Health // July 1, 2013

You eat right and workout frequently, thinking that it should be enough to keep you healthy. But then your friend tells you about her very stringent vitamin regimen and shows you the 15 bottles she picked up from GNC. You begin to rethink your diet. In today’s ever growing health-conscious landscape, nutrition is one of the largest (and most hotly debated) areas of health and fitness. There are a lot of questions out there, and there are likely many questions surrounding the confusing information about vitamins and supplements. Which are right for you, and which are effective?

The answer is that there is no easy answer (shucks). But you can start to figure it out for yourself by taking a look at your diet, which is the foundation for all of your nutrition. The reality is our nutrient levels are already pretty sufficient because many foods are fortified with nutrients. If your diet consists of the recommended servings of fruits, vegetables, dairy, and lean protein, a multivitamin may not be necessary and could possibly be harmful if there is too much of some vitamins in your system. Plenty of cereals and grain products are nutrient dense to ensure that we are getting the necessary vitamins.

On the flip side, if you aren’t getting a good, balanced diet, you could have some vitamin deficiencies. But which supplements should you consider? Here are some of the most common supplements up for consideration.

Vitamin C:

We all pop some when we feel a cold coming, on, but should we be taking a Vitamin C supplement? Research shows that an extra dose of Vitamin C is recommended in areas with poorer air quality (*cough cough* Los Angeles), but if you are eating Vitamin C rich foods like strawberries, citrus fruits, tomatoes, potatoes and various other fruits and vegetables, you are probably getting plenty in your diet. A little extra Vitamin C now and then is fine, but too much can cause gastrointestinal disturbances and formation of kidney stones. 

Calcium/Vitamin D:

Important especially for women, Calcium and Vitamin D are critical for bone health and function. Calcium is found in dairy sources and leafy greens, so if your diet needs an extra boost of these sources, a Calcium supplement taken with food is beneficial to support bone and joint health. Women should also get about 15 minutes of sun daily to help the synthesis of natural sources of Vitamin D and help absorb Calcium ingested through food or a supplement.

Vitamin E:

Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant in the body, neutralizing toxic free radicals and is an important factor in eye, joint and neurological health. If your diet is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids from fish, then you can skip this one, but if salmon or other fish is not on the menu at least twice a week, a Vitamin E supplement to get the recommended daily dose could be considered.

Vitamin K:

Vitamin K helps with blood clotting and healthy bone metabolism. You can find Vitamin K in your green vegetables and plant oils. So if your diet is green-rich, you’re on the right track. If you are lacking in the leafy stuff, you might want to consider a vitamin or multivitamin to supplement your daily intake.

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Probiotics aren’t exactly a vitamin, but this is an important supplement to consider. Essentially, your large intestine is populated by millions of bacterial colonies that live symbiotically with your gastrointestinal system. When we get sick or take antibiotics, all of the flora in our stomachs gets flushed out as well, making room for bad bacteria (like from that questionable taco from the taco truck at work) to wreak havoc on our system. Taking a regular probiotic or eating natural yogurt can help regulate gastrointestinal issues like bloating, cramping, frequent gas and irritable bowel symptoms.

There are a whole host of other supplements and vitamins that you can find that claim to cure and help with anything from weight loss to acne, but buyer beware that most of these supplements are not regulated by the FDA and their claims can be spurious at best. The best bet is to eat a nutrient dense diet. However, if you think your diet is lacking and could benefit from an extra dose of vitamins, make an appointment with your doctor or a nutritionist to craft a plan that fits your health needs and your personal goals.

What vitamins do you take? Have you noticed a difference since taking them? Tweet us your regimen @madewomanmag!

Published in Health