Vitamins and Minerals – Part 1

Then though our soils may be exhausted of beneficial minerals, they may be also enriched in heavy or toxic metals like aluminum, arsenic, lead, mercury, strontium, but also cadmium, cesium, radiation, plastics and detergent breakdown products. The list is long and depressing. The point is that all pollutants deplete our cells of useful nutrients.

That is why aside from eating intelligently, with a lot of care and discretion, we must also take vitamins and minerals. The poor state of our food resources, the excessive pollution of our environment, and the modern marketing of foods, leave us no choice. Let me elaborate a little this last item, since it is a matter we can do something about.

Modern food marketing techniques require that the customer should be able to buy just about anything he wants when he wants it, including grapes in the winter and oranges in midsummer. This is considered sound marketing practice and many a customer is grateful for finding a favorite vegetable or fruit the year round. Nutritionally speaking, however, this is neither sound nor grounds for gratitude. It is simply one more thoughtless step in the ruthless pursuit of the almighty buck.

Vitamin tables you may use for keeping yourself informed, show that oranges contain up to 180 milligrams of vitamin C per 100 grams, or a whopping three times the RDA for vitamin C. But this refers to fresh oranges. The oranges you buy in a supermarket may not contain any vitamin C whatsoever. It all depends on how long they have been in storage. But if you buy such a winter fruit in midsummer, then you must be aware that it cannot be fresh.

And refrigeration may keep the fruit looking fresh, but its vitamin and mineral content diminishes with time, with or without refrigeration. Again, fresh carrots normally contain about 18,000 International Units of provitamin A per 100 grams. But supermarket carrots have been found that contain only 70 I.Us, an enormous difference from their original content. Consulting your books may show that you get all the vitamins and minerals you need.

In reality, you may get only a small fraction. The message obviously is, buy vegetables and fruits in their natural season, when they are unlikely to have been in storage for long. That will also widen the variety of plant foods you eat, since you will have to go beyond your favorites.

But suppose you are convinced of the necessity of taking supplements. What should be your aim? How much of each micronutrient should you take? Well, there are many lists of vitamins and minerals from a variety of agencies. The best known is undoubtedly the RDA list mentioned earlier, which has full government support. But what are the RDAs?

End of part one...