Credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:B_vitamin_supplement_tablets.jpgA quick visit to any pharmacy or health store will result in the opportunity to buy from a huge selection of vitamin supplements. The range on offer can be confusing to say the least, as it is often difficult to ascertain the benefits of each vitamin, and if they are even really necessary. The purpose of this guide is to explain the effect that each of the main vitamins has on the human body, and how they can be obtained naturally.
A healthy, balanced diet should provide you with all of the vitamins and minerals that you require to remain healthy. However, eating the correct foods is often easier said than done. When you are trying to combine a busy work life with responsibilities at home it can be challenging to find the time to plan meals. This is where vitamin supplements become useful, as they can top up or replace vitamins to combat any nutritional deficiencies. It should always be remembered, however, that a balanced diet is the most effective way of obtaining optimum health.
The names given to vitamins and minerals are not descriptive of the benefits they provide. In fact, determining how vitamin B12 differs from B2, for example, can be a daunting task. The fact is that each vitamin is important in its own way, and once you are aware of the associated benefits you can focus your attention on optimizing your body's levels. This can be done naturally with food or with the use of supplements.
Four of the most commonly recognized vitamins and minerals are calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc. It is widely known that calcium is needed for growing and maintaining strong teeth and bones, and it also helps to regulate your metabolism and digestive system. The primary dietary source of calcium is milk, and it is also found in other dairy products, as well as bread and broccoli. Iron is found in red meat, pulses, and wholegrain products, and is needed to form red blood cells and to maintain the immune system. As with calcium, magnesium helps to keep teeth and bones strong, and it also ensures that energy is released from food efficiently. If you need to top up your magnesium levels you should eat dairy products, green vegetables, nuts, fish, and meat. Finally, the body requires zinc to grow and repair tissue. Foods which contain zinc include meat, shellfish, milk, and pulses.
If you have problems with your skin then you may need to top up your levels of vitamins A, B2, and C. Vitamin B2 can be found in milk, chicken, eggs, red meat, and many green vegetables. Vitamin A can be found in green vegetables, whole milk, and oranges, and has the added benefit of boosting your immune system. Vitamin C is also essential for a healthy immune system, and it additionally has important antioxidant properties for longevity and general health. The best sources of vitamin C are citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, and limes, and it is also found in peppers, potatoes, and tomatoes.
Another vitamin which has powerful antioxidant properties is vitamin E. Its importance lies in the fact that it helps to protect cells from damage. It is commonly found in nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils. If a lack of energy is your main concern then you may have a deficiency in vitamins B1, B3, B5, or B6. Each of these are required for energy production and a healthy nervous system. Foods that are rich in these vitamins include wholemeal bread, wholegrain cereal, brown rice, fish, nuts, and eggs. Avocados are a particularly good source of vitamin B5.
Vitamin B12 is also good for maintaining the nervous system, and in addition it helps to produce red blood cells. It can be found in red meat, fish, and cheese. Finally, it is important to highlight two vitamins with very specific functions in the body. Firstly, vitamin D works with calcium to promote strong teeth and bones. Although it can be found in cereals and oily fish, it is mainly produced through your skin being exposed to sunlight. Secondly, vitamin B9, or folic acid, is often given as a supplement to pregnant women. It is extremely important for continued maternal tissue growth during pregnancy, and is naturally found in nuts and cereals, oranges, and green vegetables.
If you choose to take vitamin supplements it is important to remember to follow the instructions carefully. Supplements are usually taken daily in pill form, although this is not always the case. They are often recommended for particular groups in society, such as the elderly, and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. However, a higher than normal level of some vitamins can be dangerous, particularly in pregnant women, and therefore if you have any doubts about taking supplements you should consult your doctor. Ultimately, if taken responsibly vitamin supplements can be a useful option for complementing a healthy and balanced diet.