Supplements – The Good, The Bad, and How to Decide if Supplements Are For You – Part 2

There may be vitamins and minerals you are not getting due to diet, health, or age and adding a supplement may be beneficial. Here I review some of the most important nutrients for health. Some are obtained from healthy eating, whereas others are not. Please see the list below to deterimine if foods or a supplement need to be added to your diet. There is lot to discuss here so I am going to just “jump right in”. 

  • Vitamin A can be found in foods. This is a necessary vitamin to consume because it helps with vision, improves the immune system, and helps organs of the body like the heart, lungs, and kidneys. Vitamin A is found in meat (chicken, fish, dairy) as well as fruits and vegetables. Try eating salmon, green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale, squash, carrots, and brocolli, and fruit like cantaloupe, apricots, and mangos. 
  1. Vitamin A is equivalent to foods or supplements that contain retinol, beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, or beta-cryptoxanthin. This information will be provided on food labels. 
  2. The body will consume these nutrients differently and at different rates. The body will consume a supplement containing Vitamin A differently than with food. For example the body will consume .015 micrograms of Retinol from a supplement, whereas the body will consume .05 micrograms of Retinol from food. This suggests the body will get more Vitamin A from supplements. 
  3. We are encouraged to eat different types of food daily. The body will get Viatmin A with each food item consumed  
  4. Per the National institutes of Health, the average Americam adult should get 900 micrograms of Vitamin A a day. If you consider that salmon has only 59 micronutrients you would need to eat 15 salmon to get your daily intake. Forantely other foods will help you get your daily intake. Foods like spinach have 573 micrograms and a sweet potato has 1,403 micrograms. If that was your meal every day you would consume the recommended amount. 
  5. Supplements that contain Vitamin A may only contain a portion of the Vitamin A nutrients. However most multivitamins contain Vitamin A and will contain well over the recommended daily intake. 
  6. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey suggested that Americans consumed below average amounts of Vitamin A a day. Therefore it may be necessary to add a vitamin that contains Vitamin A. Pregnant and breastfeeding women, people with sight problems, people with anemia, people with cancer, measles, or cystic fibrosis could benefit from increased vitamin A consumption. 
  • Vitamin B12 keeps blood cells and nerve cells healthy. This vitamin is helpful for people with anemia or is known to increase energy. 
  1. The NIH recommends adults consume 2.4 micrograms of Vitamin B 12 a day. 
  2. Vitamin B12 is found in meats. However only fortified, processed, fruits or vegetables contain B12. 
  3. Beef liver and clams are the best source of B12. I highly doubt people are eating beef liver and clams daily. Although dairy, fish, and eggs contain sufficient B12. Most people get enough from food. 
  4. Consider adding a B12 supplement if you are over the age of 50, have anemia, have had gastric bypass surgery, have Chron’s Disease or celiac disease, or you have a vegetarian or vegan diet. 
  5. Adding a multivitamin could provide the adequate amount of B12. Folic acid is another supplement a person can add to consume the daily amount of B12. 
  • Acai is a popular supplement. Particularly people refer to acai as a method to lose weight and support anti-aging. This is a common misconception. Particularly there are no research studies to support this notion. However the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine reports acai has demonstrated high antioxidents, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer potential. 
  • Vitamin C is another antioxidant known to improve immunity, help cell growth, and is helpful for healing wounds.
  1. The National Institutes of Health recommends adult men consume 90 milligrams of vitamin C a day and adult women are recommended to consume 75 milligrams. 
  2. Fruit is the best way to consume Vitamin C. Oranges, grapefruit, red and green peppers, kiwi, broccoli, strawberries, cantaloupe, baked potatoes, and tomatoes are all foods that contain vitamin C. 
  3. Think about adding a Vitamin C supplement if you smoke, eat limited varieties of food, have cancer or kidney disease. 
  • Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and supports bone strength. 
  1. If you want to improve bone and muscle strength consider adding Vitamin D. 
  2. The main source of Vitamin D is the sun. 
  3. Fish, mushrooms, egg yolk, beef liver, and cheese contain Vitamin D. However they contain small amounts. Processed foods also contain Vitamin D. Check food labels. 
  4. Most people should consider adding Vitamin D as a supplement Particularly because most Americans are inside most of the day. People that spend a lot of time in the sun should not need to add this supplement. 
  5. People with dark skin, breastfed infants, older adults, and people with Chron’s Disease or celiac disease should add this daily supplement.  
  • Studies suggest even healthy people are not getting enough Vitamin E. Vitamin E is important for immunity and is another antioxidant. Vitamin E can help prevent blood clots. 
  1. Think about adding this supplement to improve health. It is recommended to take a Vitamin E only supplement because multivitamins do not contain enough of the recommended daily value of vitamin E. 
  2. Vitamin E is consumed by eating foods. Foods like vegetable oils, particularly sunflower and safflower oil, nuts and seeds, and green vegetables contain vitamin E. 
  • People should also consider adding an iron supplement. The World Health Organization reports iron deficiency is the number one nutritional disorder. 
  1. Iron is necessary for blood cells that carry oxygen through the body. Not getting enough iron decreases blood cell production but also reduces the amount of oxygen in the body. 
  2. People need to consume both animal meat and vegetables to consume the right amount of iron daily. 
  3. Healthy people may not get enough iron because sugary deserts and drinks contain iron because it has been added. A study found that children that consumed sugary drinks and deserts were more likely to consume the recommended daily amount of iron. Healthier people have most likely decreased or eliminated these sources of iron from their diet. 
  4. However it is possible to consume too much iron. It is important to first consult your physician before adding this supplement due to risk for iron overload. 
  • Most vegetables contain Vitamin K. Most people get enough vitamin K 
  1. However Vitamin K can be harmful. If taking a supplement with vitamin K please consult your physician first. Primarily vitamin K interacts negatively with the medicine Coumadin (warfarin). Vitamin K can decrease the effectiveness of this mediciation. 
  • The body also needs magnesium to stay healthy. Magnesium helps support muscle function and makes protein in the body. 
  1. American men should consume 400-420 milligrams and women should consume 310-320 milligrams of magnesium a day  
  2. Beans, nuts, whole grains, leafy greens, milk, and dairy contain magnesium. Also check food labels because processed foods will contain magnesium as well. 
  3. Studies show most Americans do not consume sufficient amounts of magnesium a day. 
  4. Therefore people should consider adding a multi-vitamin, magnesium aspartame, magnesium citrate, megnesium lactate, and magnesium chloride. 
  • Most Americans consume the daily recommended amount of Selenium. Selenium is important for reproduction, and it keeps the thyroid and DNA healthy. 
  1. Selenium is found in breads and foods that contain grain. Selenium is also found in the soil where plants are grown and is found in fish and most animal meats. 
  2. People that have eliminated grains fromtheir  diet or eat locally grown foods should consider adding this supplement. 
  3. Selenium is found in most multi vitamins or independently in selenomethionine and sodium selenate. 
  • Zinc is needed to keep a body healthy. We need zinc to make DNA to allow cells to produce. 
  1. Zinc is found in foods like oysters, red meat, and seafood. Foods like nuts, beans, and whole grains contain some.  It is likely these foods are not consumed on a daily basis.
  2. It is recommended American men consume 11 milligrams and women consume 8 milligrams of zinc daily. 
  3. Zinc should be added as a supplement if zinc is lacking from food. 
  4. Zinc as a supplement can be helpful to improve immunity. Research studies suggest zinc is helpful to cure the common cold. 
  • Antioxidants are discussed a lot in health. Particularly because researchers have found antioxidants are essential to maintain and increase health. 
  1. Antioxidants include some of the above vitamins. Particularly antioxidants contain beta-carotene, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Zinc, and Selenium. 
  2. The best way to consume antioxidants is to consume colorful fruits and vegetables. Eat more berries, asparagus, broccoli, beets, kale, carrots, pumpkin, eggplant, sweet potato, spinach, and tomatoes, to name a few. 
  3. Supplements can provide antioxidants but it is advised to get these nutrients from eating food because a supplement alone can cause you to miss other important nutrients food will provide. 
  • Fish oil, also referred to as omega-3, is another important supplement to consider. Omega-3 is a type of fat the cells need to reproduce. Omega-3 also is necessary for the brain to function well. 
  1. It is recommended Americans consume fatty fish twice a week. This is adequate to provide the body this nutrient. 
  2. However studies show people are not consuming fish at this rate and most Americans have this defiency. 
  3. Adding an omega-3 supplement can be beneficial if you do eat a lot of salmon or tuna. 
This is not an exhaustive list. Rather this is a brief review to hopefully help you determine if adding a supplement is right for you. Please always consult a doctor before taking any supplement. Read all food labels and supplement labels so you know what you are consuming. 
*For more information on supplements please see research published in International Journal,of Sports Nutrition and Exercise  or Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. Also see National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements for more information. 


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    • Thanks for the follow up with this report. It seems supplements are only needed to add to a diet that is not giving you all the nutrients you need. A lot of people do not eat healthy. Those individuals could perhaps benefit from adding something if their doctor felt it was acceptable. There are health conditions that people have and these conditions prevent their bodies from absorbing nutrients properly. These individuals could also benefit from supplements after consulting with their physician. Lastly older individuals may have trouble absorbing nutrients from food and they could benefit from a supplement. Bottom line, eating healthy as a lifestyle gives the body sufficient nutrition. If not a healthy eater or someone with a health condition it is recommended supplements be added only after consulting with a doctor.

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