Variety on Your Plate

Vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients: your body needs them—perhaps more of them— for your good health. That's positive nutrition! Just how much do you need for optimal health? What foods are your best sources? And how do these food substances keep you fit?

Although headlines may seem confounding, there's plenty that's well known about the roles of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients (plant substances) in health. Over the past century, research has unlocked puzzles related to widespread deficiencies. Today's nutrition breakthroughs focus less on cures and more on the roles of nutrients, phytonutrients, and other food components in health promotion and in protection from cancer, heart disease, and osteoporosis, among other health concerns.

  • Today, more than forty nutrients, including vitamins and minerals, have been identified. Their functions, the amount you need at different stages of life, and their food sources are better understood. Today's vitamin and mineral research is extending well beyond their well-known, important roles in health, noted in this chapter.
  • Today, we know more about the balance of vitamins and minerals—and the variety of foods—that allow the body to absorb and use them most efficiently. We're discovering what's enough, but not too much, for our unique, individual needs.
  • Today, science is exploring a new frontier: food components, including phytonutrients, that offer health benefits beyond basic nourishment.

The bottom line? A variety of food—with plenty of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients—is part of your ticket to good health!

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