Vitamins and Supplements: The Basics
With so much attention given to healthy food trends like organics, locally-grown produce and the Slow Food Movement, it’s no wonder that vitamins and supplements have become a hot-button topic. Flip through any major health magazine and you’ll see headlines like “4 Supplements You Should Definitely Know About” and “The 6 Best Supplements For Men.” But on the same page, there are articles that tout things like “Daily Vitamins: Don’t Overload Your System” or “Doctors Say You Should Stop Taking Multivitamins.” So how do you know what’s best for your body? Before you stock up on supplements at your local health food store, here are a few answers to help you get started.
What are vitamins and supplements?
Ever hear the phrase “an apple a day keeps the doctor away?” Well, that may not be completely true, but the essence of it does hold some merit. Vitamins are the organic compounds found in foods that our bodies require to perform properly. These occur in all naturally-occurring foods, like spinach, carrots and (you guessed it) apples. We also get vitamins from meat sources because animals eat these resources or eat other animals that do. These compounds help us with everything we do, from muscle growth to digestion to vision.
Supplements are exactly what they sound like — they supplement the nutrients we get from a healthy diet. These may be vitamins, minerals, herbs or concentrates that will deliver such vitamins. For example, garlic supplements contain vitamins C and B6, manganese and other antioxidants that help with immune health.
Should I take supplements?
The reason this question is so difficult to answer is that we are all unique. We have different needs and requirements based on our genetics, diet and lifestyle. But one thing is the same for everyone — our primary source of vitamins should be from healthy eating habits. Vitamin supplements cannot be used as a replacement for food, so it’s important to focus on getting the nutrients you need there first. Before you think about what supplements you should add to your grocery list, try making some changes to your diet. Add more vegetables to your meals and avoid eating too many processed foods that don’t provide proper nutrition.
Which supplements should I take?
If you’ve made some changes to your diet and still find that you’re lacking in certain areas, you can choose to fill in those gaps with supplements. If you work a desk job, for example, you may find that you need a little extra vitamin D because you’re not in the sun as much as others who work outdoors. If
you’re anemic, iron and manganese are good supplementary choices. The key point here is that supplements should supplement your diet, not compose it.
If you’re not sure how to find out what vitamins you’re getting regularly, talk to your doctor. You can also get some basic information from sites like care/of or , which give vitamin recommendations based on your lifestyle and symptoms.
It’s also important to note that certain supplements can interact with medications, so it’s important to check with your doctor first if you’re taking any.
With so much health recommendations floating around, it can be difficult to know what advice to follow. But when it comes to vitamins and supplements, the most important thing to remember is that everyone is different. You may need supplements and you may not. Talk to your doctor to determine what’s best for your lifestyle.
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- Lifestyle Staff