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Everything You Need To Know About Vitamins

There's a lot of misinformation floating around about vitamins--especially when it comes to taking supplements. While it's possible to get the recommended daily dose of most vitamins through diet alone, the fact of the matter is that most people can benefit from adding at least a few vitamin supplements to their diets. At the same time, however, people often overdo it with vitamins and needlessly take many simply because they believe it's the healthy thing to do. Since it's sometimes dangerous to take excessive doses of certain vitamins, it's smart to study up about vitamins, what they do and whether or not most modern diets supply enough of them.

Who Should Take Vitamin Supplements?

The only way to have a clear idea about whether or not you need to add vitamin supplements to your diet is by consulting with your doctor. However, most people can benefit from supplementing with calcium, as few people get enough of it in their diets. Adults should have at least 1,000 mg per day, and adults over 50 should have at least 1,200 mg per day.

When Should You Take Vitamins?

At certain times in life, it is especially advantageous to introduce certain vitamin supplements to your diet. For example, women who are pregnant or who may become pregnant are strongly advised to take folate, or folic acid, which is a B-vitamin complex that helps create DNA. All adults should consume at least 400 mg per day while pregnant women should consume at least 600 mg per day.

Potential Interactions

Because they aren't technically medications, many people assume that they can safely introduce vitamins to their diet without any concerns. In reality, however, certain vitamins may cause negative interactions with certain medications. For example, calcium may inhibit the body's ability to absorb certain medications. Excessive amounts of B-3, or niacin, may harm the liver. With these points in mind, always consult with your doctor before introducing vitamin supplements to your daily regimen.

Common Vitamins

Here are a few basic facts about the most common and important vitamins:

Vitamin A - Too much of this vitamin can hurt the liver. However, vitamin A that's derived from plant sources helps prevent age-related macular degeneration. Vitamin A that's derived from animal sources aids in red blood cell production and helps to fight off infections. It's primarily found in orange fruits and veggies, spinach and other greens, dairy products and seafood.

Vitamin B-12 - B-12 helps to break down food for energy. It's found in hard-boiled eggs, but many people take supplements to ensure proper levels

Vitamin C - Although vitamin C doesn't prevent colds, it can help you recover faster from them. It also strengthens skin and bones and aids in muscle growth.

Calcium - Found in cheese, milk, green veggies and other sources, calcium is the building block of healthy teeth and bones.

Vitamin D - Spend 10 to 15 minutes in the sun without sunscreen to get your daily dose of vitamin D, which builds strong bones, fights germs and helps nerves carry messages.

Vitamin E - This antioxidant shields cells from harmful free radicals and keeps blood moving.

Folic Acid - Folic acid helps build DNA and prevents spina bifida and other birth defects. It's found in dark leafy greens, Brussel sprouts, legumes and oranges.

Vitamin K - Found in leafy greens, vitamin K aids in bone building and blood clotting.

Iron - Found in lentils, beans, oysters, liver and spinach, iron aids in red blood cell production and helps deliver oxygen to tissues.

Magnesium - Magnesium keeps the heart beating and muscles squeezing and also regulates blood sugar and blood pressure. It's found in soybeans, cashews, almonds and whole grains.

Potassium - Found in bananas and green leafy veggies, potassium regulates blood pressure and keeps the kidneys healthy.

Zinc - Zinc helps maintain sight as you age and aids in healing, taste and smell and in maintaining a strong immune system. Find it in beef, crab, lobster, oysters, cashews, lentils and chickpeas.

The Bottom Line on Vitamins

If you feel like you aren't getting enough of certain vitamins in your diet, consult your doctor. It could very well be that you would benefit from introducing vitamin supplements to your diet.

The content on this page is for informational and educational purposes only and does not constitute professional medical advice. Patients should not use the information presented on this page for diagnosing a health-related issue or disease. Before taking any medication or supplements, patients should always consult a physician or qualified healthcare professional for medical advice or information about whether a drug is safe, appropriate or effective.