An organic compound can be defined as “vitamin” when our body cannot produce it in sufficient quantities to meet its needs
For this reason, the concept is very arbitrary, and substances that are vitamins for us are not vitamins for other mammals, as, for example, in the case of the popular vitamin C. Vitamins have several similar characteristics:
They are natural ingredients in food and are usually present in very small amounts.
They are necessary for the normal course of physiological processes.
When they are not enough or they are absent in the diet, specific deficiencies arise, which sooner or later lead to health problems.
Common sense dictates that every proud person should make sure that they are always surrounded by reliable sources of vitamins – fruits, vegetables, and possibly nutritional supplements.
First of all, fruits and vegetables are not the only source of vital vitamins for our body. Animal products contain a number of substances that cannot be found or are scarce in plants. These include vitamins B12, A, D and certain minerals such as calcium and iron. Even vitamin C, which is considered unique to fruits and vegetables, is present in raw meat and animal organs, which is why traditional Eskimo societies do not suffer from scurvy.
The content of vitamins in absolutely all products varies greatly depending on a number of factors. One of them is how they grew up.
Nitrogen fertilizers, which are used in modern agriculture, guarantee very good yields, in part because they help extract nutrients from the soil. However, over time, industrially fertilized soils are depleted, and this has an extremely negative effect on the content of the plants grown on them.
Additional factors are the presence of direct sunlight, chemical treatment and the degree of maturity of the plants. Fruits and vegetables destined for mass distribution are often genetically modified to ripen more slowly, are harvested green and exposed to gas to ripen. This guarantees them a good presentation, as well as a long shelf life on the supermarket shelf. And for us, this means that we will soon forget what the real taste of fruits and vegetables was.
Research shows very significant discrepancies between traditional “rural” food and mass-produced food. That is, there is a high probability that you will buy an orange in which vitamin C is completely absent. And this applies not only to plants.
The risk of a deficiency of certain vitamins extends to animals. The diet of livestock is extremely important for the nutritional value of meat and foods such as eggs and milk. Animals that do not have access to their favorite food not only experience acute nutritional deficiencies, but also often lose their immunity to certain bacteria. The balance between their fats is also changing not for the better.
Wild salmon is known as one of the best sources of vitamin D. On the other hand, farmed salmon contains about 75% less of this vitamin. The characteristic orange color of its meat is achieved with the artificial colors astaxanthin and canthaxanthin.
Mention should be made of the existence of a misunderstanding, also known as the “recommended daily intake”. Unfortunately, no one can know exactly how much vitamins your body needs without knowing your gender, age, diet, health status, weight, physical activity, and a host of other variables, many of which are highly individual.
Take, for example, excessive consumption of sugar, white flour, trans fats, tobacco and alcohol, as well as taking certain medications that can seriously increase the need for nutrients. Stress (physical and mental) also plays an important role as it causes the body to deplete its stores of vitamins and minerals much faster. Using sunscreen can block your body’s ability to produce vitamin D by up to 99%.
Typically, the transport and absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) in the body is carried out with the help of fats. In this sense, people on a low-fat diet are at a higher risk of deficiency. The deprivation of animal products can lead to B12 and iron deficiencies.
Typically, more severe nutritional deficiencies occur in older adults, athletes, low-income people, or price-driven consumers.
Another important factor is food preparation, which can seriously affect the vitamin content of food. While fat-soluble vitamins are not affected by heat, others (such as vitamin C and B1) are extremely sensitive and easily degraded, especially with longer processing. Cooking is one of the methods of extracting the most vitamins from food. This can be useful in a variety of soups and broths, but if you want to preserve the ingredients in the food itself, it is best to steam it or not.
On the other hand, low temperatures and freezing have very little effect on vitamins, and drying in the sun can even have a positive effect on the nutritional properties of some foods. There are other processing and preserving methods that can enhance the healthiness of food. These methods include fermentation, steeping, germination.
Vitamins in the form of dietary supplements
In most cases, these are synthetic forms, the molecular structure of which is identical to that of natural vitamins. The fact is that vitamins in food “coexist” with a number of compounds that support their action (minerals, enzymes, coenzymes, other vitamins), they are known as cofactors. These substances are often absent from pharmaceuticals and this affects how our body interacts with them.
There are some synthetic vitamins, the form of which is different from the form of their natural equivalents, and this prevents us from efficiently absorbing them. They can be produced from the most interesting raw materials, including tar, oil and acetylene. Reputable manufacturers usually write raw materials on their product packaging. The absence of such information in 99.9% of cases is a sure sign of synthetics. Another good guideline is if the concentration of the substance is many times the recommended dose.
After all, minimally processed, naturally grown fruits, vegetables and animal products remain the best source of vitamins. It is desirable to avoid excessive heat treatment in terms of temperature and duration. Choose the amount according to your individual characteristics and, if necessary, resort to “reinforcements” in the form of additives of a non-synthetic nature.
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