When you’re trying to decide what vitamins and supplements to take, it can be confusing to decide on what you should really be taking and for what reason. Quite often, people take vitamins or supplements that they really don’t need to, or others should be taking a vitamin supplement due to a lack of a particular vitamin or mineral in their diet.
Vitamins and minerals are essential to support normal physiologic function. There are three characteristics of vitamins: they’re essential for physiologic function, are natural components of food, and when absent from our diet can cause a deficiency.
- They are either water-soluble or fat soluble, and they serve a variety of roles in our bodies.
- Their most important role is as coenzymes.
Minerals are also essential and include a wide set of micronutrients.
- Micro minerals are required in just 15mg a day
- Macro minerals should be in 100mg a day.
If there is a deficiency this is when vitamins and supplements can be helpful.
What Vitamins and Supplements To Take?
In years gone by, medical professionals realized that many diseases were related directly to food intake. The diseases were found even when patients were consuming an adequate level of protein and calories. What they realized was these diseases were absent in people consuming certain foods. For instance, sailors consuming citrus fruits while out to sea did not develop scurvy. Researches were led to believe then that foods must contain other important substances.
Sadly, thanks to poor dietary habits, many people around the world, suffer from nutrient deficiencies.
- According to the USDA, the most common deficiencies include magnesium, calcium, potassium, Vitamins A, C, E, and fiber.
- 68% of the population have a calcium deficiency
- 80% are deficient in Vitamin B6
- 75% in magnesium
- 90% in chromium.
The Help Guide indicates that there are 30 different minerals, vitamins, and dietary components that our bodies need to function, but cannot produce naturally in sufficient amounts. You can speak to your health care practitioner, or speak to an expert in a health food/supplement store if you are not sure if you could be lacking in any important vitamins and minerals.
Solubility and Absorption
Fat-soluble vitamins are absorbed passively and are transported via dietary fats. We store them in our fatty tissues, but also excrete them. If we fail to eat enough dietary fat we cannot properly absorb these vitamins, so low fat diets can lead to deficiencies in Vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Water-soluble vitamins are absorbed through active and passive mechanisms and they are transported by molecular carriers. They’re excreted in urine and not stored in high amounts; these vitamins include B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, B12, Vitamins H, and C.
Minerals are contained in both our food and bodies and they are absorbed in a charged state. They have either a positive or a negative state. Molecules that are found in food can affect our ability to absorb minerals. This includes oxalate (found in rhubarb and spinach), phytates (located in grains).
Even if you choose to take only one vitamin each day, you could take a multivitamin. A good one will help you to get at least some of your daily recommended balance of many vitamins and minerals. Remember vitamins are only beneficial if your body needs them.
Plus, you will find that there are many different types of multi vitamins for specific requirements. There are ones to boost your energy or metabolism and ones designed for males and females.
From here, you should begin considering what supplements and vitamins can have additional benefits to your overall health. For instance, if you are very active and need extra energy, consider adding some B vitamins to your daily vitamin routine.
Vitamin C can help you to have a strong immune system as well as a host of other benefits, including cellular repair. It also aids in natural healing, so if you’re working to avoid colds and the flu and maintain a strong immune system, this might be the choice for you. My Grandmother swore by vitamin C and wouldn’t let a day go by without us taking this wonder vitamin.
Vitamin D and E
Vitamin D is excellent for bone health, and is particularly useful if you don’t get enough natural sunlight on your body. Your body absorbs vitamin D from the sun.
Vitamin E is very good for your skin and natural healing. Choosing to take vitamin E is thought to be a good choice for people who have heart disease in their family history and some experts feel that vitamin E might be a good way to slow the aging process.
Calcium and Magnesium
Calcium is essential, and to keep calcium in balance, you also need magnesium. A calcium and magnesium supplement is beneficial for many people who don’t even realize they have a deficiency. If you suffer with severe cramps you may have a magnesium deficiency for example.
When to Take Vitamins and Supplements?
For decades we’ve been told that our diet is inadequate and we have been advised to take vitamins and supplements to ensure complete nutrition. In addition to multivitamins, there are recommendations to take dozens of other supplements, from fish oil to amino acids. However, when do we need to take any and who should?
Pregnant or Nursing Women
If you’re an expectant mother then the extra nutrients from a prenatal vitamin may very well be worth the effort and expense. Not only does your body require more nutrients, your growing baby does too. Usually folic acid and B vitamins are suggested.
If you’re nursing, many doctors and health experts recommend continuing to take a multivitamin to help ensure both you and baby are getting the nutrition you need.
Malnutrition and Malabsorption
Some conditions cause the body to not absorb nutrients or energy from food. These conditions range from irritable bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis, to HIV. Congestive heart disease and celiac disease are two other conditions that prevent the body from absorbing nutrients. The result is malnutrition and the body that struggles to thrive.
There are also medications that can interfere with absorption. In these cases, it’s imperative that a person get complete nutrition. Often, a vitamin-enriched beverage is prescribed because energy and calories need to be consumed.
Compromised Immune System
If you have a compromised immune system then it makes good sense to take a multivitamin and to supplement your nutrition. This can be anything from an autoimmune disease to the common cold. Anytime your body needs extra help to stay healthy, consider supplementing your diet with vitamins.
For example, if you have a cold or flu, zinc supplementation has been shown to reduce symptoms and shorten the duration of the virus. If you have an autoimmune disease or a chronic illness, talk to your doctor about how to best get complete nutrition.
Vitamins play an important role in normalizing our bodily functions. It is vitally important to get an adequate intake in order to prevent deficiencies, as well as promoting optimal health.
While many people rely on supplements, this interest was borne from the want to prevent disease, as well as that supplements are harmless. There are many serious adverse effects form incorrect supplement dosages.
- Don’t use vitamin supplements unless you truly need to.
If you’re on blood thinners, you should avoid taking Vitamin K supplements without first speaking to your doctor. If you have limited exposure to the sun, a vitamin D supplement will be helpful, while vegetarians may want to consider Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, and iodine supplements.
- If you do use a supplement, look for one that offers nutrients that were derived from whole foods.
According to the US National Library of Medicine the best way to ensure you are, getting the right balance of vitamins and minerals is to eat a balanced diet. Introduce a variety of foods, and if there are issues with a deficiency take supplements to make up for it. Before starting a supplement regime, discuss it with your doctor as some vitamins can create problems in high doses.
While vitamins aren’t the answer for the majority of the population, they can help improve the health and vitality of special groups. Take a look at your health, talk to your doctor, and improve your diet. Even if you’re in a risk group, you can still receive the majority of your nutrition through food.
Remember, some can have really negative side effects if you take too much, so when you’re deciding what vitamins and supplements to take, remember not to take too much! Too much, is not always a good thing!
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