Vitamins play a vital role in our health and well-being.
Yet, when you visit any online shop or head to a physical store, the sheer choice you have when shopping for these products can be overwhelming. Then there's everything you've read about vitamins or heard from friends and family members in your head, too!
To help simplify your online shopping trip, here’s everything you need to know about the daily vitamins you should add to your routine.
1. Which multivitamin is the best? You must personalize your approach
We’re all unique, which means our nutritional needs are unique. Thanks to popular podcasts regularly featuring some of the world's leading dietary therapists and scientists, people better understand this more than ever.
So if your friend believes taking a specific hair, skin, and nail vitamin works for them, it doesn't mean it'll necessarily work for you in the same way. The best way to learn what supplements you should take is to listen to your body, taking note of what may feel off or uncomfortable like energy levels and digestive symptoms. Then, always consult your healthcare provider to determine what your individual needs are and how to shop for the right multivitamin.
2. Prioritize whole foods to perfect your diet
While you may be able to enjoy the benefits of vitamins by taking a supplement, the best way to get the nutrients you need is from whole foods. If you eat a varied and well-balanced diet consisting mainly of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats, your body will reap the health benefits.
3. Speak to a medical professional before taking new supplements
You should always speak to your doctor or a nutritionist before taking new vitamins or supplements. This will help ensure that you:
- Don’t waste money on something you don’t need.
- Don’t take anything that could cause an adverse reaction or interact with any existing medication.
- Can buy vitamins with the broadest possible knowledge of what to look for.
4. Identify your vitamin deficiencies and nutritional needs
What vitamins do you need to maintain a healthy, thriving body? This is where understanding that what you need is personal comes into play. For example, the best multivitamins for women will have a different composition than the best multivitamins for men. On top of this, you may also need to consider other factors like age, dietary restrictions, existing health conditions, and personal circumstances and goals.
For example, a woman in her early 30s trying to conceive a baby with her partner may need a different multivitamin or specific vitamins than one in her late 40s who is starting to experience perimenopause symptoms. Likewise, seniors often need to take specially formulated multivitamins to address their changing nutritional needs in later life.
If you suspect you have a specific vitamin deficiency, or a medical professional has told you that you do, then targeted supplementation is better than taking a multivitamin. This is because your body needs to break down those vitamins, so if you're taking something you don't need, you're making your body work inefficiently.
Two of the most common examples of targeted supplementation addressing a vitamin deficiency are individuals with limited sun exposure taking vitamin D and those who follow a predominantly plant-based diet taking a vitamin B12 supplement.
5. Look for quality vitamins
Not all vitamins are made the same. Depending on the form you want to buy and consume a specific vitamin, a supplement may contain many ingredients beyond the vitamins themselves. You'll find binding agents, such as gums and thickeners, and even oils and added sugars in some vitamins, so be sure to check labels before you buy!
A medical professional may also talk to you about bioavailability – which is the science of how your body absorbs and uses vitamins.
6. Check labels to ensure you take the right amount
Remember what we said earlier about your body needing to break down vitamins? This is where exceeding recommended doses or taking specific vitamins for too long can lead to adverse effects, especially if you didn't need to take them in the first place. For example, if you take too much calcium, your body will usually deposit this in your arteries, hardening their walls and leading to potentially increased blood pressure and other heart and circulatory system issues.
7. Understand the different types of vitamins and what they do
Finally, if you’re doing your homework before consulting with your doctor or another medical professional, it’s worth knowing what the most vital vitamins are, what they do, and, perhaps most importantly, which foods you can find them in.
Vitamin A – which you may know as retinol – comes in several dairy products and in yellow and orange fruits and vegetables, including mangoes and apricots.
The benefits of vitamin A include:
- Helping our bodies to fight infection.
- Maintaining healthy eyesight.
- Supporting heart, kidney, and lung health.
- Keeping skin healthy – it'll often be a key component of hair, skin and nail vitamins and multivitamins.
- Strengthening our bones and teeth – characteristics that make it a common ingredient in vitamins for seniors.
There are eight B vitamins, and, according to the USDA, most of us don't get all the B vitamins we need from our daily nutrition. But rather than immediately thinking that means you need to supplement, think first about your diet. You'll find B vitamins in animal proteins, leafy green vegetables, and whole grains, while it's common to find products fortified with B vitamins.
Vitamin B supports our bodies by:
- Helping to maintain brain function and memory.
- Acting as the primary power source of our metabolism.
- Lowering bad cholesterol and raising good cholesterol.
- Reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Supporting blood cell production and nervous system function.
Many people know about vitamin D because they "get it from the sun." That's not strictly true; vitamin D is activated by ultraviolet light, but we can get it in cod liver oil, fatty fish, and fortified products. Crucially, vitamin D is something we need more of as we get older, which is why vitamin D deficiencies are more common among seniors, who may even need a prescription-strength supplement if their vitamin D levels are risking their health.
The benefits of vitamin D include:
- Enhancing our immune cells.
- Maintaining our nervous system function.
- Protecting our bone health.
- Regulating the calcium and phosphorus levels in our blood.
Calcium is vital for many functions, but it's also a mineral that can be dangerous if you take too much of it. If you consume a healthy level of dairy products, or tofu and soy if you eat a plant-based diet, this should address your calcium requirements.
Assuming we don’t consume too much of it, calcium helps our bodies to:
- Improve muscle function.
- Regulate blood pressure.
- Secrete essential hormones.
Iron is found in red meat, leafy green vegetables, and legumes, and, alongside vitamin B12 deficiency, is one of the most common deficiencies found in those who consume a mainly plant-based diet. This isn't because there isn't enough iron in things like leafy greens and legumes but because the volume of fiber in these foods can work to block iron absorption.
Iron brings many benefits to our bodies, including:
- Carrying oxygen around our bodies in our blood.
- Boosting and protecting our immune system.
- Providing us with energy.
- Improving our brain function and our ability to concentrate.
We only need a small amount of zinc, which you can find in red meat, poultry, beans, nuts, and wholegrains. As such, this is another vitamin you can usually get enough of by eating a varied and well-balanced diet.
Zinc boosts our immune system and may also prevent us from developing respiratory infections and conditions like the common cold. It also reduces our risk of developing cancer and improves our memory.
What Vitamins Should I Take?
The best vitamins for your needs will be personal and unique to you and will depend on your lifestyle and diet and other factors like your age, gender, and any medical conditions.
Once you’ve spoken to a medical professional about your nutritional and supplemental needs, The Online Drugstore has you covered!