While it is true that eating an organic whole foods-based diet provides all the nutrients required for good health, the reality is that most folks need a little help. Stress, digestive trouble, life stage, poor diet and multiple other factors all point to a potential deficiency in certain vitamins and minerals. The body requires certain amounts of both fat- and water-soluble vitamins and minerals each day to stay healthy, but most experts agree that there is no need to overdo it with supplements. Supplements should be treated as just that: a supplemental addition to a healthy, well-balanced diet. Schedule time to talk to your doctor or dietician to determine whether you have specific nutritional needs based on blood work, lifestyle and other factors such as age, pregnancy and chronic conditions.
That said, a multivitamin is probably a good idea for everyone. Stress, nutritional gaps and the aging process set the stage for nutrient deficiencies. But not all supplements are created equal. Here are a few things to look for when choosing a formula.
In addition to a multivitamin formula, there are times when specific vitamins, minerals and other nutrients are needed in a higher concentrated dose. When the immune system is compromised during illness, in the event of high stress or when recovering from injury, extra supplementation of particular vitamins or minerals may be appropriate. Here are some of the most commonly needed vitamins and minerals that may be used to support the body when in need.
Though this water-soluble vitamin is found in many foods such as citrus, strawberries and broccoli, there are times when a larger dose is appropriate. Vitamin C is an essential nutrient that is involved in tissue repair, collagen formation and the enzymatic production of certain neurotransmitters. It supports a healthy immune system and acts as an antioxidant.
Critical for immune function and metabolism, zinc can also help shorten the duration of the common cold. Zinc is also important in wound healing and the sense of taste and smell. It is usually well tolerated as a supplement, but most people need to take it with food as it can, in some cases, cause nausea. Make sure to talk to your doctor about proper dosage as it can decrease the effectiveness of some medications.
Vitamin B-12 plays a critical role in red blood cell formation and cell metabolism, nerve function and the production of DNA. Vitamin B-12 deficiency is not common in the U.S., though people following a vegan or vegetarian diet, or those who have digestive disorders that prevent proper absorption of nutrients, may benefit from B-12 supplementation, injections or nasal spray.
An essential nutrient for bone density, immunity, muscle function and brain cell activity, vitamin D is only found in certain fatty fish like salmon and sardines, or fortified milk and cereal. Vitamin D is also produced when the skin is exposed to natural sunlight, though this can be variable and therefore not reliable. It is a good idea to regularly check vitamin D levels during blood work.
Magnesium is responsible for hundreds of metabolic processes in the body, as well as energy production and building important proteins like DNA. Yet despite how important this essential nutrient is, studies show up to 50% of Americans are magnesium deficient. Add nuts, seeds and leafy greens to your diet to increase magnesium levels, and when needed, supplement with a form that is easy to absorb.
Antioxidants function to neutralize cell-damaging free radicals in the body, slowing the aging process and preventing potential negative effects on health. Get a wide variety of antioxidants by including superfoods such as berries, green tea and leafy green vegetables in your diet. Additional supplementation with antioxidants such as glutathione, astaxanthin, CoQ10 and quercetin may also be helpful.
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