If you're overweight or obese, you're consuming too many calories — extra fuel that your body can't use and stores away as body fat. There are six essential nutrients that you need for optimal health and nutrition, however, only three of these nutrients provide calories. Vitamins don't deliver calories that contribute to excess fat; each vitamin you get from the food you eat serves a different purpose in your body.
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There are six nutrients your body needs: carbohydrates, fat, proteins, vitamins, minerals and water. Only three of these nutrients — carbohydrates, fat and proteins — provide calories, the fuel that gives you energy. Carbohydrates and proteins give you four calories per gram, and fat gives you nine calories per gram. Carbohydrates come from foods such as rice, pasta, vegetables, fruits, beans, peas and grain-based foods, such as bread. You get proteins from foods such as meat, chicken and other poultry, eggs, beans, and milk and other dairy foods, such as cheese. Fat is present in numerous foods, such as meat, butter, cheese, shortening, nuts and vegetable oils. The vitamins in the foods you eat are noncaloric; however, they are vital for growth, development and cell function.
Thirteen vitamins are essential for human health. These vitamins are vitamins A, C, D, E, K, and the eight B vitamins, which consists of vitamin B-1, or thiamine; B-2, or riboflavin; B-3, or niacin; vitamin B-5, or pantothenic acid; B-6; B-7, or biotin; B-12 and folic acid. Each vitamin serves a specific function to keep you in good health. For example, vitamin C is essential for the health of your teeth and gums; it also promotes the absorption of the mineral iron and helps you heal when your body is wounded. Vitamin D helps you absorb the mineral calcium, which is required for strong teeth and bones. Vitamin deficiency leads to poor health and puts you at risk for cancer, heart disease and osteoporosis.
A sluggish metabolism is sometimes blamed for weight gain; however, according to Mayo Clinic preventive medicine specialist Dr. Donald Hensrud, most of the time weight gain is the result of consuming more food and beverages than you need and not getting enough physical activity to burn surplus calories. Other factors that contribute to weight gain include your genetics, family history, taking certain drugs, skipping meals and inadequate sleep. Another thing to consider is that as you get older, the number of daily calories you need decreases. If you've set weight loss as your goal, reduce the number of calories you consume each day. Eat a varied diet rich in all of the essential vitamins and minerals you need. Regular aerobic exercise and strength training also helps with weight loss.
Some people take vitamin supplements to make sure that they get their daily dose of essential nutrients. However, the American Association of Family Physicians indicates that it's best to get vitamins and minerals from the food you eat, as they're more readily absorbed by your body. Vitamins and other dietary supplements aren't an adequate substitute for a healthy diet. However, MayoClinic.com states that vitamin supplements may be appropriate for certain populations, such as vegans and vegetarians, people who consume less than 1,600 calories a day, pregnant women and those who have health complications that prevent the absorption of certain nutrients.