Vitamin fact and fiction
In a perfect world, we would be getting all our vitamins and minerals from whole, healthy foods that are rich in fiber and other important nutrients. According to Audrey Cross, PhD from Columbia’s School of Public Health, it’s easy enough to do so – but most people simply don’t.1
That’s why many doctors recommend adding a vitamin supplement to our diets as a “safety net” in case we’re not getting everything our bodies need from food alone.
In general, it makes sense to take a multivitamin that fits your group, and most major multivitamin makers do produce different varieties for men, women, children, and seniors. According to WebMD, you’ll get the optimal amount of a variety of nutrients for your age and sex if you choose the vitamin that’s meant for you.
For example, older folks have a harder time taking in the proper amount of vitamin B-12 from natural sources, and all women of childbearing age should make sure they get 100% of the recommended daily amount of folic acid, which is key to preventing birth defects.
So what do the big four vitamins actually do for you body? Healthy Eating2 shares the following information about vitamins A, E, C and B:
Vitamin A: This nutrient regulates the growth and division of your cells, and helps your body produce white blood cells that fight illness and infection. It also plays a role in bone health.
Vitamin E: This is an antioxidant that protects your cell membranes from damage and may prevent LDL cholesterol from forming plaque in your arteries. Some research indicates that vitamin E may also help prevent some types of cancer.
Vitamin C: This vitamin is important for producing collagen, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, and the basic proteins in your bones. It also acts as an antioxidant, protecting your body from damage done by free radicals (molecules that can damage cells).
B Vitamins: The B-complex group of vitamins includes B-6, B-12, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, biotin and pantothenic acid. These all work together to help your body metabolize the carbohydrates, protein, and fat that you eat. They also function as antioxidants.
It’s always best to check with your doctor before taking any new vitamins or supplements to make sure they’re right for you, that you’re taking the recommended amount, and that they won’t react with any medications or supplements you might already be taking. You doctor may also recommend specific amounts or type, so always check in with the expert before adding any new vitamins or other supplements to your diet, particularly in some cases where too much of a good thing can actually be harmful.
Healthy eating for a healthy body
When taken safely under doctor supervision, vitamin supplements can help keep your body healthy. But remember: think of vitamin supplements only as a safety net. What’s on your plate is more powerful than what comes in a pill bottle, and your focus should always be on eating healthy, whole foods that fuel your body with all the vitamins and minerals it needs to thrive. Take a look at resources like Choose My Plate and Canada’s Food Guides to brush up on daily food group requirements, recommended serving sizes, and healthier options for fats and oils.
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