Health Supplements

Health Supplements

Including essential vitamins and minerals in your diet is important for a healthy balanced diet – to keep your body healthy. A lot of people don’t usually understand or know which vitamins to include in their diet and what they are for. Health supplements can be especially useful for people with busy lifestyles, who find it a challenge to maintain a healthy eating diet, by replacing any nutrient deficiencies.  Remember, though, vitamin and mineral supplements are not a quick fix- they don’t work straight away, and may need to be taken for weeks before any noticeable effect is achieved.

Vitamins from original food sources are the best. Therefore, supplements should be used as a last resort when it is impossible to obtain vitamins from original food sources. But there is a challenge. There is a lot of, and different types of vitamin supplements and knowing which ones are right for one can be difficult. It is essential to understand what vitamins and minerals are, and what they do.

Vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients which our bodies need in order to work efficiently. Because different food types contain different vitamins and minerals, it is important to eat a balanced diet, which will provide all the nutrients essential to keep our bodies healthy. Therefore, we need to eat a variety of foods from the four main food groups. The balance needs to be just right, as having too little or too much of one type or another can have ill effects on our bodies. This is particularly more important to people who can’t eat certain foods, e.g. vegans or those with certain food intolerance, who may lack an essential part of their diet. This is one instance where supplements come in handy, but they should never be used to replace meals and ingredients. Different vitamin groups and essential minerals have different uses and different food sources.

Fat Soluble Vitamins

Fat soluble vitamins are mostly found in fatty foods like oily fish, dairy and dairy products and vegetable oils. If too much of these are eaten they are stored in the body and can be harmful. Examples, uses and dangers:

Vitamin A – Maintanance of healthy skin, hair and good vision. Too much can make bones susceptible to fractures.

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Vitamin D – Keeps bones and teeth healthy. Too much, over a prolonged period of time, can lead to bone weakness.

Vitamin E – Acts as an antioxidant and protects body cells. There are reports that suggest that too much can lead to haemorrhage, as it acts as an anticoagulant.

Vitamin K – Helps to form strong bones and helps wounds to heal properly. Too much can negate the effect of anticoagulants – for those who need to thin their blood.

Water Soluble Vitamins

Excess water soluble vitamins, unlike fat soluble ones, are not stored in the body, but instead, the body gets rid of them in urine. Their main food sources are fruits, vegetables and grains. Examples and uses:

Vitamin B – There are different types (B1, B2, B6 etc). They help maintain a healthy nervous system, healthy red blood cells, and help release energy from food by helping to metabolise carbohydrates and fats. They are essential for growth and development. Folic acid is important for cell growth in infancy and pregnancy.

Vitamin C – Helps to protect and keep body cells healthy and helps the body absorb iron from food . It is also reported to help prevent catching colds (I can vouch for that!)

Essential Minerals & Trace Elements

Calcium – Helps form strong teeth and bones and regulates muscle contraction. Food sources include milk, and other dairy products, broccoli and soya beans.

Iron – Helps to make red blood cells which help transport oxygen around the body. Sources include liver, meat, beans and dark green leafy vegetables.

Magnesium – Helps produce energy from food and is important for bone health. Sources include spinach, pulses, nuts and dairy products.

Chromium – Helps to regulate the metabolism of food. Sources include lentils, spices and whole grains, as well as the environment (air, water and soil).

Copper – Is important for infant growth , brain development and strong bones. Helps form red and white blood cells and also helps transport blood around the body. Sources include nuts, mushrooms and offal.

Selenium – Acts as an antioxidant and helps to strengthen the immune system. Sources include rice, eggs and brazil nuts.

Zinc – Strengthens the immune system, promotes wound healing and sperm health. Sources include meat,whole grain foods and milk and dairy products.

I hope you can now appreciate the importance of vitamin and mineral supplements. Other substances, like glucosamine and chondroitin, occur natually in the joints and tissues of our bodies and help form and repair cartilage and maintain healthy joints. Taking supplements of these would be especially beneficial to people who play sports and do a lot of running. They can also be beneficial in arthritic conditions.