Okay, so how overwhelmed do you feel when you walk through the vitamin and mineral supplement isle? There are so many brands, each with their own vast range of vitamins and minerals. As the name suggests, vitamin supplements are to supplement a diet that lacks the amount of vitamins that your body needs to reach optimal function and health. With the rise of fast foods and the “Western Diet”, lack of time to prepare and eat a balanced diet, and due to certain illnesses or special diets, many people do not consume enough (volume and variety) foods to meet their Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA). Remember that getting these vitamins and minerals from food sources is always the best option but in cases where this is not possible, vitamin and mineral supplementation is advised.
There are a few things to remember when shopping for vitamins and minerals:
Balanced Diet Hard to Achieve? Multivitamins are the way to go.
Unless your Registered Health Care Professional has prescribed a specific vitamin or mineral supplement in a specific dosage to suit your nutritional needs, it is not recommended to supplement with a single type of vitamin. This is especially important with supplementing with fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin A, D, E and K. These vitamins are only absorbed in the presence of fat. The rest of the vitamins (such as vitamin C and all the B vitamins) are absorbed with water.
Like most things, moderation is key – most vitamins and minerals have a toxicity level where too high a dosage can cause harm, so too much of a good thing can be bad! When a high dosage of water soluble vitamins is consumed, the excess that your body does not need is excreted through the urine. This is expensive urine! Fat-soluble vitamins cannot be excreted out the body, and the excess of these vitamins can cause damage.
The safest way to supplement is to get a good multivitamin and mineral supplement. These are in safe amounts if taken according to dosage instructions.
Essential Fatty Acids
Omega 3 & 6
These are called essential fatty acids (EFA’s) because our bodies cannot produce them on their own, so they must come from your diet.
Omega 6 fatty acids (are most often consumed in sufficient amounts with the average diet – sources include sunflower oil and other vegetable oils.
Omega 3 fatty acids include eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are mainly found in fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, pilchards, herring, anchovies, trout and to a lesser extent plant sources like flaxseed, hemp, canola, soy products, walnuts and non-hydrogenated margarine make with canola or soybean oil. It is recommended that 2 servings of fatty fish are eaten per week (75g-140g per serving). These foods are often not consumed in sufficient amounts and it is recommended that the diet is supplemented with these oils.
Omega 3’s provide the following benefits:
- Development – Plays a role in brain, nerve and eye development in infants
- May improved memory
- Heart health – may prevent and treat heart disease. These have a blood thinning effect, so consult your doctor before consuming Omega 3 supplements if you are taking blood thinning medication such as aspirin, warfarin or heparin.
- May prevent and treat depression
- May reduce symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis
Studies have shown these benefits with a dosage of 1500mg / day of Omega 3.
Those at risk of vitamin deficiencies:
- Folic acid prevents neural tube defects such as spina bifida. It is suggested folate be taken before pregnancy until you are 12 weeks pregnant.
- Vitamin D regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body, which are needed to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy and strong.
- Calcium for strong bones and teeth for you and your baby – remember your baby will take the nutrients that it needs from your body. If you are not consuming enough calcium in your diet, your personal stores will reduce and this will result in weakened bones and teeth.
- Iron – Vegans are especially at risk of vit B12 and iron deficiency.
- Please do not take Vitamin A supplements during pregnancy – too much vitamin A can harm your baby!
Men and Women over the age of 50
Vitamin D – This is especially critical for those that do not expose their skin to the sun. As explained above, vitamin D is important for bone strength and therefore can reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
Vitamin B12 – Adults over the age of 50 have a reduced ability to absorb vitamin B12. It is recommended that this age group supplement with vitamin B12 regularly. Vitamin B12 assists in red blood cell production and ensuring normal nerve function.
Anaemic people need to supplement their diet with iron. Remember not to consume any calcium containing supplements or foods within 90 minutes before or after taking your iron tablet. Calcium reduces the absorption or iron. Vitamin C and foods high vitamin C can improve the absorption of iron.
Vegans and Vegetarians
Because this group does not eat meat, they are at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency as well as iron deficiency
You may also require certain vitamin and mineral supplementation during times of physical stress (like after an operation or during a severe infection. If you are unsure about what vitamins or minerals you need in your diet or as a supplement, talk to your doctor or registered Dietitian.