Studies show that women with osteoporosis have decreased manganese levels. Manganese also plays a role in wound healing, so adequate dietary manganese is important when recovering from injury. One Polish study found that some cancer fighting drugs, known to impair collagen synthesis and so lengthen wound healing, work by immobilizing manganese so it can’t activate the collagen building enzyme. Manganese is involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates, amino acids and cholesterol, and is crucial in protecting mitochondria - the power plants of the cells - from free-radical damage. Since mitochondria process 90% of the oxygen that enters the body, they need the best defense against “oxidative damage.” Manganese supplies this as “manganese superoxide dismutase” -- the fastest reacting antioxidant enzyme. Some of the best sources of manganese include pineapple, spinach, sweet potatoes, nuts, oats and berries.
Like vitamins, minerals are involved a variety of functions in the body. Unlike vitamins, some minerals also play a structural role, such as calcium, phosphorous and magnesium, which are the main components of bones and teeth. Electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, calcium, phosphorus and magnesium - maintain the fluids balance inside and outside of cells. Your body also needs trace minerals, but in smaller amounts, including iron, chromium, copper, fluoride, iodine, manganese, molybdenum, selenium and zinc.
Monounsaturated fats promote heart health by lowering blood cholesterol levels when used in place of saturated fats. Liquid at room temperature, monounsaturated fats are derived mainly from plant sources, such as olive oil, canola oil, nuts, and avocados. Keep in mind that they're still fats, and thus calorie-dense, so make sure the "m" in mono- also stands for "moderation.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are an essential fat (essential to human health but cannot be made in the body) that promotes heart and brain health; may reduce the risk of arthritis, and even possibly fight wrinkles and depression. There are two types of omega-3 fatty acids: DHA and ALA. Georgia University research suggests DHA (docosahexanoic acid) may intervene with fat formation. Top sources include salmon, mackerel, sardines and anchovies. USDA data shows that farmed Atlantic salmon actually has slightly higher combined amounts of omega-3 fatty acids than wild salmon. Testing shows the levels of PCBs in farmed salmon continue to drop and are now comparable to those found in wild salmon.Omega-3 fats, such as alphalinolenic acid, also come from plants foods, like walnuts and seeds, but these sources are not significantly converted to DHA and EPA in the body.
For more than a decade, annual sales and production of organic foods have grown by double-digits. Organic products now account for approximately 2.6% of total food sales in the U.S. In order for agricultural products in the U.S. to claim they are "organic", they must adhere to the requirements of the Organic Food Production Act of 1990 and the regulations promulgated by the USDA through the National Organic Program (NOP) under this act. These laws require operations that produce or handle organic products or ingredients to obtain certification through a USDA-accredited certifying agent. In order to comply with these regulations, organic production cannot use biotechnology (use of genetically modified organisms - GMOs), biosolids, or irradiation. In addition, the USDA has even prohibited the use of these technologies in connection with non-organic ingredients in organically produced products. An organically produced food can only use the claim "100% organic" if it is made with 100% organic ingredients, but a product can use the term "organic" if it is made with more than 95% organic ingredients. In addition, the term "made with organic" can be used if the product is made with 70-95% organic ingredients. With the launch of doleorganic.com, consumers can use the three-digit code on labels for Dole organic bananas to virtually visit the farm where the fruit was grown: view the fields via Google Earth; read e-mails from farm workers; learn about the growing regions and their local communities.
Phenolics, or polyphenols, comprise a large category of phytochemicals that include flavonoids (the largest group), phenolic acids, and coumarins. The phenolics family is so large that it is difficult to generalize their possible health effects. However, it is safe to say that dietary phenolics are possibly bioactive and may inhibit free radicals, which can damage cells and are linked to the development of chronic diseases and the aging process. Most brightly colored fruits and vegetables supply phenolics. Phytochemicals
Phytochemicals are natural compounds found in fruit, vegetables and other plants. In fact, the term "phyto" derives from the Greek word for "plant." There are well over ten thousand known phytochemicals and possibly many more waiting to be discovered. Known phytochemicals have a broad range of possible effects -- from reducing inflammation, to affecting healing, infection and possibly curbing cancer mechanisms. Phytochemicals are not essential to humans -- i.e. not required by the body to sustain life -- but they are essential to plants, such as fruit and vegetables. Phytochemicals are plants' self-protection mechanism; they help shield young buds and sprouts from predators, pollution and the elements. When we eat fruit and vegetables containing phytochemicals, they might pass along to us many of these evolved protective benefits. About 80% of phytochemicals have antioxidant properties in the las such as lycopene, quercetin and beta-carotene. Phytochemicals also include plant enzymes such as pineapple's bromelain and plant sterols such as ß - sitosterol in avocado. The phytochemical C3G, found in Spanish olives, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, red grapes, blood oranges, purple corn and açaí berries may increase production of both adiponectin, a protein that enhances fat metabolism, and leptin, a hormone that suppresses appetite, according to animal trials at Doshisha University.
Polyunsaturated fats include both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids and may play a role in brain function as well as normal growth and development. These fats are known as "essential fats" because they are vital to human health but cannot be made in the body. Polyunsaturated fats help the body absorb fat-soluble nutrients such as vitamins A, D, E and K. Top sources include salmon, mackerel, walnuts, and flaxseeds. Don't forget: Though polyunsaturated, they're still fats, and thus calorie-dense, so make sure to eat these foods in moderation
Potassium is both a mineral and an electrolyte, an ion permitting electrical conduction. Potassium plays a key role in vascular dysregulation of a stroke. Potassium also supports normal muscle contraction, nerve impulses, the functioning of the heart and kidneys, and maintenance of the body's proper fluid balance. University of California San Francisco researchers found that potassium may prevent osteoporosis in post-menopausal women. Unfortunately, 99% of American women and 90% of men don't get enough potassium in their diet. Top sources include white beans, potatoes, bananas, plantains, broccoli, and kiwi.
Quercetin is a polyphenol found in onions, apples, red grapes, blueberries, cranberries and bilberries. Lab research from Cornell University suggests that quercetin may protect brain cells against the kind of oxidative stress associated with Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative disorders. Preliminary studies have also shown quercetin has anti-inflammatory properties and may reduce the risk of heart disease as well as lung and prostate cancers. One Finnish study found that men who ate the most foods high in quercetin had 60% less lung cancer, 25% less asthma, and 20% fewer diabetes and heart disease deaths. Other pilot research suggests quercetin can protect the immune system during times of extreme physical stress (like post-marathon).
Resveratrol is a phytochemical found in red/purple grapes, blueberries, cranberries and peanuts. Resveratrol has strong anti-inflammatory effects associated with red wine’s potential health benefits. Researchers from Ohio State University found that resveratrol may have another mechanism to protect the heart, by limiting the effects of a condition called cardiac fibrosis in which the heart loses its ability to efficiently pump blood. In vitro and animal studies also suggest that a high resveratrol intake may inhibit of cancer mechanisms
Selenium is a trace element that helps activate the body’s own antioxidant enzymes. The average American gets nearly twice the daily requirement of selenium. Intakes marginally above the upper limit (400mcg/day) can cause “selenosis,” characterized by hair and nail brittleness and loss. Selenium is also needed for the proper functioning of the thyroid gland and may play a role in fertility, especially in men. Preliminary research also suggests that selenium may reduce the risk of lung, liver and prostate cancers, and osteoporosis. Inadequate selenium has also been associated with impaired immune function. Top sources of selenium include Brazil nuts, fish, whole grains, wheat germ, and sunflower seeds. The amount of selenium in vegetables is dependent on the selenium content of the soil.
Zeaxanthin is one of two yellow carotenoids (the other is lutein) found in the eye's retina that are believed to filter out harmful blue light and protect against age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in people over 65. According to USDA researchers, zeaxanthin intake may also reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, especially of the lung and breast. Top sources include green leafy vegetables, orange peppers, and corn.