Vitamins and minerals are nutrients that are required by the body to carry out a variety of functions. Unfortunately, our bodies are unable to produce all the components required for all processes and we absorb these nutrients from our diet.
Despite being available in the food we eat, these nutrients are also found in multi-vitamins. However, a large portion of the vitamin supplements on the market today are synthetic vitamins, meaning that they are isolated portions of the vitamin complexes found in whole foods. Without the entire complex, the isolated portion of the vitamin is unlikely to be fully absorbed and provide the same quality as from whole foods.
A balanced diet containing plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, proteins and healthy fats should be more than enough to the majority of the nutrients required for good health. But not everyone eats a healthy and balanced diet, and there are certain instances where people may be at risk for deficiencies, like chronic illness, dietary restrictions or life stage. For example, people over the age of 50 may have a harder time absorbing the natural form of vitamin B-12, which may be better taken as a supplement. B-9 (Folic Acid) in fortified foods or supplements is also absorbed better than it is from non-fortified foods.
If you eat a variety of whole foods, but still feel that you are missing certain vitamins in your diet, or if you are part of a population that might be at risk of vitamin deficiency, this is where vitamin supplements may come in handy.
Here are some tips when selecting multi-vitamins and supplements:
· In Canada, supplements that have been reviewed and deemed safe by Health Canada will have an eight-digit Natural Product Number (NPN).
· Take supplements that contain fat-soluble vitamins (A,D,E,K) with a meal or food that contains fats, such as nut butters.
· Add some pepper to your meal before taking your supplements, black pepper boosts nutrient absorption.
· Know which nutrients work best when taken together. Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron, and a combination of vitamin K, vitamin D, and calcium helps the body absorb that calcium into the bones.
· Some medications affect the absorption of vitamins and minerals. Ask your doctor pharmacist about any potential issues.
· Keep an eye on expiration dates and check the labels on your supplements to make sure they are being stored properly.
Avoid other ingredients like:
· Fillers: material added to tablets or capsules to increase their bulk
· Binders: substances that give a cohesive quality to powders materials
· Coatings and/or Lubricants: added in small amounts to prevent tablets from sticking to the moulds
· Colourings: Food dyes
· Flavourings: Examples are sugar, natural flavouring, sorbitol
Be aware that multi-vitamins don't meet the RDAs for some micronutrients. Consult with your physician to obtain the appropriate measures for determining your possible need for supplementation.
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