When you think of vitamins, you probably think of supplements. Dietary supplements have become so popular you may not know the true meaning of the word “vitamin.” When you hear something about antioxidants you probably think of vitamins A, C, E, but those are not the only substances in vitamins A and C. When you hear something about phytochemicals you probably think they are just antioxidants which is not entirely accurate. Let’s clear up a few things so everyone is on the same page.
Vitamins are chemical substances that are naturally in fruits, vegetables, dairy, protein foods, whole grains, and oils. Your body converts vitamins into coenzymes that fuel your body so you can perform all your daily activities. Your body needs 13 essential vitamins each day. Your recommended daily amounts of these vitamins are determined by the Food and Nutrition Board at the National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine. Your balanced diet must contain vitamins, minerals and other nutrients to keep your body in a constant state of equilibrium and to prevent vitamin deficiencies.
The chemical substances in vitamins that you hear the most about are the antioxidants. Antioxidants are chemical substances that are naturally in a few vitamins. Antioxidants block or remove harmful free radicals in your body to protect your healthy cells and tissues from being damaged or destroyed. Your body can produce some antioxidants, but you need to get most antioxidants from whole foods.
Vitamin A contains natural chemical substances that perform functions for reproduction, normal growth and development, cell division and replication, healthy mucous membranes, skin, bones, vision and immune fucntion. Vitamin A also contains antioxidants.
Vitamin C contains natural chemical substances that produce collagen for healthy bones and heal wounds, absorb iron. and helps your immune system work proerply to fight infections. Vitamin C also contains antioxidants.
Vitamin E only contains antioxidants.
If your body does not have adequate amounts of vitamins A, C and E in your daily diet, then your defense system will be too weak to fight and destroy harmful free radicals that can damage your healthy cells and DNA.
Scientists have discovered more chemical substances in fruits, vegetables, nuts, dried beans, oils and whole grains. These plant based foods have chemical substances called phytochemicals. Thousands of phytochemicals have been identified in the pigments of plants. Its the phytochemicals that provide the color and flavor in plant foods. One plant food may contain hundreds of phytochemicals and they all work together to protect your health. Nutrition scientists have been studying how your body absorbs phytochemicals from these plant foods and how they affect your health. Phytochemicals are not vitamins. Phytochemicals are not entirely antioxidants, however, that is part of their disease-fighting jobs. Phytochemicals can disrupt the process of disease so it does not fully develop into heart disease or other diseases. Phytochemicals can disrupt cancer cells so they do not replicate. Phytochemicals can block or neutralize cancer-causing substances. Phytochemicals can decrease your bad blood cholesterol and increase your good blood cholesterol levels.
Vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals work together in specific ways to nourish and protect your health. That is why eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, and other plant based foods everyday is important.