Over the years, countless research studies have shown that vitamins and minerals are pivotal in protecting us from disease. But there’s one caveat: most studies show these vital nutrients are protective only when obtained through natural food sources (i.e. not through manufactured supplements). As author Rex Russell said in his book What the Bible Says About Healthy Living, “Eat what God gave for food,” and “Don’t alter God’s design.” This month, we begin an important series on vitamins and minerals (collectively referred to as “vital nutrients” because they are essential to human health) that must be obtained through diet because your body can’t make them on its own. For most nutrients, I’ll provide you with a synopsis that includes alternate names, the government’s recommended daily intake and a list of the best food sources for these nutrients. I’ll also point out some of the important functions for which the nutrient is essential and the kinds of symptoms or signs that can develop if you become deficient—or take in too much. Recommended amounts are published by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and are known as the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs). Rather than include all age groups and genders, I’ll cite the RDAs for adults and note differences in gender recommendations, if applicable. It’s difficult to overstate the importance of this topic.
Study the information closely. Keep it handy in your kitchen and refer to it often, such as when you’re making your grocery list. If someone in the household gets sick, the problem might actually be related to a vital nutrient deficiency. This month’s article will focus exclusively on vitamin A, one of the “fat soluble” vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, and K). By virtue of their propensity to dissolve in fats and oils, fat soluble vitamins are best absorbed when ingested with a meal containing fat. When the body gets too much of these vitamins, it stores them as fat. Because the body doesn’t get rid of the excess, fat-soluble vitamins have a greater potential for toxicity if ingested in amounts that are too great. [Note: Even if your consumption of a nutrient exceeds the RDA, it’s generally safer to over-consume through food rather than through a supplement.
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