Essential Guide to Vitamins and Minerals

Essential Guide to Vitamins and Minerals

by Elizabeth Somer, Health Media Of America

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The Essential Guide to Vitamins and Minerals provides the most comprehensive and up-to-date assessment of the importance of vitamins and minerals as reported by medical research studies and testing from leading institutions around the world. In three parts this book 1) Gives a detailed profile of over 40 vitamins and minerals (including nutrient-nutrient

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The Essential Guide to Vitamins and Minerals provides the most comprehensive and up-to-date assessment of the importance of vitamins and minerals as reported by medical research studies and testing from leading institutions around the world. In three parts this book 1) Gives a detailed profile of over 40 vitamins and minerals (including nutrient-nutrient interactions), 2) Examines the effects of vitamins and minerals on over 40 diseases and conditions, and 3) Lays out guidelines for creating the vitamin/mineral-rich diet. In addition, here you'll find everything you need to know about:

  • Antioxidants and the Prevention of Disease and Premature Aging
  • Vitamins, Minerals, and the Body
  • The Recommended Daily Intakes
  • Marginal Deficiencies
  • Vitamins, Minerals, and the Immune System
  • How Medications, Alcohol, and Tobacco Affect Nutrient Status
  • Vitamins, Minerals, and Food
  • Understanding and Choosing Supplements
  • Meal-Planning Guidelines
  • Convenience, Fast, and Snack Foods
  • Special Diets

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HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
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Revised Edition

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Chapter One

Nutrition as a Way of Life

People want to feel and look their best no matter what their ages. Most people want the energy, enthusiasm, and good health to enjoy life and they want freedom from crippling disorders that interfere with that enjoyment. Although a person's level of health throughout life will vary based on hereditary uniqueness, achieving optimal health depends in large part on what and how much a person eats.

The phrase "you are what you eat" is now supported by scientific research. A balanced diet of wholesome, nutritious, low-fat foods reduces a person's risk for developing many of the common degenerative diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, and obesity. A diet that supplies optimal amounts of vitamins and minerals helps a person not only avoid disease, but also feel his or her best, with the emotional and physical health and energy necessary to enjoy life to its fullest.

The opposite is also true. A diet unbalanced in favor of high-fat, high-sugar, low-fiber, or salty foods is associated with low vitamin and mineral intake and a higher risk for developing disease, or at best not feeling "up to par." Since people do not possess a natural instinct for choosing nutritious, wholesome foods, it is important to learn which nutrients the body needs and what to eat to meet these nutrient needs. "You are what you eat" is a promise of better health if a person takes the time to choose nutritious foods and to practice good eating habits.

The Changing American Diet

The typical American diet today is much different than the diet chosen at thebeginning of the century. Many traditional foods, such as milk, broccoli, bread, and meat, still grace American dining tables, but they are now outnumbered by thousands of new processed, refined, or convenience foods, such as French fries, soda pop, frozen dinners, and ready-to-eat cereals. In some ways the changes in the way individuals in America eat are an improvement; in other ways good eating habits in this country are on the decline.

Advertising has proven "you are what you are told to eat." Millions of dollars are spent each year by large food and restaurant corporations to convince people they should eat one processed food or another. Food selection has changed dramatically as a result. The marketing of food, however, is motivated by sales, not nutrition, and can cause a person to make food choices based on generalities, misconceptions, half-truths, and superstitions.

For example, a person concerned about nutrition might choose a commercial granola cereal because it is "natural," contains no "additives," or does not include white sugar. The cereal, however, might provide more than 30 percent of its calories from a highly saturated fat called coconut oil. Another person might choose a bag of "fat-free" cookies, not realizing the product is very high in sugar and calories. One person might swallow a half dozen vitamin and mineral supplements instead of taking the time to make good food choices while another person grabs a "breakfast bar," containing more sugar than is found in a candy bar, in an effort to lose weight. In most cases, these unhealthful food choices are based on misconceptions and marketing strategies.

Food selections have never been greater. Approximately 500 new foods enter the marketplace each year, most of them sweetened or highly processed snacks and desserts. However, more than one-half of all foods are processed or refined and their nutrient quality never equals their natural, unprocessed counterparts. Most advertisements are for convenience foods high in fat, salt, sugar, air, or water. Seldom are fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain breads, nonfat milk products, or extra-lean beef advertised.

Changes in the family structure also have influenced eating patterns. Dual-career and single-parent families have increased the demand for time-saving, highly processed convenience foods. In addition, people today as compared to people in 1910 are more likely to skip meals, snack, diet, and eat away from home.

Today, people consume fewer calories than did their ancestors. The reduced food intake means these diets cannot always guarantee daily recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals, especially for those people who diet, have irregular eating habits, skip meals, or choose poorly from the wealth of food selections available. Consequently, the nutritional changes in the American diet since 1910 include a substantial increase in fat and sugar consumption, and a decrease in complex carbohydrate (starch) consumption. And, as fat and sugar intake increase, vitamin and mineral intake decrease. The influences of these dietary changes are reflected in the disease statistics in the United States since 1910. The incidence of cardiovascular disease, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke; cancer; diabetes; and obesity has increased.

Major national surveys repeatedly show that diets consumed by many Americans are not well balanced. Inadequate intake of vitamins and minerals are frequently reported, including vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, folic acid, vitamin B6, calcium, chromium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, and zinc. In addition, only one person in every 10 consumes the recommended foods outlined in USDA's Food Guide Pyramid.

Although more than 80 percent of adult consumers think "it is alright to eat what you want when you want it," good eating habits are not instinctive. The body and mind do not automatically choose nutritious foods, especially in light of modern distractions and highly sophisticated marketing and advertising techniques. Even the well-planned diet can be lacking in vitamins and minerals when processed foods are overused or foods are not stored or prepared properly. If an individual chooses a diet that contains less than 2,000 calories, he or she cannot be guaranteed an optimal supply of all vitamins and minerals.

The best way to guarantee optimal intake of all vitamins and minerals is to understand which of the nutrients in the diet are most likely to be low and to learn how to design and consume a nutritious diet based on individual needs. At no other time in history has nutritious and safe food been more accessible. The challenge is learning how to wisely select the most healthful food while planning a diet that tastes good, looks good, and fits into your lifestyle.

How to Use this Book

Interest in nutrition has substantially increased with the transition from treatment to prevention in health care. Self-responsibility, including healthful lifestyle and dietary habits, is now recognized as the most important factor in the prevention and treatment of many diseases. However, even when you know nutrition is important, it is sometimes difficult to find accurate, reliable information on which you can depend.

The Essential Guide to Vitamins and Minerals is unique. It dispels the myths and accurately reports the facts and current findings on vitamins and minerals. It is a comprehensive guide to nutrition, including basic information as well as the latest findings in nutrition research. It also includes practical suggestions on how to apply this information to individualized menu planning, weight control and maintenance, and the achievement of optimal health. No other book combines the fundamentals of nutrition with current research in a documented format. In a time when nutrition information is doubling every 18 months and misinformation is rampant, The Essential Guide to Vitamins and Minerals provides you with accurate and timely information substantiated by credible research.

This book is not meant to replace the advice and supervision of a physician during illness or medication use. Your doctor will consider other aspects of your condition, such as your medical history and special circumstances, not included in the pages of this book and from that additional information can form a more precise diagnosis before recommending treatment.

This book provides the most current and reliable information on vitamins and minerals, but it does not provide the absolute truths about all aspects of nutrition. The science of nutrition is new and is changing rapidly. Many important concepts have been identified and these have been discussed in this book, but even more information remains to be discovered and revised. For this reason, the use of the word "might" has been used judiciously throughout the book in regards to the suspected role a nutrient might play in the prevention, treatment, or promotion of a disease or a condition. The reader is reminded to consider any statement that uses the word "might" as a possibility, not a concrete fact.

Where You Begin

You can do much to obtain and maintain optimal health and to prevent the development of many disorders and nutritional deficiencies. This book serves as an aid in assessing and monitoring personal nutritional status as it relates to health and the treatment of disease. Your full participation in this process can be a rewarding experience of self-discovery in maximizing your health potential.

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Meet the Author

Elizabeth Somer is a consulting nutritionist and author of numerous books on health and nutrition including Food and Mood, Nutrition Desk Reference, Nutrition for a Healthy Pregnancy, and Nutrition for Women.

Health Media of America is one of the foremost information packages for the pharmaceutical trade.

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