Healthy eating is the best way to get the nutrients your body needs. Most people, however, fall short when it comes to maintaining a healthy diet. Irregular eating habits, poor diet plans, snacking and over dieting all contribute to nutritional gaps in a person’s diet. Taking vitamins is a quick and easy means of filling these gaps.
Choosing the right vitamin supplements is key to obtaining the nutrients your body lacks. Multivitamins won’t replace healthy eating or a healthy lifestyle, but they can provide a “backup” for people whose dietary habits are not where they should be. If you’re unfamiliar with vitamin supplements and what they have to offer, the following guide can help in answering some of your questions.
The Benefits of a Multivitamin
Men, women and children all differ in their nutritional needs. Knowing what vitamins are best for your gender, age and physical makeup can help you choose the right supplement for you. For most people, taking a multivitamin daily is sufficient as it contains most all the essential vitamins and minerals a person needs.
Here are some factors to consider when selecting a multivitamin as a supplement to your dietary needs:
- In most countries, you can tell what nutrients a vitamin contains as well as the amount you are getting per serving by reading the label. Before buying a multivitamin, take time to check out the label to get a better idea of the nutritional value of your product.
- A good supplement will contain all the basic minerals and vitamins your body needs. This includes vitamin C, A, E, D, K, all the B vitamins, iron, potassium, calcium, zinc and magnesium. Select a supplement that gives you the highest percentage (not to exceed 100%) of your recommended daily dosage for those vitamins.
- Choose a vitamin recommended for your sex, age and dietary needs.
- Take note of vitamins that are made for specific nutritional conditions or needs such as prenatal vitamins or supplements for people with iron deficiency.
- Avoid supplements that claim to exceed 100% of your daily recommended dosage. Remember that you will also be getting nutritional value from your diet. Overdoing with your vitamin supplement may cause your body more harm than good.
What Vitamins Should Women Take?
By eating healthy foods on a regular basis, the average woman will get the nutrients her body needs. Unfortunately, not all women fall into the healthy eating category. Professionals, mothers and students often end up eating fast foods or skipping meals altogether due to their busy schedules. This is where taking a multivitamin for women can make up for their nutrient deficiency. Nursing moms may also need the extra nutrients that supplements have to offer.
Determining that you need extra nutrients is the first step. Now you need to decide “What vitamins should I take daily?” According to the Institute of Medicine, there are approximately 15 essential vitamins women need to ensure their body systems operate as they should. These are:
- Vitamins A, C, D, E and K
- Thiamine, niacin, Vitamin B6 and B12
- Folic acid
- Pantothenic acid
- Biotin and
Some vitamins share the same function, such as vitamin A and vitamin C which both support tooth growth and development. Several of the B vitamins enhance red blood cell production and stimulate body metabolism. Some vitamins are needed for specific body functions such as vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium and vitamin K, which helps avoid blood clotting. Most women can get their daily portion of vitamin D by spending 10-15 minutes in the sun. As for vitamin K, the body produces almost three quarters of what it needs. If a woman needs more, she can generally get it from maintaining a healthy diet.
Pregnant women require greater quantities of Vitamin B6, B12 and folic acid to prevent birth defects and encourage the growth of healthy babies. Women who are planning on having a baby should also increase their intake of folic acid. Vegetarians may need to obtain B12, zinc and Vitamin A through supplements, as these may be lacking these essential nutrients in their vegetarian diet. Moreover, elderly women who spend little time in the sun can get their vitamin D from supplements.
What Vitamins Should Men Take?
Although men have different nutritional needs than women, they still need to watch their eating habits and make an effort to avoid junk food. Poor eating habits will eventually rob them of their health and well-being. By taking vitamin supplements, men can replenish the vitamins and minerals lost by not eating healthy meals.
“Supplements won’t counteract poor eating habits,” says Amanda Carlson, the director of performance nutrition, Athletes’ Performance, Tempe, AZ, “but they can help to make a healthy diet better.” Here are some suggestions for vitamins men can take to supplement their diet.
Multivitamins work just as well for men as they do for women. By taking multivitamins regularly, men will get the full benefits of the product. Multivitamins for men should contain all the essential nutrients they need, plus selenium for greater protection against cancer, and zinc for better sperm production. Men who have a hard time swallowing pills may prefer smaller sized supplements. By choosing a supplement that provides the recommended daily allowance of vitamins and minerals, men don’t have to worry about taking extra pills daily to get the nutrients they need.
Alternatives to Vitamin Supplements
1. Fish Oil
Fish oil is rich in omega 3 fatty acids which enhance brain health and strengthen the heart. These acids also contain anti-inflammatory properties which can be useful in healing sports injuries. To get the recommended dosage of omega acids, people would need to eat fish 2-3 times a week, which in most cases is highly unlikely. Fish oil supplements containing the fats DPA and EPA can help fill this gap.
Much has been said in the news lately about the positive effects of probiotics. This good bacterium is essential for stomach health; it also helps strengthen the immune system. Yogurt is one of the best sources of probiotics although you can also obtain it in soy beverages, tempeh, miso and fermented or unfermented milk. (Learn more about foods containing probiotics here!) If these foods are not a regular part of your diet, then taking probiotic supplements daily is a viable alternative.
How Vitamins Contribute to Weight Loss
Many people wonder “what vitamins should I take for weight loss?” Although vitamin supplements can help contribute to weight loss in various ways, taking vitamins alone will not cause you to lose weight. Here are some ways in which vitamins can help in reducing weight.
- Vitamin B12 helps nourish red blood cells which improves your health and vitality. An increase in energy enables you to exercise more which will help you lose weight.
- Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium which is essential for strong bones. Calcium also enhances muscle and nerve function for a stronger, healthier body. The stronger your body is, the more active you can be to help in shedding those excess pounds.
- Omega 3s enhance brain health, blood clotting and helps protect you from heart disease. The antioxidants in green tea also help in strengthening and protecting your cardiovascular system. A strong heart will improve your blood circulation, increasing the flow of oxygen in your body. This increases energy levels so you can lead a more active lifestyle.
What Vitamins Should I Take for an Energy Boost?
Vitamins play an important role in boosting your energy by providing the nutrients that are lacking in your diet. Vitamin D and the B vitamins are good for increasing your vitality without the risk of side-effects that some energy drinks and stimulants can cause. One of the roles of the B-complex vitamins is to convert the food you eat into fuel to give you energy for daily living. According to the National Institute of Health, B12 not only increases energy, but also helps in improving concentration and boosting a person’s mood.
Vitamins and minerals serve to improve a person’s overall health and well-being. They strengthen your heart, muscles, bones and body systems so you can exercise, work, play and enjoy life to the full. Better health enables you to live an active lifestyle that contributes to weight loss and staying at a healthy weight level. Understanding the connection between vitamin supplements and weight loss will help you save money in the vitamin supplements you choose.