I find there’s a lot of hype around vitamins these days, and it can be a little overwhelming. You think you should be taking vitamins, but you’re not quite sure which ones to take & why.
Here’s my take on vitamins: if you eat a healthy diet 80% of the time (fresh, raw fruits & vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts & seeds, lean protein like fish & poultry, red meat a max of 2x/week, and avoid refined sugar & carbs, packaged, processed foods and over-consumption of alcohol & caffeine) you do not need to take large amounts of supplements. Supplements are meant for those that have a vitamin or mineral deficiency as a result of imbalance. As a future nutritionist it will be my job to meet with someone who is suffering from imbalance, and address it through diet, supplements & lifestyle.
If you eat healthy, and do not have any obvious symptoms, than you don’t need to take tons of supplements. The body is an amazing thing, and maintains a very sensitive balance of vitamins & minerals on its own. When you start to mess around with that balance it can result in you feeling imbalanced. Also, some people think that by taking supplements they can cut corners with their diet, which is not the case. A healthy, balanced diet is the most important, and taking supplements mixed with an unhealthy diet will just leave your body more confused and imbalanced.
All that being said, vitamins are important because they help your body perform certain functions that are necessary for your health. For example, getting enough Vitamin D is vital in the process of calcium absorption to your bones. When you experience certain symptoms it can mean that your body is not performing the way it should as a result of a vitamin deficiency. Without Vitamin D the levels of calcium & phosphorus in your blood decrease and your body will start pulling these minerals from your bones, which over time, can lead to serious problems like osteoporosis (weak bones). Vitamins can also stimulate certain body functions and help it perform optimally. For example, vitamin C supports your immune function, which makes it helpful to take during times when your immune system is vulnerable; like during times of stress, illness or cold & flu season.
If I had to suggest one supplement to take it would be omega-3 (Jamieson is a good brand) as it can be difficult to get from food sources, and the balance of omega-3 & omega-6 is important to overall health (we usually have too much omega-6 as its found in many foods). Getting enough omega-3 is important for the health of your brain, your nervous system, skin & hair, prevents premature aging & can help with inflammation. The best food sources are fatty fish such as wild salmon & halibut. You can also get omega-3 from vegetarian sources (ie. flaxseed, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, etc.), but they don’t convert as much of the usable form of omega-3 as fish sources do.
I also take a daily pro-biotic as I have some imbalance in that area, folic acid (as I am a female in my child-bearing years) and during the long Canadian winter I take vitamin D as we can sometimes go a couple days without being exposed to sunlight (30 minutes of sunlight per day = your daily requirement of vitamin D).