Not everyone gets the vitamins and minerals they need from their food these days. There are many reasons why food today does not have the vitamins in it that it did in the past. Farming methods have depleted the soils of nutrients and mass food production and processing may also result in nutrient loss. Supermarkets sell food that has been in storage for many months, with fragile vitamins lost over time or as a result of exposure to preservative treatments to prolong shelf life.
As a way to compensate for this, many people choose to take a nutritional supplement or multi-vitamin to supplement their nutrient intake. A complex multi-vitamin and mineral supplement can provide a well-needed boost, especially for people who don’t eat a variety of vegetables, nuts and seeds each day, which are good non-meat sources of minerals.
With a wide range of nutritional supplements on the market, choosing the right one for you can be a challenge. Understanding the chemical structure of the compounds within the vitamin can also be complex. Is it better for them to be organic or inorganic salts? How bioavailable are they? Are they combined with other active ingredients that will help the body absorb them? Do they need to have a protective coating over them to prevent digestion in the stomach, and permit absorption in the intestines?
If only it was as simple as choosing the prettiest bottle and living happily ever after, but it’s not. So here are some simple tips to help you choose a good nutritional supplement or multivitamin:
- Make sure the multivitamin you choose has at least 600IUs of vitamin D, 18 milligrams of iron for women and 8 milligrams for men, ideally in the form of ferrous (iron) bisglycinate which is iron bonded to two glycine (amino acids) molecules, and at least 400 micrograms of folate (vitamin B9)
- Do not choose inorganic mineral salts, such as phosphate, sulfate, carbonate etc. they may actually be pulling minerals out of the body, rather than replacing them. Instead look for organic (meaning chemical structure not food production method) mineral salts, such as citrate, alpha-ketoglutarate, malate & others or bound to an amino acid such as bisglycinate.
- In countries where the soil is already deficient in selenium, such as Australia, a nutritional supplement with added selenium is a good idea.
- For some people, Ginseng is another great addition to a multivitamin.
- Vitamin D helps with immunity, improves bone density, and can help to regulate blood pressure.
- Iron is essential for both men and women and helps immunity, gum health, tissue repair, energy conversion and a host of other vital functions. Women tend to need more iron supplementation than men, as they lose blood every month with their period, which they may not always be able to replace.
- Folic acid helps with DNA synthesis and repair. It has been heavily promoted as a necessary supplement for women looking to become pregnant, but both men and women need to be getting enough folic acid. Some of the symptoms of folic acid deficiency include: irritability, mouth ulcers and peptic ulcers, diarrhea, peripheral neuropathy, confusion, depression, headaches, palpitations, and forgetfulness.
- Organic mineral salts help carry minerals into the body, while inorganic minerals may actually draw minerals out of the body as they pass through. This means you don’t actually get the benefit from the minerals in the supplement – and may even lose minerals!
- Selenium helps with the processing of antioxidants and the functioning of the thyroid, but in large doses can be toxic.
- B-vitamins work better together. They are known as the “happy vitamins”, and are essential for joy, optimism as well as various metabolic processes, including the production of red blood cells, energy production and growth and repair.
- There are different types of ginseng, and they have different benefits. Some of these include improved circulation, stamina and recovery from illness. (Depending on the type, it can also have a negative stimulant effect and may cause insomnia or increase nervous tension.)
- As quality varies a lot, when choosing your multivitamin, best to simply buy a reasonably priced product, take it for six weeks and see if you experience a benefit. If not, change to a different brand and try that for six weeks, until you find a supplement that works for you.
You can shop a wide variety of nutritional supplements and multi-vitamins at Vine.com!
Vanessa Blake is a freelance writer and health freak with a ridiculous general knowledge of nutrition and the body. No wonder she decided to study for a Diploma of Nutrition in 2003. She also loves yoga.