Every nutrient is required in certain quantities to maintain balance in our total health. Nutrition guidelines recommend individuals to eat certain quantities of vitamins and minerals. Giving the exact quantity of such nutrients makes it easier to understand. Such planned food intakes help to avoid nutritional deficiencies and their related diseases, such as scurvy (lack of vitamin C) or pellagra (lack of niacin).
Most nutrients don’t fly solo but interact with each other. They stay together for some purpose sometimes and cancel out each other some other times. Although we have heard often that eating whole foods rich in vitamin or any other nutrient is better than its supplement, most of us ignore its seriousness. The main reason behind this recommendation is that, food contains a number of nutrients that interact with one another in each mouthful.
We have given here the most common pair of nutrients that work together. This is just a sample and far from the complete catalog, but this will help you to choose what you want to eat.
Vitamin D and Calcium
Calcium required for strong bones is mostly absorbed in the small intestine and works best when it is combined with vitamin D. Vitamin D helps to absorb maximum calcium and provides our body with other benefits as well. Official nutrition guidelines recommend adults to get 1,000 milligrams (mg) of calcium and 400 international units (IU) of vitamin D daily. Older adults need a little extra than the rest: 1,200 mg of calcium in your 50s and 600 IU of vitamin D in your 70s. To give you a day-to-day example, drinking 235ml of milk packs your body with 300 mg of calcium and 100 IU of vitamin D (because of fortification).
Sodium and Potassium
Most of us consume more sodium than needed (in salt form). Excess sodium levels in the body leads to increased blood pressure levels and increases the chances of stroke or heart attack. But, when you eat potassium-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables, it encourages kidneys to excrete sodium. Decreased intake of cookies, salty snacks, fast foods and ready-made lunches and dinners also help to lower sodium levels.
Research shows that increased potassium intake is related to lower blood pressure levels. The official guidelines suggest adults to get 4,700 mg of potassium and 1,200 mg-1,500 mg of sodium daily.
Vitamin B12 and Folate
Nutrition’s best couple award goes to vitamin B12 and folate (one of the eight B vitamins). B12 helps folate absorption and these two nutrients work together to support cell division and replication, which helps the body to replace cells that die. This process is important during childhood as well as during the adult stages because, cells that line the stomach and the cells of the hair follicle divide and replicate often.
Nutrition guidelines recommend 2.4 micrograms of B12 and 400 micrograms of folate daily. Women in childbearing age require additional folate quantities due to its plentiful advantages as mentioned in the link www.firsteatright.com. Eat plenty of leafy green vegetables, beans and other legumes for natural folate and foods such as meat, eggs and milk for vitamin B12. But, people who don’t eat meat or other animal-based products may have B12 deficiencies while people who have a poor appetite or drink too much alcohol may have folate deficiencies. Multivitamins or folic acid pills can correct folate deficiencies and you can get an injection every few months or take pills daily to correct B12 deficiencies. Macrocytic anemia is indicative of these vitamin deficiencies while B12 deficiency can lead to memory loss and mild tingling sensations.
Zinc and Copper
Copper and zinc don’t behave as friends, but as foes competing against each other to be absorbed into the small intestine. Too much of zinc can make copper lose the fight resulting in copper deficiencies. This was greatly evident while treating people for macular degeneration using a special vitamin-mineral combination called AREDS. This pill includes 80 mg of zinc, which is more than enough to cause copper deficiency and hence, a 2 mg of copper was added to the pills. These pills slow down the progression of the disease, which can otherwise lead to blindness.
Niacin and Tryptophan
Niacin or vitamin B3 (rarely called by this name) deficiency can cause pellagra which is characterized by bad rashes, diarrhea and dementia. The daily niacin requirement is 16 mg for men and 14 mg for women. Tryptophan, an amino acid, is a source of niacin and one can eat foods like chicken and turkey that are packed with this amino acid to avoid niacin shortfalls.
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