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EAT WELL: Vitamins for vitality

By INDRA BALARATNAM

VITAMINS are natures health ingredients in food and drinks. You may remember your primary school teacher telling you about the importance of vitamins and what they do for your body.
When you make food choices during a meal, do you actually give any thought about what vitamins the food contains? Like most people, its probably the furthest from your mind. Sadly, most adults make food choices based on taste. Being a mindful eater is about being clued in on what food gives your body the proper nourishment. WHAT ARE VITAMINS Vitamins are organic compounds that are complex in structure and is part of the physiological processes in your body. The only way we get vitamins is by eating something. We must eat a variety of food to ensure we get sufficient vitamins as the body cannot make enough vitamins to maintain proper health. When the body lacks vitamins, the resulting deficiency will manifest in various symptoms and lead to poor health. Once the deficiency is addressed and the person gets sufficient amounts of the vitamin they are lacking, good health will be restored again. Deficiencies are usually treated by making sure the person eats enough servings of foods that are rich in a particular nutrient, or by giving a standard dosage of supplements. Vitamin supplements are synthetic versions of natural vitamins. WATER AND FAT SOLUBLE VITAMINS Vitamins are either water soluble or fat soluble. Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat soluble. They are present in the lipids or the fatty part of a particular food. All other types of vitamins are water soluble. This means they dissolve in water. Fat soluble vitamins are harder for the body to get rid off. If you consume extremely high doses of fat soluble vitamins, such as vitamin A, it can cause toxicity in the body. This is because the body stores it in fat and the liver. Excess water soluble vitamins, on the other hand, are excreted in urine as the body only stores what it needs. So the chances of toxicity from water soluble vitamins is rare. VITAMIN SOURCES You can get your daily vitamin needs from the five food groups meat, grain, vegetable, fruit, dairy and even good bacteria. Thats why you often hear health professionals encouraging you to eat a variety of food or f ollow a wellbalanced diet as no one food group gives you all the vitamins youll need. But by eating a variety of different foods, youll be in a better position to get a more complete spectrum of all the vitamins you need. See the table below for good food sources.

VITAMIN ABSORPTION Nutrients from food, vitamins included, are absorbed in your body by your small intestines. It does not absorb 100 per cent of the vitamins present from food. Usually, it will only absorb what the body needs. So when the body is undergoing a growth spurt or is under stress or recovering from illness, for example, the small intestines will absorb more vitamins as needed. Gastrointestinal disorders can affect the absorption of vitamins. Depending on the severity, this lack of absorption can cause vitamin deficiencies. In instances such as these, vitamin supplements can be of great use. The large doses in the vitamin supplement will help the body absorb a small amount that it requires. Therefore, for general health where you dont have a deficiency, theres no real need to buy mega doses of vitamin supplements. And remember, mega doses of fat soluble vitamins can be toxic as the body cant get rid of the excess. In special cases where a person cannot absorb vitamins and nutrients due to gastrointestinal issues, doctors will administer injections of vitamins intravenously. PRESERVING VITAMIN CONTENT A significant amount of vitamins is lost from fruit and vegetables that are not handled properly or have been stored for an extended period of time. Not all vitamins are the same, though. Vitamin D can withstand prolonged storage and food preparation. Other vitamins such as vitamin C, thiamine and folate are not as resilient. They are easily destroyed by improper storage and cooking. Water soluble vitamins can dissolve in cooking water. When you steam vegetables or blanch them in boiling water, dont throw the liquid. Instead, use it to cook other dishes as the vitamins are present in the water. Fast cooking methods are recommended to better preserve vitamins. These include steaming, blanching and stir frying. The next time youre choosing something to eat, make sure you consider the vitamins the food gives your body. Being mindful about nutrition will put you on the right path to eating well.

Contention A contention is a claim for which some evidence is presented whether or against it. Example of contention supported by reason:

C/C : 1 Consume extremely high doses of fat soluble vitamins, such as vitamin A , it can cause toxicity in the body

because

The body stores it in fat and the liver, so the chances of toxicity from water soluble vitamins is rare.

C/C : 2

We must eat a variety of food to ensure we get sufficient vitamins as the body cannot make enough vitamins to maintain proper health.

because

When the body lacks vitamins, the resulting deficiency will manifest in various symptoms and lead to poor health.

Being happy
Is happiness that difficult to attain? Dr Gan Chee Kuan offers some tips
HAPPINESS can be described as the unconditional inner state of well-being. It comes when there is harmony among self, others and the environment. But happiness sometimes eludes us, leaving us lost and helpless. So what do we do? How can we be happy? Happiness can be quite subjective but there are some general guidelines. Be content. Be fulfilled. Express emotions constructively. Listen to our conscience. Be sociable and courteous. Work to create stability in our lives, with our family, our jobs and our finances. Religion can help in the pursuit of happiness, as do charitable actions. Why are we unhappy? It could be due to low self-esteem, where we judge our own worth based on how others see us. And some people can be overly-critical. We may also be unhappy when we place too much importance in accumulating material wealth, only to realise the happiness it brings does not last. This is related to an individuals la ck of spiritual growth because of the emphasis on material pursuits. And in an increasingly individualistic society, sometimes we lose our social networks, such as our family structure, and become isolated. That is also a factor. Can we create happiness for ourselves? Yes, it is possible to create our own happiness because true happiness comes from your inner self regardless of external circumstances. For example, we may have a set of goals in life, which we set because we believe it will make us happy. But then comes a time when we realise that we cannot achieve them, and that brings us down. So it may be the time to reflect manage our expectations, change our goals and perspective on life. It is okay to change, as long as we do not compromise on our principles. And what about the expression money does not buy happiness? It is true that money may bring happiness in the short-term but human desires are unlimited. It is also good to be active, because it makes us feel that we have a purpose in life. And having that purpose can make us happy. Remember that we are social animals. Being connected with others is very important in ensuring our well-being. What about happiness at work? It is important to be happy at work, given the fact that we spend a significant amount of our time working. And happiness at work comes when we have a clear aim about why we are doing the work. Work is more than about making money, so work with a purpose to serve. Being happy at work may also lead to increased productivity and a better chance of promotion. In the office, maintain a good working relationship with colleagues. Set clear boundaries so we do not overstep where we are not wanted. And make sure our professional life in the office is balanced with our personal life outside the office.

But it cannot be denied that some people are unhappy at their jobs but stay on because of the salary and other perks. In that case, we might need to reflect on our priorities and commitments before deciding if it is worth it to keep that job.

The writer is a psychiatrist at Columbia Asia Hospital-Miri.

C/C : 3 We may also be unhappy when we place too much importance in accumulating material wealth, only to realise the happiness it brings does not last.

because

Of the emphasis on material pursuits and in an increasingly individualistic society.

C/C : 4

it is possible to create our own happiness

because

True happiness comes from your inner self regardless of external circumstances.

Beware the flu


BY DATUK DR ZULKIFLI ISMAIL

Always ready: A new flu vaccine is made each year to protect against the three flu viruses which collected data indicates are most likely to cause illness during the next flu season. AFP

Influenza (or the flu) is an infectious viral infection that may lead to unnecessary complications. Learn what you can do to protect your family. IT happens periodically all over the world flu and these seasonal epidemics have resulted in about three to five million cases of severe illnesses, with up to 500,000 deaths every year. Even Malaysia has not been spared, and in 2009, the Malaysian government declared a national health emergency due to the H1N1 flu pandemic. Since then, the Health Ministry has set up a Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre to closely monitor the situation; new strains of viruses are frequently appearing, such as the outbreak of the H7N9 bird flu in China. Flu viruses are highly contagious. An infected person can spread it when they are in close proximity to you or your child, while they talk, cough or sneeze.

Always ready: A new flu vaccine is made each year to protect against the three flu viruses which collected data indicates are most likely to cause illness during the next flu season. AFP

Your child may be at risk of serious complications from influenza if he has been hospitalised, or visited an outpatient clinic or emergency room due to any chronic or serious condition (including pulmonary, cardiovascular, metabolic, rheumatic, renal, neurological, immunosuppressive, hematological and even premature birth). They can easily come in contact with the germs from healthcare workers and child care personnel who are more likely to have close contact with people infected with influenza. Other people who are vulnerable to influenza include the elderly, those who frequently travel in crowds, and those with weakened immune systems or people who suffer from certain chronic conditions (asthma, diabetes or heart problems). The flu is different from the common cold; its symptoms come on suddenly and include high fever, sore throat, weakness, headaches, muscle and/or joint pains, and a cough. Young children, in particular, are prone to the flu as their immune system is underdeveloped. If you or your child has one of the above mentioned risk factors, then the chances of developing complications are high. The commonly encountered complications include bacterial pneumonia, ear

infections, sinus infections, dehydration and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma or diabetes. Pregnant women who get influenza are also more likely to develop complications, particularly during their second and third trimesters. Influenza viruses are highly variable and change from year to year. Therefore, it is possible to get influenza several times during a lifetime and be infected with the same virus (sub) type. The immunity provided by natural infection or vaccination with a given influenza virus strain does not necessarily provide protection against a newer virus strain. A new flu vaccine is made each year to protect against the three flu viruses that data indicates are most likely to cause illness during the next flu season. Although influenza usually isnt serious if youre young and healthy, getting vaccinated prevents this contagious disease from making you sick, and consequently endangering your loved ones around you who may be vulnerable to an increased risk of serious flu-related complications. Keeping up to date on your yearly flu vaccine is especially important to keep you and your family safe. To protect against the flu, the first and most important thing you can do is to get a flu vaccine for yourself and your child. > Vaccination is recommended for everyone six months and older. > Its especially important that young children and children with long-term health conditions get vaccinated. > Caregivers of children with health conditions or of children younger than six months old should get vaccinated. > Another way to protect babies is to vaccinate pregnant women because research shows that this gives some protection to the baby, both while the woman is pregnant and for a few months after the baby is born. > Vaccination of high risk persons is especially important to decrease their risk of severe flu illness and complications. Because the flu can spread easily, you should teach your child to always wash his hands before eating. The best way to wash hands is with soap and water, but if you happen to be out and there is no soap and water available, you can use a hand sanitizer to quickly reduce the number of germs on your childs hands. If you cough or sneeze, do so into your arm (not your hands). If tissues were used, throw them immediately after use.

Avoid bringing along your child when you visit someone who is sick. If someone in your household is sick, try to isolate them by keeping them in a separate room. Keep the household clean by wiping surfaces with a household detergent. Most importantly, stay home and avoid crowded areas such as child care centres, schools, office buildings, auditoriums and public transportation hubs during flu outbreaks. > Datuk Dr Zulkifli Ismail is a consultant paediatrician and paediatric cardiologist. This article is a courtesy of Malaysian Paediatric Associations Positive Parenting programme in collaboration with expert partners. This article is also supported by the educational grant from Sanofi Pasteur. The opinion expressed in the article is the view of the author. For further information, please visitwww.mypositiveparenting.org.

C/C : 5 To protect against the flu, the first and most important thing you can do is to get a flu vaccine for yourself and your child.

The flu can spread easily