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May 08, 2020

There’s a lot to remember in a day, and if taking your vitamins doesn’t usually get a checkmark on your to-do list, you may be wondering if you can slide it off that list altogether. After all, if you eat your fruits and veggies, isn’t that enough?

The truth is that supplements can play a very important role in helping you achieve prime health, but it’s important to know which ones to take and when they are needed.

Why it’s harder to eat well these days

To be clear, getting your nutrients naturally—from the food you eat—is the best plan. The problem is that in this fast-paced world, it can be difficult to eat an optimal diet.

That store-bought, whole-wheat bread saves you from having to grind wheat like your ancestors had to do, and it has a far longer shelf life than the homemade variety. However, it may be devoid of actual whole grains and packed with the refined ones that cause your blood sugar to spike and put you at a higher risk for diabetes. It might also be loaded with colouring and preservatives that make your bread look pretty and keep it good for longer but hurt your health. The same principles likely apply to the bowl of cereal you ate this morning—lots of sugars and fillers but not a lot of the natural ingredients that your body needs for optimal nutrition.

The bottom line here is that most of us don’t have time to grind our own grains and eat an elaborate salad at every meal. It takes time to shop for fresh ingredients and keep your fridge stocked with them (since many of them expire quickly). It also takes time to prepare them.

In this day and age, the occasional fast food meal is inevitable, and so is the frozen pizza or (sigh) package of ramen. Our highest ideals can give way to practicality when we’re balancing work, family, and community obligations and barely having time to come up for a breath. Thus, the best of us settle for food that has fewer natural ingredients and more unhealthy additives that make food taste good, look good, and be ready to eat in just a few minutes.

There’s also the problem of our taste buds. In this high fructose-everything and heavily salted world, we’ve come to crave certain types of food. Who wants a slice of cucumber when you can have Cheezels? Or an apple when you can the TimTam calling to you from the larder?

Why even the perfect diet may not be enough

Let’s back up and think positively here (and maybe suspend reality just a little). We’ve established that eating well is tricky today, but with enough determination, you could probably eke out a pretty nutrient-packed diet. Unfortunately, even that might not be enough.

As people age, their ability to absorb nutrients from food weakens. Also, we tend to eat less. Can you consume the amount that you used to eat as a teenager? I certainly can’t, and less food means fewer opportunities for nutrition.

In addition, people who suffer from diseases that make it difficult to absorb nutrients (including Chron’s and celiac disease) can eat as healthfully as possible and still not get enough, making supplements vital.

Some important supplements

Let’s look at some supplements that are often necessary beyond the scope of a healthy diet.

  • Vitamin D and calcium — As people’s bones age, they may require extra vitamin D and calcium to prevent or slow the effects of osteoporosis. Vitamin D is also important for those who don’t get much sunlight.

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    • Vitamin B12 — Some people are deficient in vitamin B12 for various reasons, including certain types of anaemia, immune system disorders, or deficiencies due to medications that limit B12 absorption as a side effect. Most people need a supplement to restore this deficiency. Vegans and vegetarians might also need B12 supplements because B12 is generally only found in animal foods.

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      • Folic acid — Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate, a B vitamin that everyone needs. It’s helpful for skin, hair and nails, and it’s also critical for preventing birth defects in babies’ brains and spines. All women of reproductive age are encouraged to take 400 mcg (micrograms) of folic acid in supplement form and to get naturally occurring folate from foods such as leafy green veggies, beans and oranges.

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        • Magnesium — Magnesium is common in fruits and vegetables, but many people are deficient in this mineral. Magnesium has been associated with improved gut health, increased energy, decreased blood pressure, and reduced insulin resistance (which can help ward off type 2 diabetes).

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          • DHA omega-3 fatty acid — These “good fats” found in fish like salmon and tuna are linked to a lower risk for age-related health problems such as dementia and vision disorders like macular degeneration. There is also a lot of research linking them to cardiovascular health (reducing plaque in the arteries, increasing good cholesterol, etc.)

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          Is it possible to get too much of a certain vitamin?

          The “too much of a good thing” mantra can apply to some nutrients. It is virtually impossible to get too many naturally-occurring nutrients from food, but it is possible to go overboard on supplements. For example, too much vitamin A can lead to dizziness, nausea, liver damage, and joint and bone pain. Too much vitamin C can cause diarrhea, nausea and cramps and has been linked to kidney stones.

          Vitamin overdoses usually only happen with very high doses over a sustained period of time, but it’s still best to be cautious. Make sure to take high-quality, natural supplements developed on the basis of sound medical research.

          In addition, the National Health and Medical Research Council has established Recommended Dietary Intakes for various nutrients. These provide helpful guidelines for monitoring your nutrient intake. It’s also important to consult with your physician—especially if you have pre-existing health conditions or are taking medications that could interact poorly with supplements.

          The takeaway…

          When taken correctly, supplements can help you get the nutrition that you may not be getting from your diet—even with the best of eating habits. Life is better when you feel better, so take charge of your health and make sure that you’re getting enough of the nutrients you need. For must of us, that comes through a combination of healthy eating and top-quality natural vitamin supplements.

          Disclaimer: The health information published on this web page is solely intended for educational purposes. VitaminsOnly strongly recommends to consult health care professionals for any questions concerning your health.


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