Many people believe that dietary supplements can be used as a replacement to healthy foods and as a source of nutrition. Unfortunately, this isn't the case. Whole foods, including grains, vegetables and many fruits, provide a unique combination of minerals, vitamins and fibre not easily duplicated in most nutritional supplements.
While vitamin and mineral supplements shouldn't be used as replacement for a health diet they can be used to compliment your diet. If you suffer from a deficiency, have a poor diet, or have trouble getting enough nutrients, you could benefit from taking a vitamin or mineral supplement.
The ABCS of Vitamins and Minerals
For small yet consistent amounts of normal function, growth and health your body requires the right amount of essential vitamins and minerals. When taken together vitamins and minerals are referred to as micronutrients. Your body is unable to produce most micronutrients on its own so you must obtain these nutrients from the foods you eat, or in some instances from supplements.
Vitamins: Help Regulate Body Functions
Vitamins are required by the body for a variety of important biologic processes, including growth, digestion, alertness, to fight away infections, and for proper health. Vitamins also allow your body to effectively process, store and use carbohydrates, proteins and fats (they serve as biological catalysts) starting or speeding up biochemical reactions in the body. Even though vitamins are involved in converting food into energy, it is important to remember that most vitamins supply no calories.
Water-soluble vitamins verses fat-soluble vitamins
Water-soluble vitamins include biotin, Vitamin C, and the seven B vitamins including thiamine (B-1), riboflavin (B-2), niacin (B-3), pantothenic acid (B-5), pyridoxine (B-6), folic acid (B-9) and cobalamin (B-12). Water-soluble vitamins easily dissolve in water and are not stored by the body in any significant amounts. Water-soluble vitamins that are not used by your body are expelled in your urine.
Fat-soluble vitamins including vitamin A, D, E or K when not used by your body after ingestion are stored in your liver and in your body fat. Many people don't realize that excess fat-soluble vitamins can accumulate in your body and become toxic. The human body is especially sensitive to excessive amounts of vitamins A and D. And because vitamins E and K affect blood clotting, any one taking a blood thinner, such as "Warfarin" and who wants to supplement with either of these vitamins should consult with their doctor first.
Minerals: Building blocks for your body
Minerals are the main ingredient that make up your teeth and bones, and are the building blocks for other cells and enzymes. Minerals help to regulate the balance of fluids in your body and control the function of nerve impulses. There are even some minerals that aide the body in delivering oxygen to cells and carrying away harmful carbon dioxide.
Minerals fall into one of two general categories: Major minerals which include calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, sulphur and chloride are classified as major minerals because most adults require them in large amounts - in excess of 250 milligrams (mg) per day.
Trace minerals including chromium, copper, fluoride, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, selenium and zinc are referred to as trace minerals because the human body needs them in smaller amounts - less than 20 mg a day.
Whole foods: Your best source of micronutrients
Most professionals now agree that whole foods are the best source of vitamins and minerals. There are three reasons you should consider eating whole foods:
Whole foods are complex - they can provide the body with a variety of micronutrients not just one or two. For example, an orange not only provides the body with vitamin C but also beta carotene, calcium and other important nutrients. A basic vitamin C supplement may lack many of the nutrients obtained by simply eating an orange.
Whole foods provided dietary fiber - Fibres is a very important nutrient that aides in digestion and helps to prevent many diseases including cancer, diabetes and heart disease as well as prevent constipation. Many whole foods include phytochemicals, which are believed to help protect against a variety of diseases, among them cancer, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, etc., etc.
Whole foods are also a good source of antioxidants
So who needs vitamin and mineral supplements? A lot of people should still take vitamin and mineral supplements. Many people, especially those in Western society, don't receive all of the nutrients they require from their diet because they can't or simply don't eat enough health foods. For these individuals multivitamin mineral supplements can provide the vitamins and minerals that their bodies are not receiving via their diet. It is quite common for pregnant women and older adults to benefit from a supplementation.