Understanding the Role of Minerals and Vitamins and their Sources
Minerals and Vitamins do not supply energy or calories but they play an important role in the regulation of several essential processes of the body.
E.g. The mineral calcium, is important for proper muscle contractions so that our heart beats properly and our limbs move easily. It also makes up our teeth and bones and it is essential that it is supplied through our daily diet, from birth to death.
Iron is necessary for oxygen to be properly carried from our lungs to all parts of the body. Iron from the food goes into the blood to make up hemoglobin (Hb), which is the oxygen lorry of the body. If your hemoglobin count is 10 instead of 12 it is like saying you have only 10,000 lorries instead of 12,000 to carry your oxygen through the body. Your oxygen supply to the whole body is less and you will feel tired and weak. This is called Iron deficiency anemia.
Sodium and potassium are also minerals essential for the water or fluid balance of the body.
Similarly we see that vitamins also play important roles. If we have calcium in the diet but do not have enough Vitamin D the calcium will not be absorbed properly. If we have enough iron coming from our food but not enough Vitamin B and C then the iron cannot be absorbed fully.
Most of the minerals and vitamins are required in small amounts but are required every day. They can be easily obtained from food if one condition and principal is strongly followed. EAT A BALANCED DIET EVERYDAY AND NEVER MISS A MEAL. All three meals must be a balance of both carbohydrate and protein foods.
Foods can be broadly classified into food groups such as FRUITS, VEGETABLES, CEREALS, DHALS AND PULSES, MILK AND MILK PRODUCTS, EGG, FISH, POULTRY, MEAT, NUTS, OILSEEDS AND FATS. Eating foods from all these groups is the secret of getting a good supply of all mineral and vitamins. Besides this one must consume at least 2-3 cups of milk/curd daily as the quantity of calcium that the body requires can only be met from this source. “But milk is fattening” is the common belief – yes, it is fattening but we can remove the cream thoroughly or even use commercially skimmed milk or curd made from skimmed milk. It is a must, I believe, and I do not agree with the present theories that it is useless after a few years of age and not necessary for adults to consume milk.
Iron is another nutrient that is required in significant amounts. Non-veg food, eggs, dhals, pulses and greens are a rich source of iron but mainly it is also got by eating properly balanced meals and never skipping meals. If you eat only one or two meals/day then you will soon be anemic (i.e. deficient in iron, looking pale and feeling weak and tried always). Most vegetarians believe that palak and other greens is their main source of iron. Latest research shows that though the greens contain good amounts of iron they also contain an inhibitor which prevents the iron from getting absorbed into the human body. Therefore the better sources are whole wheat products like atta rotis and atta bread to be eaten daily at least in 1-2 meals and dhals or pulses to be eaten both at lunch and dinner. The iron present in these two groups is easily absorbed into the body.