To supplement or not to supplement, that is the question... According to many nutritionists, “a well-planned diet can contain all the nutrients we need to remain strong and healthy.” But life is busy, and it’s not always possible to maintain a well-planned diet 100% of the time.
Whether you are veggie, vegan, pescatarian, generally fussy or can eat everything, if you’re not getting a varied enough diet, this is when you may need to consider supplementing your vitamins. However, what is the different between vitamins, minerals and proteins? If you’re concerned about whether you’re getting enough, and seeing as thirteen vitamins and about fifteen minerals are essential to your health, the best place to start is by learning how and where you can increase your intake.
The best source of vitamins is through your plate, not your medicine cabinet. Vitamins are organic substances made by living things such as plants and animals, and are essential nutrients that regulate metabolic functions throughout your body. Vitamins are much more delicate than minerals and can break down with heat or age.
Vitamin A stimulates vision and growth of cells. The B vitamins assist enzymes throughout your body. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that stimulates your immune system and protects your cells from environmental toxins. Vitamin D is essential for bone growth. Vitamin E slows down your aging process and protects cellular membranes from degradation. Vitamin K stimulates blood clotting.
Minerals are chemical elements found in food, through the earth, soil and water, that have various functions in your body. Minerals are inorganic, making their chemical form more simple than that of vitamins. Calcium and magnesium are vital for building and maintaining healthy bones and teeth. Iron is a vital part of hemoglobin, the molecule in red blood cells that carries oxygen from your lungs to cells throughout your body. Phosphorous is essential for cellular energy metabolism. Zinc, copper, manganese and selenium are trace minerals that you need in tiny amounts. Zinc is involved in tissue growth and repair. Copper and manganese work with enzymes in many types of chemical reactions. Selenium is an antioxidant that protects your cells from toxins and harmful chemicals.
Whereas all vitamins are needed by the body, only some minerals are required for nutrition. Minerals and trace elements are mainly found in meat, cereals, fish, milk and dairy foods, vegetables, dried fruit, and nuts.
Learn foods rich in minerals.
Proteins are essential for the growth, development, structure and function of cells, tissues and organs, antibodies, enzymes and nucleic acids. Protein is also part of some hormones. Amino acids are the building blocks for proteins and are found particularly in legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains for vegans.
Everyone needs protein in their diet, but if you do endurance sports or weight training you may benefit from increasing your protein intake, as well as factoring it into your training routine at specific times to reap its muscle-building benefits.
Here is a link to establish high protein foods.
Check out this daily nutrients calculator to find out what your body requires daily.
Clearly everyone requires a tailored diet, for example, a pregnant women will require plenty of folic acid, iron, calcium etc. A women going through menopause will require vitamin D and calcium etc.
If you are creative enough with your diet you should be able to gain all the necessary vitamins, minerals and proteins required to sustain a healthy mind and body. However, if you find this difficult you could also consider a multivitamin.
Is A Multivitamin Enough?
You may be thinking that a multivitamin is the best option for you, just to be on the "safe side right?" We would recommend keeping a track of your diet to see what vitamins you are lacking, and then either go down the route of a multivitamin supplement or a specific vitamin, depending on what vitamins you are low or lacking in.
Whilst it may be tempting to take a multivitamin as a precaution and there is little harm in doing this, always check the content and quantities of vitamins and nutrients in a specific product. For example, not all multi options have iodine. On the other hand, some may contain very high levels of one or two nutrients you already get enough of. You don’t want to end up taking too many or too little of a specific vitamin, so always check the label. Remember – multivitamins are not a ticket to optimal health, but they can assist along the way.
It is especially important for vegans to check in with a doctor from time to time to test vitamin levels. Working directly with a nutritionist or doctor can be helpful to create a balanced diet plan.
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