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Vitamins & 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 gaps.

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 supplement.

Antioxidants
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.

Calcium
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.

Iron (Fe)
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).



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