Some Selenium please!

Who says minerals are only found in mines? They are also present in our body. Besides vitamins, our body also requires minerals to function. Selenium, a trace mineral plays an important role in many bodily functions. Though it is present in almost every cell of the body, kidneys, spleen, liver & pancreas have a higher content.

Why do we need Selenium?

• Prevents strokes by thinning blood
• It is a immune system booster as it fights viruses, cold, infections & bacteria
• Since selenium has antioxidant properties, it regenerates Vitamin E & C
• It is beneficial in skin infections, acne & dandruff
• It is important in thyroid hormone metabolism
• Selenium enhances male fertility by increasing sperm motility

What happens when we don’t take enough ?

If you don’t take selenium too seriously, you can end up with diseases like cancer, thyroid, cataracts or even growth retardation. So it is essential to include food rich in this mineral in your daily diet.

Where do you get Selenium from?

Some sources from food include garlic, onion, herring, tuna fish, cereals, bran, bread, wheat germ, brewer’s yeast, broccoli, fermented foods, grape juice, mushroom, alfalfa, cabbage, sea vegetables, tomato, molasses, eggs, kidney, and liver.

A word of caution:

Do not exceed the daily recommended dose of selenium as too much of it will not benefit, but harm your body. It results in loss of hair, nail, teeth, skin inflammation & fatigue.
I hope you understand the importance of minerals that maintain a low key but are equally essential for our body.

Vitamin B1 – Thiamin

Which vitamin gives you lustrous hair? Good vision, Healthy skin, helps normal functioning of the nervous system as well as the liver? Prevents birth defects in unborn babies? Well, doesn’t sound like it’s a job of one vitamin. It sure isn’t, but it’s the work of group of vitamins which fall under this mighty Vitamin B complex. Once thought to be a single vitamin, this water –soluble component is a group of eight chemically diverse vitamins that often co exists in the same foods. Together they are known as Vitamin B Complex; individually they are named as B1, B2, etc.

Let’s start our series on this multi talented vitamin by taking the first vitamin in the group. That’s vitamin B1 – Thiamin. Being water soluble, our body needs a continuous supply of the vitamin from food, as very little of it is stored in the body & depletion of the vitamin can happen in 14 days.

What does it do for your body?

  • It converts sugar, carbohydrates, proteins & starch into energy for the body’s need
  • Aids in proper functioning of the heart, nervous system as well as the muscular system
  • As it boosts the activity of the immune system, it improves the body’s ability to deal with stress
  • Proper functioning of the brain & helps cope up with depression, it also enhances learning & memory
  • Enhances blood circulation & blood formation
  • As it helps in producing hydrochloric acid, it plays an important role in digestion of food
  • It is said to be effective in treatment of arthritis as well as fertility

What happens in case of Deficiency?

The deficiency results in Beriberi which causes swelling, tingling or burning sensation in hands & feet, difficulty in breathing & uncontrolled eye movements. It can also result in a brain disorder where there is a neural damage to the central & peripheral nervous system resulting in memory loss. It heightens the chances of getting cataracts in the eyes. Thiamin deficiency can lead to congestive heart failures. It can also cause Alzheimer’s disease, extreme fatigue, irritability, constipation, edema & enlarged liver.

How do you know that you are not getting it enough?

Thiamin deficiency is rare but it’s important to understand the symptoms early on to avoid any complications. Poor memory & bad co ordination of body parts, weak & sore muscles, changes in the heart beats as well as stressful breathing, mood swings, loss appetite which results in severe weight loss, gastrointestinal disturbances, tingling sensation & numbness in hands & feet & finally nervousness are the signs to watch out for.

Where do I get it from?

Thiamin is obtained from both plant as well as animal source. Sunflower seeds, whole grain cereals, peanuts, wheat bran, whole wheat flour, wheat germ, sea-fish, liver, egg-yolk, kidney beans all contain good amounts of thiamin. Vitamin B1 can also be found in multivitamins (including children’s chewable and liquid drops) or B complex vitamins.

How to optimize its derivation from food?

Refrigerate fresh fruits & vegetables when not in use. Keep milk & grains away from strong light. Being water soluble, the vitamin is easily washed away during preparation & storage so it’s important to preserve them at room temperature in a dry place that is free of moisture.

I am sure that by reading this article, it has created an understanding in you about how essential this component is & how by incorporating certain foods in our daily diet we can avoid diseases caused by the deficiency.

Vitamin B5-Pantothenic Acid

Do you ever wonder why on an important date does your skin erupt with irritating, very obvious acne? Blaming it on the hormones? No, rather blame it on the lack of B5. This vitamin is also known as Pantothenic acid or anti-stress vitamin as it is important in making hormones & healthy red cells.

Benefits of B5:

  • B5 is known as an anti – stress vitamin as it regulates the formation of stress hormones
  • Helps generate energy for the body by breaking down carbohydrates, proteins & fats
  • Plays an important role in the production of adrenal hormones in the adrenal glands
  • Vitamin B5 produces neurotransmitters that is cholesterol required for proper nerve & muscle functioning
  • It is responsible for haemoglobin production & metabolism of toxins by the liver
  • It aids in the DNA reproduction & RNA transcription
  • It is used in the treatment of osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, depression, respiratory problems & carpal tunnel syndrome
  • B5 greatly relieves acne, allergies, alcoholism, hair loss, asthma, low blood pressure
  • Provides relief in cramps due to pregnancy
  • Helps improve skin & prevents graying of hair

How do I include Vitamin B5 in my regular meals?

The term Pantothenic is derived from the Greek “Pantos” meaning everywhere that means Vitamin B5 is found in abundance in plant as well as animal sources. The storehouse of this vitamin are peanuts, liver , kidney, cauliflower, mushroom, seeds, other nuts, pumpkin, sweet potato, legumes, milk, soya, egg yolk, cheese, fish, chicken, wholegrain bread, breakfast cereals fortified with pantothenic acid & bananas. The richest of Vitamin B5 are ovaries of the cod & tuna fish.

Will the lack of B5 harm me?

Being a water soluble vitamin, it needs to replenished everyday in our body. The symptoms that indicate the lack of it are painful & burning feet, skin abnormalities, numbness & poor co ordination, abdominal & muscle cramps, vomiting, anemia, insomnia & depression, stunted growth & restlessness.  These can be effectively controlled with the usage of Vitamin B5 along with Vitamin B12 & Vitamin C.

Individuals who are prone to be deficient are women on birth control pills, smokers & alcoholics, people under stress, those prone to allergies & also who are used to eating high amount of refined food.

Preservation of Vitamin B5

Being an unstable vitamin, significant amounts can be lost through cooking, freezing & commercial processing. Soda bi carbonate should not be used in water used to cook vegetables as it results in the loss of pantothenic acid. It is advisable to store the food sources at room temperature in a dry place.

As Vitamin B5 is found “Pantos” (everywhere) you won’t have to go searching hard for it, hence it’s difficult to avoid this vitamin in our regular diet, what is important is that we realize its essence & make sure we use the right method to preserve it in order to maximize the nutritional content of the meal.

Vitamin K-lotting

Imagine a tiny cut on your finger, an occurrence which is not rare. You just wipe it off, apply a band aid & forget about it. Now imagine this scenario, the cut is tiny, but the bleeding does not stop! The blood keeps flowing on & on. Well, who do you need right now but our own K- Man! Yes Vitamin K! Vitamin K is essential for the functioning of several proteins involved in blood clotting. It is derived from the German word “”koagulation” which refers to the process of blood clot formation. Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin. It is not a single chemical substance but rather a family of chemically related substances that go by the general name of “vitamin K.”

What our K Man does for you?

  • Allows your blood to clot normally
  • Helps protect your bones from fracture
  • Helps prevent postmenopausal bone loss
  • Helps prevent calcification of your arteries
  • Provides possible protection against liver and prostate cancer

How does the lack of Vitamin K harm you?

    As the primary function of the vitamin is in blood clotting, it is most affected in case of deficiency. This results in a longer bleeding time, in severe cases it can also lead to fatal anemia. Not just adults but even newborns are at an increased risk of deficiency as babies are born with sterile intestines which means they do not have any bacteria in the guts to produce vitamin K. Other symptoms of deficiency include heavy menstrual bleeding in women, brittle bones, anemia, bruising, and bleeding of the gums or nose.

    Where do I find the K Man?

    Vitamin K is easily found in the following vegetable sources in abundant quantities. Dark, green leafy vegetables like spinach, brussels sprouts, Swiss chard, green beans, asparagus, broccoli, kale, mustard greens, green peas & carrots. Cow milk is also considered as a good source of the vitamin. However you ought to keep in mind that hydrogenation of vegetable oils will decrease the absorption & biological effect of the vitamin.

    How much do I need?

    our daily requirement of  vitamin k is around 80 ug. which can be easily fulfilled by a cup of spinach, or cabbage, or any green leafy vegetable.

    Is too much too good?

    There is no known toxicity associated with Vitamin K if taken via natural sources. However a synthetic form of the vitamin if taken in excess causes allergic reactions & hemolytic anemia.

    It is important to understand the relevance of this K man in our daily meals. I hope this article has enlightened you enough to welcome him to your lunch & dinner every day!

    Vitamin D – The Sunshine element

    Give me some sunshine, give me some rain. Heard of it? Yes, imagine how dull & dark life would be without sunshine? That’s not all; your skin would never look like it looks now. Many anthropologists theorize this fact that accounts for the difference in skin color between different races of people. The theory suggests that early humans migrated north from Africa into areas with decreased amounts of sunlight, the skin tones gradually lightened to increase Vitamin D absorption. Hence an African would have a different skin tone than a Mongolian.

    How Vitamin D helps?

    The major biological function of vitamin D is to maintain normal levels of calcium and phosphorus in the blood. Vitamin D plays an important role in building and maintaining strong bones and teeth as it aids in absorption of calcium. It promotes bone mineralization in concert with a number of other vitamins, minerals, and hormones. Without vitamin D, bones can become thin, brittle, soft, or misshapen. But in the recent research it has been indicated that, vitamin D has the potential to help prevent diseases such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and Type 1 diabetes. It may also be a factor in decreasing the risk for colon cancer, breast cancer and prostate cancer.  Our body synthesizes vitamin D when the skin is exposed to sunlight, it’s important to have your sunlight , but exposure to harsh sun (in the noon times) may increase the risk for skin cancer, wrinkles and age spots due to the UV rays, so it’s advisable to get your sunshine in early mornings only when sun is not harsh. So don’t forget your shades when you venture out in the afternoons!

    How do we get our sunshine (Vitamin D)?

    Eat foods rich in Vitamin D, such as milk and milk products, grains like Ragi, some oil seeds like Til (sesame) contain good amount calcium. Non vegetarians can enjoy fish like tuna, salmon, sardines and mackerel as they are a good source of Vitamin D.Vitamin D exists in several forms, each with a different activity. Some forms are relatively inactive in the body, and have limited ability to function as a vitamin. The liver and kidney help convert vitamin D to its active hormone form.

    To convert this calcium into Vitamin D, allow yourself 5- 15 minutes of unprotected sun exposure on your hands and arms every day, but in early mornings when the sunlight is not too harsh.

    What happens if we don’t get enough?

    Due to aging process, the body is not able to synthesize enough vitamin D from calcium, and the calcium absorption in the body is also question of debate, so to ensure the well being of bone and teeth health, one should take a daily multivitamin that contains 400- 800 IU of Vitamin D. Women after 30 should regularly take the supplement to avoid bone condition like osteoporosis.

    What happens if  we exceeds the dose?

    Vitamin D is fat soluble and therefore can be stored in the body where it may be built up to toxic levels. some of the symptoms of excess vitamin D include drowsiness, diarrhea, loss of appetite, headaches, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, fragile bones and calcium deposits throughout the body including heart, kidneys and blood vessels.

    So now that summers are here, get out your beach chair, a chilled glass of lemonade, and a cool pair of shades with an umbrella overhead (don’t want too much of it also)! If someone asks you that what are you up to? Just tell them that you are taking in your Vitamin Sunshine (D)! May hay while the sun shines!