Oh always confusing and totally necessary vitamins...do you know that you can get all your vitamins from food? These endless bottles of supplemental vitamins can be confusing and not necessary if you are eating balanced (eating balanced is defined in the 3 previous Living Healthy and Happy Series posts, so make sure you read them).
What are vitamins? Vitamins are any of a group of organic compounds that are essential for normal growth and nutrition and are required in the diet because they cannot be made by the body. Vitamins are very important to get from food first. You will always absorb vitamins in larger amounts if you eat them instead of take them in pill form. Water soluble vitamins are C and B vitamins. Meaning they need water to be absorbed and tend to not become stored in the body if we do not use them (or in simple terms, if you don't use them you will get rid of them through excretions such as sweat and urine). Fat soluble vitamins; A, D, E, and K need fat in the diet to be absorbed and will be stored in the body if taken in excess. So you need to be careful with this group.
What do vitamins do for the body? A lot. Vitamins help all chemical processes in the body as well as keep your cells healthy and plump. When your cells are healthy you fight off ailments and disease. For example, Vitamin C is an antioxidant that keeps your cells plump and can boost your immune system. B vitamins help boost your energy and give energy for your muscles to work. Vitamin A helps protect your eye cells and keep your vision strong while Vitamin K helps clot your blood.
What should you choose? If you are eating a healthy and balanced diet, you really do not need to supplement vitamins. I do recommend a basic daily essential vitamin just as a little insurance policy. Do not get anything fancy and you do not need a gender specific vitamin. If you are a female in child-bearing years, please take a pre-natal multivitamin (extra folate is good and it also make your skin, hair and nails looking fantastic) and if you are over 50 years old it is a good idea to take a vitamin that is geared toward that age range.
If you feel you are not eating very balanced and are having some other health issues, supplementing vitamins might be for you. For example: I recommend everyone living in the Midwest have their Vitamin D levels checked through a simple blood test. Most of us are deficient and it can lead to aches and pain, depression and low energy levels. If you are low, supplemental Vitamin D is completely necessary.
If you have specific questions about vitamins, talk to your dietitian! We know the ins and outs of all things vitamins, especially helping you balance the foods you are eating first.
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