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5 Essential Supplements You Need
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Vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients are essential to the body's ability to function normally and healthily. While the body is able to absorb the nutrients it needs from food sources alone, this requires a perfectly balanced diet with enough variety of foods to deliver the required nutrients. Many people strive for a healthy, well-balanced diet but most people have difficulty achieving it. Some people have an allergy to or intolerance to certain foods, while others may be implementing a special diet for weight loss or health reasons which means they aren't eating certain foods. Still other people simply don't like the taste of leafy greens or citrus fruit. Whatever the reason, a nutritional deficiency can exist in anyone's diet.
While it's best to try and get the necessary nutrients from our food, it's clear that this might be easier said than done. An estimated 40 percent off the adult population take some form of nutritional supplement, some of which are actually unnecessary. Doctors often recommend a multi-vitamin supplement for young children and older adults but many younger and middle-aged adults take nothing at all. Yet without a perfectly balanced diet, and in some cases even with one, we can fall short of essential nutritional requirements. This is where nutritional supplements can help.
Nutritional supplements come in the form of multi-vitamins, with a variety of vitamins and minerals included, as well as specific nutritional supplements meant to make up for the lack of a specific nutrient. People who strive for higher than the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of certain nutrients find it easier to take a supplement than to incorporate higher amounts of certain foods in their diet. For example, while it's easy to meet the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of 60 to 95 milligrams (mg) of Vitamin C with diet alone, some nutritional experts recommend consuming 1,000 mg of this antioxidant vitamin. This means an individual would have to consume roughly five cantaloupes or 15 oranges to receive the equivalent.
Vitamin C is one of the essential nutrients the body needs and one that provides numerous health benefits. While there's no clear evidence that a specific daily intake of Vitamin C will prevent colds or flu as some believe, it is a proven antioxidant that helps support immune system function and has the ability to help the body lower cholesterol. While many health experts agree that excessive amounts of any one nutrient may interfere with the absorption of others, there is not evidence that a moderate increase of Vitamin C to 1,000 to 2,000 mg daily has this effect and some sources will recommend up to 3,000 mg daily.
Vitamin E is another antioxidant that supports immune system function. It is a key nutrient to help promote eye health and protect against heart disease and some types of cancer. Foods that are rich in Vitamin E, such as spinach, broccoli, almonds, and sunflower seeds are usually eaten in small amounts, if at all, by most people.
Other vitamins, including Vitamin D and B Vitamins, including folic acid, are equally important to overall health. In the case of Vitamin D, some health experts are concerned about the body's natural ability to absorb this essential vitamin due to decreased sun exposure. While it really only takes about 20 to 30 minutes of sun exposure to get a "healthy" dose of sunlight, the increased use of sunscreen which is necessary to avoid skin cancer may inhibit Vitamin D absorption in some people. Between a lack of intake and reduced absorption, Vitamin D supplements in the amount of 1,000 to 2,000 mg daily, especially for those with limited sun exposure, naturally dark skin, or those who are overweight, could prove beneficial.
One of the most important nutrients that the body needs but many people fail to get with diet alone is calcium. As we all know, calcium promotes strong bones but it is also essential to muscle function and proper nervous system function. Calcium is the most plentiful mineral in the body but at least 1,000 mg of calcium intake through diet or supplementation is recommended. Pregnant and nursing women need slightly more. Dairy products like yogurt and milk are the most prevalent sources of calcium but an allergy or intolerance for dairy may prevent some people from getting enough. Calcium is a common supplement, often recommended for women, especially those who are pregnant or over the age of 50.
Like calcium, iron is another mineral that is essential to good health. Iron deficiency, which results in anemia, is reported to be the number one nutritional deficiency in the world. It's easy to see why iron deficiency is prevalent in developing countries but it is apparent that iron deficiency is common in developed nations as well. Anemia is more common in women of reproductive age, due in part to menstrual bleeding and pregnancy. Iron supplements, specifically slow-release iron supplements, are commonly recommended for women who are pregnant and breastfeeding, or for those people who have a history of iron deficiency based on previous blood tests.
Though it is important to obtain as many of the essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients our body needs from food sources, it can sometimes be difficult to obtain plentiful amounts from diet alone. If you are concerned about your diet, poor eating habits, or whether or not you need additional supplements, talk to your doctor or a licensed nutritionist. They can help you choose a multi-vitamin or supplement that works with your individual diet and eating habits.
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