It is important to get a good balance of Vitamins and Minerals when it comes to nutrition, to ensure we’re getting the nutrients our body needs. So the question then becomes, when are vitamin supplements necessary? Let’s explore that questiona little, and find what foods provide the essential nutrients your body needs, and when vitamin supplements could be helpful for you.
How does the body use vitamins and minerals?
Our body needs certain types of nutrients, Vitamins, and Minerals to stay healthy and well. These are required in different amounts and each plays a specific roles in the way our body works. For example, iron is needed for energy and a healthy blood supply (iron deficiency can lead to anaemia), while vitamin C is an important tool for our immune system.
Vitamins are substances used in various metabolic processes and help the body stay in good health. Minerals are a different kind of substance (generally inorganic) that are also required in small amounts to maintain our metabolism and keep our bodies working right.
There are 13 types of Vitamins and Minerals that are essential for health. They include Vitamin A, Vitamin B, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Thiamine, Riboflavin, Niacin, Folate, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin and Choline.
What foods provide the necessary nutrients?
There are many foods that provide the necessary nutrients for the body to function properly. Here is a shortlist of the most commonly found foods that provide the essential nutrients.
- Whole grains, like oats and wheat, are high in fibre, B Vitamins, iron and magnesium.
- Cashews and Almonds are a good source of vitamin E and magnesium, and they are also high in healthy fats.
- Eggs can be a great source of protein, B Vitamins and iron.
- Dairy products like milk and yoghurt are high in calcium and vitamin D.
- Dark leafy greens, like spinach and kale, are a good source of iron, calcium and vitamin K.
- Potatoes and sweet potatoes can be a good source of vitamin B6 and fibre.
- Berries and other similar fruit are high in vitamin C, fibre, and antioxidants.
Bear in mind this is only a shortlist, so for more information; you can check out Harvard Health Publishing for a more comprehensive list of Vitamins and what they do for the body.
When are vitamin supplements necessary?
There are a few scenarios where vitamin supplements are important, and possibly even necessary. For example, if you are following a vegetarian or vegan diet, it’s difficult to get the right balance of nutrients, as some Vitamins and Minerals are only found in animal products. Having a diet low in whole grains and fibre can also lead to a deficiency in B Vitamins, iron and magnesium. When following a low-calorie diet, it is often important to take extra supplements to ensure that you get the right amount of nutrients.
If you have a medical condition, like Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, or diabetes, you’re on certain prescription medications (such as antibiotics), or you’re pregnant, you may also require extra Vitamins and Minerals to stay healthy.
Deficiencies that may require vitamin supplementation
Certain deficiencies in the body may require vitamin supplements to correct. This is often true for those following a vegetarian or vegan diet. One of the more common deficiencies is low iron, which is an important mineral that is found mostly in red meat. Iron deficiency can lead to lack of energy and anemia. Symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, tingling sensation in extremities, and headaches.
Another common deficiency is a lack of B12; this vitamin is found in animal products and fortified plant foods and supplements. Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to the weakening of the immune system, depression, and in some cases, damage to the spinal cord.
The last two are the most common – Calcium and Vitamin D deficiency. Calcium is found mostly in dairy products, and calcium deficiency can lead to brittle bones, osteoporosis and kidney stones. Finally, Vitamin D is usually synthesized in the skin when exposed to the sun. It can also be found in fortified foods, like milk and yoghurt and is also present in mushrooms. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to depression, fatigue and weak bones.
As a rule, vitamin deficiencies aren’t something that needs urgent medical intervention – they’re more something you’d book in with a doctor to talk about. However, some serious deficiencies can have the potential for serious health issues. Calcium deficiency can make you move likely to suffer broken bones. Anemia can cause heart complications, and occasionally heart failure. If you have a loved one who suffers from a serious ongoing issue like these, it might be worth making sure you first aid skills are up to date, to be ready for anything.
Other conditions that may require supplementation
Apart from deficiencies, there are also some health conditions that may require vitamin supplements. As mentioned, vegetarians and vegans are prime examples. Other conditions include Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS), a condition that many women experience a few days before their period due to the change in their hormone levels. Extra vitamin B6 and magnesium can help with the symptoms of PMS.
When pregnant, the body requires extra Vitamins and Minerals to ensure the baby is growing properly. This can mean the mother becomes deficient, so supplements can help compensate for this. Finally, a condition called Fibromyalgia can often benefit from vitamin supplements. People with this condition often experience chronic pain, muscle spasms and fatigue, and taking extra vitamin B6 and magnesium can help with these symptoms.
Finding the right supplement
Vitamins and Minerals are essential for good health, so getting the right mix of them is important. It is important to find a quality product when it comes to supplementation. For example, a good iron supplement will have bioavailable iron instead of non-bioavailable iron. This means that the body can more effectively absorb the iron. There is a wide variety of brands that provide a range of quality in supplements. It is important to research and find one that works for you. And remember to make sure you’re getting the Vitamins and Minerals you need on a daily basis – for the sake of your long-term health!