& Supplements (Also see Vitamin Guide)
Scientists continue to uncover how specific vitamins and minerals
work individually and together to protect health. Although, needed
in small amounts, these micronutrients play a powerful role in keeping
your body going each day. Vitamins are needed to transform food into
energy, they help to regulate bodily processes, and they combine with
other substances to facilitate chemical reactions in your body. Minerals
do similar types of work, in addition to, being the foundation for
many cells especially bone, teeth, and nails.
Who needs Supplements?
Women may need to supplement certain nutrients. Calcium
supplements may be necessary to help prevent osteoporosis for women
who have cut back on dairy products. Calcium citrate and calcium carbonate
are considered the best supplemental sources; up to 2,000 mg daily
can be taken safely by most people. Calcium supplements are best absorbed
when taken in no more than 500 mg doses at a time, with meals. Women
who bleed excessively during menstruation may need to take a multivitamin
and mineral supplement that contains iron to meet the daily recommendation
of 15 mg. Pregnant and lactating women have increased nutrient needs
and are usually given supplements by their doctors.
Teenagers with irregular eating habits may not eat a balanced
diet. A multivitamin and mineral supplement can help fill in the nutritional
Vegetarians who eat absolutely no animal products, and who
aren't extremely careful about their diets, may need the insurance
provided by a multivitamin and mineral supplement.
Dieters and people who avoid entire food groups may require
a multivitamin and mineral supplement to replace missing nutrients.
Smokers may have lower vitamin C levels in their blood than nonsmokers
and may benefit from supplementation of up to 500 mg a day.
Elderly who have a lack of appetite, loss of taste and smell,
and denture problems can all contribute to a poor diet. In addition,
if you're age 65 or older, you may need to increase your intake of
vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12 and vitamin D because your body may not
be able to absorb these as well. Older women, especially those not
taking estrogen, may need to increase their intake of calcium and
vitamin D to protect against osteoporosis.
People with deficiency diseases or absorption disorders may need
therapeutic doses of nutrients (two to 10 times the RDA) prescribed
by a physician. People who take prescription medications that interfere
with nutrients or who abuse alcohol or other drugs may also need a
Antioxidants work on neutralizing free radicals, oxygen byproducts
in your body that can damage healthy cells. Free radicals are unstable
oxygen molecules flowing through your body that have lost an electron
through exposure to pollution, sunlight, and daily wear and tear.
These free radicals search out healthy cells and steal their electrons
to stabilize themselves, thus creating more free radicals and damaging
healthy cells in the process.
Free radical damage is what can cause fat to stick to artery walls,
cell mutations leading to cancer formation, and damage to eyes that
may lead to cataracts. Antioxidants block this process by coming between
the free radical and the healthy cell and offering up their own electrons.
Therefore, they neutralize the free radicals and keep your healthy
cells out of harm's way.
Where They're Found
Antioxidant nutrients include three micronutrients: beta carotene,
vitamin C, and vitamin E. These work in conjunction with several minerals
such as selenium, copper, zinc, and manganese to remove free radicals
from your body.
To get enough of these nutritional powerhouses focus your diet on
real foods rather than supplements. Real foods are preferable because
researchers are still unsure about which substances in food are responsible
for the beneficial effects. Plus, they do not know whether benefits
come from a combination of nutrients or one single vitamin or mineral,
or a compound yet to be found.
Antioxidant and Mineral-Rich Foods
Foods rich in beta-carotene include sweet potatoes, apricots,
peaches, carrots, cantaloupe and spinach. Vitamin C rich foods include
peppers, cantaloupe, oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, kale and potatoes.
Nuts, seeds and oils are foods rich in vitamin E, as well as, fortified
cereals and leafy green vegetables.
Seafood is the best source of selenium. To ensure adequate intake
of manganese, whole grain products, pineapples, strawberries and tea
should be added to your weekly shopping list. For foods rich in zinc
look to meat, seafood, wheat bran, whole-grains, legumes and soybeans.
By including seafood and nuts in your regular diet it will also help
you cover your zinc needs.
Besides building bones as we grow, calcium also helps to keep them
strong by slowing the rate of bone loss as we age. What many people
don't realize is that calcium also helps with muscle contraction and
blood pressure. Dairy products are the best source, but some leafy
greens such as kale, broccoli and bok choy contain calcium. Fortified
foods and tofu made with calcium sulfate can also help meet your needs.
Without iron your body would be starving for oxygen, this mineral
plays an important role in hemoglobin formation, which carries oxygen
to the body's cells. Iron found in animal foods (heme-iron), such
as meat, chicken, and eggs, and is better absorbed by the body than
iron found in plant foods (non-heme).