In recent conversations I have heard several men and women negatively discuss vitamins and supplements, as if they were drugs or performance enhancers. Yes, late night infomercials are notorious for advertising "Get Quick" results from their products. Promises of dramatic weight loss in a matter of days or weeks. Deep down we know this information is inaccurate, but the next big thing is ever present in our media. Even supplement companies have promised the perfect body with a magic pill.
Hit the pause button and rewind. With all of the commercials and articles, we have forgotten the real purpose of a nutritional supplement and what it supplies your body with, and what it does not do for the body. With all of the information out there about dietary supplements, it can be hard to filter the truth from the sales pitches.
A supplement is defined as something that is added to make complete, make up for a deficiency, or strengthen and extend the whole. Synonyms for supplement include: addition, replenish, complement, or add. In simple terms, a supplement is to help make up for a lack of something in your diet, or to help you get more of a particular nutrient that you aren't getting enough of in your regular diet.
For example, I am anemic. I have two types of anemia. Iron deficiency and pernicious anemia. Both types are caused by a lack in something that my body does not produce enough. Obviously the first one is a lack of iron, and the pernicious is caused by a lack of vitamin B12. As a result, I spent my early college years fainting, experiencing extreme fatigue, having abdominal/intestinal issues, numbness and tingling in my hands and feet, and false positive Pap smear results. After finally going to the hospital and being examined, the doctors told me the results and my treatment options.
So I began eating foods that were filled with Iron and Vitamin B12. When I went back up for a follow up, my levels had increased slightly, but were still below what doctors considered healthy. So, nutritional supplements were recommended. After a few weeks of consistently eating properly and taking multivitamins, I begin seeing a difference in my energy levels and my focus. I also did not get dizzy from standing too quickly, and physical activity did not leave me with no breath. After a month of changing of this new regiment, I returned to my doctor, and he was ecstatic to see that my Iron and B-12 levels were finally above the red line. I was too!!
While there are many opinions of vitamins and supplements, they have a specific purpose. They are micronutrients that benefit the body in a unique way. Vitamin A supports bone growth and vision. Vitamin E strengthens the immune system and helps repair our DNA. Iron carries oxygen in the blood both in the blood and muscles. Vitamin B12 is a crucial vitamin that plays a key role in the functioning in our brain and nervous system.
So as you can see vitamins and minerals are crucial in allowing our bodies to heal and protect itself. Taking a multivitamin does not make up for an unhealthy diet nor are they a substitute for nutrients you can get from fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. They are a safeguard against periodic vitamin shortfalls in your diet.
Choosing A Vitamin
- You get what you pay for. I am not saying that you have to spend hundreds of dollars on a multivitamin or an iron pill, but super cheap generic brands are usually a waste of money and time. You do want to go with quality over quantity. After all, this is your health.
- Natural + Organic. Look for vitamins that do not have tons of fillers and unnecessary ingredients. This tends do just drive up the price for things you do not really need. If you can research the farms. Are they organic? Did the farm use pesticides or synthetic fertilizers? If so, your vitamins may have been stripped of their natural ingredients.
- Choose one that provides a variety of minerals and vitamins, like a multivitamin. Unless your doctor recommends it, avoid taking supplements that provide a single mineral or vitamin.
- Check the expiration date. The vitamins I use are pretty high quality. They are manufactured as I order them, so they are never sitting on a store shelf for over a week. Never buy supplements that do not have an expiration date. If there is an expiration date, make sure you will be able to finish the bottle.
- Take your vitamins with food. This is a good reminder to also eat healthy. Remember, they are supplements, not food. Do not take think these can replace a healthy diet and active lifestyle.
- Always read the ingredients. Watch out for any allergies!!
- Contact the company if you have questions. A company that sells quality vitamins should have a customer service that can answer your questions and provide you with information about what you are taking.
- Remember that no supplement has ever proved to cure diseases. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Be cautious of supplements, or people that make promises of quick and dramatic results.