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Vitamins and Minerals in Your Diet

Vitamins Can Boost Your Health

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Updated August 01, 2013

Vitamins and Minerals Galore

Antioxidants - Antioxidants protect you against tissue damage. You will find these in vitamins C and E, carotenoids, and many other phytochemicals (chemicals from plants). You're better off getting antioxidants from fruits and vegetables than from dietary supplements. Berries are a great source of antioxidants, and are easy to enjoy as low-calorie desserts.

Beta-carotene - This is an antioxidant that is chemically related to vitamin A. Get this from fruits and veggies, but don't overdo it or take megadoses of beta-carotene supplements. It may increase your risk of lung cancer, especially if you smoke.

Calcium - Calcium is good for your bones, and works best when combined with vitamin D. Dairy products are fine sources of calcium, as are some leafy vegetables and greens. Choose low-fat or non-fat dairy products, to keep your dietary fat intake low, but still get your daily calcium.

Vitamin D - Getting exposure to sunlight triggers Vitamin D production in your body. You can also get it in fortified milk, eggs, tuna, salmon, mackerel, sardines, and in some breakfast cereals. Vitamin D works to maintain your normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus, which promotes calcium absorption and helps form and strengthen bones. Research suggests that another benefit of dietary intake of calcium and vitamin D is a lower incidence of cancer.

Cholesterol - Good and bad cholesterols are found only in animal food products: meat, dairy products, eggs, and animal fats such as butter or lard. Lower blood cholesterol reduces your heart disease risk, but does not seem to lower cancer risk.

Dietary Fats - High-fat diets contribute to obesity, which in turn raises the risk of several types of cancer, including breast cancer. Saturated fats may contribute to an increased risk of cancer. Healthy fats (omega-3 fatty acids, found mainly in fish), monounsaturated fatty acids (found in olive and canola oils), or other polyunsaturated fats don't reduce your risk of cancer, but since they are lower in calories, including these in your diet won't increase your risk.

Dietary Fiber - Fiber comes from plants and is grouped as "soluble" (such as oat bran) or "insoluble" (like wheat bran and cellulose). Soluble fiber helps to reduce your blood cholesterol, so it lowers your risk of heart disease. Get your dietary fiber from beans, vegetables, whole grains, and fruits.

Folate and Vitamin B - This is found in many vegetables, beans, fruits, whole grains, and fortified breakfast cereals. Having too little folate and too much alcohol can raise your risk for colon, rectum, and breast cancers. The best way to get enough folate is through eating fruits, vegetables, and enriched grain products.

Lycopene - Lycopene is a reddish-orange carotene pigment found primarily in tomatoes and tomato-based foods (pasta sauce, tomato sauce) and in smaller amounts in pink grapefruit and watermelon. Lycopene seems to be beneficial in reducing cancer risk, but there haven't been enough studies done to guarantee that a diet high in lycopene will prevent or lower your risk for cancer.

Take-Home Message

Having a healthy weight depends on smart choices for food, drink, and exercise. Keeping off excess pounds means balancing all these factors, to lower your overall risk for cancers, especially breast cancer. So eat your fruits and veggies, limit fats, meats, refined sugars, and alcohol. Stay active, and don't smoke or drink.

Sources:

International Journal of Cancer. Nutrient dietary patterns and the risk of breast and ovarian cancers. Valeria Edefonti, et al. Volume 122, Issue 3 , Pages 609 - 613. Published Online: 31 Aug 2007.

JAMA. 2007;298:289-298. Influence of a Diet Very High in Vegetables, Fruit, and Fiber and Low in Fat on Prognosis Following Treatment for Breast Cancer. The Women's Healthy Eating and Living (WHEL) Randomized Trial. John P. Pierce, et al. July 18, 2007.

American Cancer Society. Prevention & Early Detection. Common Questions About Diet and Cancer. Revised: 09/28/2006.

National Institutes of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements. Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin D.

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