Wading through a Sea of Supplements
If there is one aisle I'm not a fan of when I go shopping, it's the vitamin and supplement aisle. I just can't help but feel overwhelmed once I start looking at the endless options that fill the shelves from top to bottom. I've often gone to that aisle looking for something specific only to find there are several different variations of what I'm looking for, not to mention many different brands to choose from. I often walk away more confused than I was before I started looking and questioning whether the product in my hand is the right choice. Sometimes I even tell myself that if I eat healthy enough, I probably don't even need a supplement. But the fact of the matter is, that vitamins and minerals are essential to life. Although it is always best to get as many essential vitamins and minerals directly from our diet as possible, in reality we are starting to discover that it is extremely difficult to get one hundred percent of what our body needs solely from our diets. This is where supplements can help fill in those gaps. But where to begin?
Throughout my adult life I have often taken a multivitamin. Multivitamins don't provide the daily amount of each vitamin and mineral that your body needs, but I always felt like they were a nice way to
make up for the daily amounts that I may not have been getting from my diet. When my husband and I decided to have children, I switched to a prenatal vitamin, which is very much like a multivitamin, but it contains different amounts of certain vitamins and minerals that are important for women who are either pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant. For example, prenatal vitamins contain between 400 and 1000 IU of folic acid which is very important for preventing birth defects in a developing fetus. So although I felt like I had all my bases covered with my multivitamin, I often wondered if there was something more I should be taking, especially when I saw what was available. And often when you do an online search, the results can be just as confusing as all the options on the store shelves. One article may list the top ten vitamins and minerals, another will list the top twenty. I even found one article that had a top one hundred! But I think the best thing to keep in mind is that supplements are just what the name “supplement” implies: they're supplements! Supplements should be used to supplement your diet, not replace foods that are important parts of healthy eating.
Here are a few highlights of some important vitamins and minerals that are found in most multivitamins (1):
Vitamin A boosts the immune system, improves vision, reduces risk of heart disease and may slow skin aging. It can be toxic in large doses, especially in pregnant women which is why you will find that the amount of Vitamin A differs in a multivitamin versus a prenatal vitamin. We need 2300 IU per day and some of the food sources containing vitamin A are foods that contain beta carotene, such as carrot and cantaloupe.
There are eight B vitamins in total and they help to maintain metabolism, muscle tone and are good for the brain. Vitamin B9, which is folic acid, keeps red blood cells healthy, provides cancer protection and prevents birth defects. Food sources for some of the B vitamins are fortified cereals, whole grain breads, asparagus, and beans.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant. Some people take it to fight colds because it can boost your immune system, but benefits of this have yet to be proven. It can also help prevent heart disease, prenatal problems, eye illnesses, speeds wound healing and fends off wrinkles. We need 75mg per day and it can be found in foods such as oranges and red pepper.
Vitamin D has a central role in muscle function and aids in calcium absorption. Sun exposure triggers the skin to make vitamin D and it can be found in food sources such as milk, orange juice and salmon, although only in very small amounts. I've recently heard that researchers have made new recommendations about the daily amounts of vitamin D. We need at least 1000 IU a day and because food sources and sun exposure are not providing enough of the necessary daily amounts, supplementation is often needed. Because Vitamin D helps in the development and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth, it is an important vitamin for children as well. There are also some studies that indicate that vitamin D can reduce breast cancer risk and may also protect against ovarian cancer and diabetes.
Calcium is good for the nervous system and is needed for strong bones and teeth. We start losing bone density in our twenties already, so calcium is extremely important, especially in women. Supplementation is often needed as we need 1000mg per day. Calcium can be found in dairy products such as yogurt, milk and cheese.
Iron is good for the immune system because it helps in the production of red blood cells. We need 18mg per day and it can be found in some breakfast cereals and red meat. A supplement may be needed, especially if you have heavy periods. But consult with your doctor first as too much iron can be harmful and a blood test will be needed to determine whether you are anemic (or not).
Although it is highly unlikely that you will take in too much of any one vitamin or mineral from a food source, this can happen when you supplement so always use caution when taking supplements. Because of the vast variety of products available, it is always a good idea to check with your doctor or another health care professional before taking any supplements, especially if you are pregnant, nursing or have other underlying medical conditions as supplements can interact with certain medications (2).
Thankfully, eVitality.ca has made wading through that sea of supplements a much easier process. eVitality.ca has several supplements that have been carefully hand-picked by their in-house medical team that can help you get the essential vitamins and minerals you need each day. Quest multivitamins and minerals are specifically designed to provide the nutrients required to maintain healthy skin, muscle function, a strong immune system and overall good health. There are three options available: a daily multivitamin for men, women and for mature women (50+). The thing I like about multivitamins is that you get the vitamins and minerals you need in one pill, rather than having to take a handful of pills to meet your body's needs. Quest also has additional supplements available for wellness, development and energy and eVitality.ca offers supplements such as oral pain relievers, sleep aids, beauty cosmeceutical and weight loss remedies, as well as vitamin D drops for babies, children and adults.