More than 86% of American adults take vitamins or supplements regularly, despite recent findings that only a quarter of those surveyed actually need them.
That’s according to a 2019 online survey conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of the American Osteopathic Association. There is a nationwide obsession with nutritional supplements, even with approximately 24 percent having test results indicating a nutritional deficiency.
Do vitamins really work or are they just a gimmick designed by companies to turn a profit?
Understanding the health effects of vitamins from their potential benefits to possible complications can help people decide if supplements are a good choice for them.
What are vitamins?Vitamins are micronutrients that are necessary for the proper functioning of our body. These organic compounds are needed in small amounts, but they play an important role in maintaining good health. The body cannot synthesize them in sufficient quantities, so it is necessary to obtain them through diet or supplements.
Vitamins come in two types: fat-soluble and water-soluble.
Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat soluble. This means that they can be stored in the fat of our body and stay there for a while. On the other hand, B vitamins and vitamin C are water soluble. Our bodies cannot store them for long, so we have to eat or drink them often.
How do vitamins promote good health?Vitamins have many functions in the body.
Vitamin C, a protein that gives structure to bones, teeth, skin and other tissues, is necessary for the synthesis of collagen. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, which is crucial for bone health and the functioning of nerves and muscles. B vitamins affect energy metabolism, nerve function and production of blood cells. Without adequate vitamin intake, we risk developing deficiencies and related health problems.
Several factors can affect how the body absorbs vitamins, including age, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and other medical conditions.
Common vitamin deficienciesAccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 10% of the American population has at least one vitamin deficiency.
Iron is the most common nutrient deficiency worldwide, affecting nearly 30% of the world’s population. This essential nutrient plays a key role in the development of red blood cells, so its deficiency can cause anemia. Women and vegans are particularly susceptible, but iron-rich foods like beef, spinach and beans can help meet the daily requirement.
Vitamin D deficiency is another common problem and affects more than a billion people worldwide. This can lead to serious health problems such as osteoporosis, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. While the primary source of vitamin D is sunlight, food sources such as fatty fish, egg yolks, and fortified foods can help combat deficiency.
Vitamin B12 is vital for red blood cell formation, brain function and DNA synthesis. Vegetarians and vegans are at risk of B12 deficiency because it is mainly found in animal products. Low levels of B12 can lead to serious complications such as nerve damage and pernicious anemia. Consuming fortified foods or B12 supplements can help meet daily requirements.
Vitamin C deficiency, known as scurvy, is rare in developed countries, but is still prevalent in some parts of the world. Deficiency can lead to bleeding gums, joint pain and anemia. Citrus fruits, peppers and leafy vegetables are good sources of vitamin C.
Magnesium is an essential mineral that plays a vital role in various body functions such as muscle, nerve and bone health. Despite its importance, many people neglect it, leading to magnesium deficiency. Symptoms include muscle cramps, fatigue and an irregular heartbeat. Foods rich in magnesium include almonds, spinach and legumes.
Vitamin A is essential for vision, immune system health, growth and development. Deficiencies can lead to blindness and increase the risk of infections. It is a significant public health problem in developing countries, especially among young children. Foods like sweet potatoes, carrots, and spinach are rich in vitamin A and can help fight deficiency.
Do we need supplements?While a well-balanced diet remains the cornerstone for combating vitamin deficiencies, the modern era has emphasized the importance of vitamin supplements.
In a recent statement, Penny Chris-Etherton, a professor of nutritional sciences at Pennsylvania State University, emphasized that supplements typically offer 100 percent coverage of the recommended daily amount of essential vitamins and minerals.
This insight highlights the importance of supplements in providing a balanced diet.
How can multivitamin supplements help?Maintaining a well-rounded diet that meets daily nutritional needs can often be a challenge in our fast-paced world. In particular, vegans often struggle with providing a nutritionally complete diet, as some essential nutrients, such as B12, cannot be found in a vegan diet.
Fortunately, vegan multivitamins are available, as are vegan probiotics. With this and a carefully curated list of vegan foods, vegans can work towards optimal health.
Improving nutrition with vegan multivitaminsFor those following a vegan lifestyle, getting the full spectrum of essential vitamins and minerals can be a problem. This is where vegan multivitamins come in, acting as a nutritional safety net to fill in potential gaps in a vegan diet.
Vegan multivitamins provide all the essential vitamins and minerals to support holistic well-being. They increase the bioavailability of vital nutrients, ensuring efficient absorption and utilization by the body and include immune-boosting elements to strengthen the body’s defenses against disease and infection.
Vegan multivitamins also promote overall health, addressing various aspects, from bone strength to skin radiance, for well-rounded health.
Nurturing gut health with vegan probioticsA well-balanced gut is key to overall well-being. Vegan probiotics support the body’s natural digestive processes. These supplements aid digestion and can help relieve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), constipation, and diarrhea. They also enhance the production of antibodies and immune cells, such as lymphocytes, and some probiotic strains produce vitamins, especially B vitamins such as folate and riboflavin.
Although vegans do not consume dairy products, some may still consume products with small amounts of lactose. Specific probiotics can help break down lactose, reducing associated digestive problems.
List of vegan foods
A list of vegan foods will help vegans get the most out of their food. Vegans can minimize their reliance on supplements by choosing nutrient-dense foods like leafy greens, beans, nuts and seeds. These whole foods naturally provide essential vitamins and minerals.
A list can prevent impulse purchases, saving money in the long run. It simplifies shopping trips, reducing time spent wandering the aisles or making multiple trips for forgotten items.
A good list also encourages exploring a variety of vegan foods, leading to a more varied and exciting meal plan. It helps to avoid accidental purchases of non-vegan items, ensuring ethical and dietary choices are respected.
Plus, buying only what’s needed helps reduce food waste and allows shoppers to include more whole, unprocessed foods and avoid unhealthy, processed vegan junk.
The influence of vitamins on our health
Vitamins play a key role in maintaining general health and well-being. Vegan multivitamins can help provide a nutritional safety net and promote vitality.
Specific vitamins, such as C and D, are known for their immune-boosting properties. Including these vitamins in the diet, through vegan probiotics and a balanced list of vegan foods, can help strengthen the immune system.
Vitamin E is essential for skin health and is found in a variety of plant-based foods. These and other vitamins contribute to healthy skin and can slow down aging.
Vitamins K and D are critical for maintaining strong bones. Most people should consider including foods rich in these vitamins in their diet or consult a health care professional for guidance on vegan multivitamins to support bone health.
B vitamins in many plant foods and supplements support energy metabolism. Ensuring adequate intake can help fight fatigue and increase energy levels.
Vitamin B3 (niacin) and vitamin B6 are associated with heart health. Vegans should include foods rich in these vitamins in their grocery list, contributing to a healthy cardiovascular system.
Nutritional needs are constantly evolving due to changing lifestyles, health conditions and individual choices. Supplements are a practical and effective solution for bridging nutritional gaps.
When chosen correctly and taken in conjunction with a balanced diet, supplements can play a vital role in optimizing health by providing the full spectrum of nutrients necessary for our bodies to function at their peak.
While whole foods and a balanced diet remain the foundation of good health, supplements ensure that nothing falls through the cracks nutritionally. Supplements can make a big difference, especially for those in certain life stages, with special dietary preferences or facing unique health challenges.
In any health issue, consultation is key. Before embarking on any supplementation journey, people should contact their doctor to tailor the best approach to their individual needs. After all, when it comes to health, one size does not fit all.
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