Many fresh foods, especially colourful fruit and vegetables, contain vitamins and minerals that are necessary for body and mind health, and to protect against the ravages of disease and ageing.
Micronutrients (vitamins, minerals and dietary trace minerals) are necessary for growth and to support physiological functions. Most people are able to store sufficient amounts of calcium and Vitamin A in their body. It is more common to see a deficiency in Vitamins B9, C, D and E, as well as iron, at some point in life.
Protection against heart disease
The risk of cardiovascular disease and myocardial infarction decreases with sufficient intake of carotenes (Vitamin A family), Vitamins B9, D and E, as well as zinc and selenium.
– Vitamin B9, also known as folic acid, helps against homocysteine that may cause heart disease.
– Vitamin D is known to protect against hypertension.
– Vitamin E prevents the oxidation of ‘bad’ (LDL) cholesterol.
– Zinc and selenium play a protective role by fighting oxidation.
Decrease in risk for cancer
The risk of cancer of the throat, stomach, lung, thorax, colon and rectum is cut by half in people who consume fruit and vegetables rich in beta-carotene (pro-vitamin A), folic acid, Vitamins C and E and selenium.
These vitamins and minerals have an antioxidant effect, protect nucleic acids and improve ‘communication’ between cells. Vitamin D, through its effects on the immune system, can play a preventive role in cancer of the colon, thorax and prostate.
Iron, magnesium and Vitamin D help prevent fatigue. Muscle pain and bone articulation can be better managed with magnesium and Vitamin D.
The most important function of Vitamin C is its role in producing collagen, which provides flexibility to body tissues, veins and tendons.
Vitamin E exerts an anti-ageing effect on the brain in cooperation with selenium and magnesium. It preserves and supports the synapses (message transmission between nerves).
Memory improvement is linked to the consumption of fruit and vegetables.
Vitamins A, B, C and E and essential dietary trace elements such as zinc, copper and selenium enable the body to fight inflammation. This happens by boosting white blood cells; by protecting the cells of the immune system against oxidation; and by stopping free radicals.
Vitamins B6, D and K are necessary for bone strength, together with calcium and trace elements. Copper is important for the connection between collagen and elastin in the cartilage. Manganese contributes to the cartilage and bone matrix constitution.
Vitamin A and carotenes are crucial for healthy eyesight. The decline in sight accuracy, especially at night, is one of the first indicators of Vitamin A deficiency.
Source: Health & Nutrition, Issue 164, April 2014
This is an edited version of the article.