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Vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients and compounds needed by the human body for normal growth and development and optimal health. There are 13 vitamins found in the human body, classified as either water-soluble or fat-soluble. The fat soluble vitamins are vitamins A, D, E and K. The water-soluble vitamins are the B vitamins and vitamin C. In addition, macro minerals and trace minerals are also necessary, including calcium, potassium, sodium, iron and selenium. Until the 1800s, vitamins were solely obtained through foods, but changes in diet over the years altered the types and amounts of vitamins ingested by most people. Vitamins produced in the form of pills have been available for several decades and allow supplementation to the daily diet. It is always best to obtain vitamins and minerals from the foods we eat, but sometimes taking a supplement is necessary, especially in today’s busy world where not everyone eats a properly balanced diet. Vitamins are available in many forms, including pills, tablets, capsules, powders and liquid vitamins. People who have difficulty swallowing pills find liquid vitamins to be easy and there is also some evidence that liquid vitamins are more quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. It is advised, however, that you discuss taking any vitamin or mineral supplements with your family physician, especially if you have any medical conditions or take prescription medications.

Antioxidants are special substances in certain vitamins that protect cells against the harmful effects of free radicals. Free radicals are produced when your body breaks down food, but they are also produced by environmental exposures such as tobacco smoke and radiation. Studies have shown a link between free radicals and cancer, heart disease and degenerative diseases associated with aging, such as Alzheimer’s disease, cataracts, stroke and macular degeneration. Antioxidants help prevent and repair damage done by the free radicals. Antioxidants include Vitamin A, Beta-carotene, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Lutein, Lycopene and Selenium.

In addition to vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, certain herbs are also used to help support health. Herbalism is a traditional medicinal or “folk medicine” practice based on the use of herbs to treat illness, resist disease, boost the immune system and provide nutritional support. People have been using herbs for treatment of ailments since prehistoric times, and today, in many parts of the world, prescription drugs are sold alongside essential oils, herbal extracts and herbal teas. Research continues for drugs and dietary supplements derived from plants, but according to the World Health Organization, approximately twenty-five percent of modern drugs in the United States have been derived from plants and herbs.


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