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The Wellness Column By Anchan Vegetarian

Nutrition and Food Planning Part 3

As promised some words on vitamins, water and phytonutrients in this continued series about food planning.
As with the minerals discussed previously, some vitamins are recognized as essential nutrients, necessary in the diet for good health. Yet Vitamin D is the exception: it can be synthesized in the skin, in the presence of UVB radiation.
Certain vitamin-like compounds that are recommended in the diet, such as carnitine, are thought useful for survival and health, but these are not “essential” dietary nutrients because the human body has some capacity to produce them from other compounds.
Moreover, thousands of different phytochemicals have recently been discovered in food - particularly in fresh vegetables, which may have desirable properties including antioxidant activity.
Vitamin deficiencies may result in disease conditions, including goiter, scurvy, osteoporosis, impaired immune system, disorders of cell metabolism, certain forms of cancer, symptoms of premature aging, and poor psychological health including eating disorders, just to name a few. Excess levels of some vitamins are also dangerous to your health, notably vitamin A. For at least one vitamin, B6, toxicity begins at levels not far above the required amount.
Water is excreted from the body in multiple forms; including urine and feces, sweating, and by water vapor in the exhaled breath. Therefore it is necessary to adequately rehydrate to replace lost fluids.
Early recommendations for the quantity of water required for maintenance of good health suggested that 6–8 glasses of water daily is the minimum to maintain proper hydration. However the notion that a person should consume eight glasses of water per day cannot be traced to a credible scientific source.
For those who have healthy kidneys, it is somewhat difficult to drink too much water but especially in warm humid weather and while exercising it is dangerous to drink too little.
While overhydrating is much less common than dehydration, it is also possible to drink far more water than necessary which can result in water intoxication, a serious and potentially fatal condition. In particular, large amounts of de-ionized water are dangerous.
As cellular metabolism and energy production both require oxygen, potentially damaging compounds known as free radicals are formed during these processes. Most of these are oxidizers and some react very strongly.
For a continued normal cellular maintenance, growth, and division, these free radicals must be sufficiently neutralized by antioxidant compounds. Recently, some researchers suggested an interesting theory of evolution of dietary antioxidants. Some are produced by the human body and there are some that the body cannot produce and may only be obtained in the diet via direct sources such as Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and Vitamin K. They can also be produced by the body from other compounds such as Beta-carotene converted to Vitamin A and Vitamin D synthesized from cholesterol by sunlight.
Phytochemicals and their subgroup, polyphenols, make up the majority of antioxidants; about 4,000 are known. Different antioxidants are now known to function in a cooperative network. Some antioxidants are more effective than others at neutralizing different free radicals. Some cannot neutralize certain free radicals. Some cannot be present in certain areas of free radical development. For example Vitamin A is fat-soluble and protects fat areas; Vitamin C is water soluble and protects those areas.
When interacting with a free radical, some antioxidants produce a different free radical compound that can be either less or more dangerous than the previous compound. Having a variety of antioxidants allows any byproducts to be safely dealt with by more efficient antioxidants neutralizing this free radical butterfly effect.
Although initial studies suggested that antioxidant supplements might promote health, later large clinical trials did not detect any benefit and suggested instead that excess supplementation may be harmful. A varied diet of healthy food items seems to still be the key.
A growing area of interest is the effect upon human health of phytochemicals. These nutrients are typically found in edible plants, especially colorful fruits and vegetables, but also other organisms including seafood, algae, and fungi. One of the principal classes of phytochemicals is polyphenol antioxidants, chemicals that are known to provide certain health benefits to the cardiovascular system and immune system.
Discussing all of them in detail would lead us to fare and go beyond the scope of this newspaper. But there is a list with a common overview of the most important phytonutrients, their benefits and which food items they can be found in online.

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Nutrition and Food Planning Part 3