Think You Know About Vitamins? Let's Get To Know It!

What Vitamins Are

When mentioning the word vitamin, most people think pill. Thinking pill brings to mind confusing images of medicine and drugs. Though vitamins can and certainly often do the work of both medicine and drugs, they are neither.

Quite simply, vitamins are organic substances necessary for life. Vitamins are essential to the normal functioning of our bodies and, save for a few exceptions, cannot be manufactured or synthesized internally. Necessary for our growth, vitality, and general well-being, they are found in minute quantities in all natural food. We must obtain vitamins from these foods or from dietary supplements.

What you have to keep in mind is that supplements, which are available in tablet, capsule, liquid, powder, spray, patch, synthetic, are also derived from living plants and animals.

It is impossible to sustain life without all the essential vitamins.

What Vitamins Are Not

A lot of people think vitamins can replace food. They cannot. In fact, vitamins cannot be assimilated without ingesting food. There are a lot of erroneous beliefs about vitamins.

  • Vitamins are not pep pills and have no caloric or energy value of their own.
  • Vitamins are not substitutes for protein or for any other nutrients, such as minerals, fats, carbohydrates, water - or even for one another!
  • Vitamins themselves are not components of our body structures.
  • You cannot take vitamins, stop eating, and expect to be healthy.

How They Work

If you think the body as an automobile's combustion engine and vitamins are as spark plugs, you have a fairly good idea of how these amazing substances work for us.

Vitamins are components of our enzyme systems that, acting like spark plugs, energize and regulate our metabolism, keeping us tuned up and functioning at high performance.

Compared with our intake of other nutrients like proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, our vitamin intake (even on some megadose regimens) is minuscule. But a deficiency in even one vitamin can endanger the whole human body.

Should You Take Supplements?

Since vitamins occur in all organic material, some containing more of one vitamin than another and in greater or lesser amounts, you could say that if you ate the "right" foods in a well-balanced diet, you would get all the vitamins you need. And you would probably be right.

The problem is, very few of us are able to arrange this mythical diet. According to Dr. Daniel T. Quigley, author of The National Malnutrition

"Everyone who has in the past eaten processed sugar, white flour, or canned food has some deficiency disease, the extent of the disease depending on the percentage of such deficient food in the diet."

Additionally, the October 2002 Journal of the American Medical Association reported a research study stating categorically that 

"every adult should take a multiple vitamin since it is impossible to obtain all the nutrients needed in our daily food intake today."

Because most restaurants tent to reheat food or keep it warm under heat lamps, if you frequently eat out or take out, you run the risk of vitamin A, B1, and C deficiencies. Also, since so many of our foods are processed or genetically modified (75% of the food in grocery stores has been genetically modified), lack of calcium, folic acid, and magnesium is epidemic. (And if you're a woman between the ages of 13 and 40, this sort of work-saving dining is likely to cost you invaluable bone-building calcium and iron).

Processed foods have been depleted in nutrients. Take breads and cereals, for example. Practically all of them you find in today's supermarkets are high in nothing but carbohydrates. "But they are enriched!" you say. It's written right on the label: enriched.

Enriched? Enrichment means replacing nutrients in foods that once contained them but because of heat, storage, and so forth no longer do. Foods, therefore, are "enriched" to the levels found in the natural product before processing. Unfortunately, standards of enrichment leave much to be desired nutritionally. For example, the standard of enrichment for white flour is to replace the 22 natural nutrients that are removed with 3 B vitamins, vitamin D, calcium, and iron salts. Now really, for the staff of life, that seems a pretty flimsy stick.

I think you can see why my feeling about taking supplements is clear.

Source: Earl Mindell's New Vitamin Bible

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