Vitamins and Minerals

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Mar2010 04

Do you pop a daily vitamin pill? If so, you’re not alone. Millions of people do so, most of them for the wrong reasons. Listed below are several reasons why both adults and children take vitamin-mineral supplements. What are your reasons?

1. “Because I don’t eat a well balanced diet, they are my Nutritional Insurance.”
2. “They protect my health while I’m Dieting.”
3. “They give me pep and energy.”
4. “They help with my stress.”
5. “They cure or prevent Colds and Other Diseases.”

Let’s explore each of the reasons listed above more closely. You may be in for a surprise!

1. Nutritional Insurance
A well-balanced diet, not a vitamin pill, will give you and your family the best insurance that you are getting the nutrients you need. Instead of a pill, follow these guidelines:
* Eat a wide variety and generous amounts of fruits and vegetables.
* Drink milk or use dairy products such as cheese or yogurt.
* Choose generous amounts of whole grain or enriched breads and cereals.
* Have protein-rich foods such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dried beans, nuts and lentils.

It usually takes many weeks or months for vitamin-mineral deficiencies to develop. However, if you regularly don’t eat foods from one or more of the groups listed above your intake of some nutrients may be too low. If you aren’t sure, ask a dietitian to check your diet.

2. Dieting
You cannot replace all the goodness of food with a pill. If you eat less than 1800 Calories a day, it is hard to get enough of certain nutrients, such as iron and calcium. Careful menu planning is necessary. If you are on a very low calorie diet, you should get the advice of a dietitian and check with your doctor who may recommend a multi-vitamin supplement.
3. Energy
There are two proven energy boosters nutritious diet and regular physical activity. Energy comes from the Calories in the food you eat. The vitamins in food help to convert food into energy but they do not supply energy by themselves. Why not try a daily walk to recharge tired batteries while strengthening your heart, lungs and muscles?
4. Stress
Many people either over-eat or under-eat when they are under emotional stress. If you are “stressed out”, pay close attention to what you eat. Eating well can help give you the power you need to cope with the stresses of daily living. Your body may require extra of some vitamins and minerals during times of physical stress, such as after an operation or during a severe infection. You likely don’t need extra vitamins when you are under emotional stress.
5. Colds and Other Diseases
Scientists are studying the role of vitamins and minerals in the prevention and treatment of colds and other diseases. The latest studies show that vitamin C does not prevent or cure the common cold. However, vitamin C may reduce the severity of cold symptoms in some people. Using supplements as drugs to prevent or cure diseases is not recommended.

Who Really Needs Vitamin/Mineral Supplementation

Women

* Women who have very heavy periods may need extra iron to prevent anemia.
* Doctors often recommend that pregnant women take a multivitamin preparation that includes iron and folic acid.

Children

* Breast-fed infants may need vitamin D while they are being exclusively breast fed. (Bottle-fed babies do not need extra vitamins.)
* If the drinking water is low in fluoride, fluoride may be recommended. Get your dentist’s advice.

Strict Vegetarians

* If no animal foods such as egg or milk products are eaten, iron, zinc and vitamin Bl2 supplements may be needed.
* Breast fed infants and children of strict vegetarians need foods fortified with vitamin Bl2 or a supplement.

People with Restricted Food Intake

* People with food allergies, food intolerances or poor appetites may need vitamin/mineral supplementation.
* Seniors who are housebound or in hospital need vitamin D if they are not getting milk products.
* People who can’t digest dairy products may need calcium.

People on Certain Medications

* Certain medicines such as laxatives, some antibiotics and aspirin can interact with some vitamins and minerals. Check with a pharmacist or a dietitian.

Medical Conditions

* People recovering *from surgery or who have long term illnesses may need a supplement.

Five Supplement Hunting Tips

Your best source of nutrients is food – and the big bonus is the pleasure you get from a delicious meal. If, however, you, or someone in your family are in one of the above groups that needs to take a supplement, here are some tips.

Tip 1 — Buyer Beware

* Use brands which are reasonably priced.

Tip 2 — Read Labels

* Check that the expiry date has not passed.
* Multivitamin-mineral supplements should include only the following:
Vitamins:A, D, E. C, Bl2, Bl (Thiamin), B2 (Riboflavin), B3 (Niacin), B6 (Pyridoxine), Folic Acid
Minerals:Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Iron, iodine, Zinc

Tip 3 — More is not better

* Vitamin A, vitamin D, iron, zinc and selenium are particularly toxic in high doses. Large amounts of Vitamin B6 and fluoride have harmful side effects.

Tip 4 — Natural or Synthetic?

* Your body can’t tell the difference!

Tip 5 — Keep Supplements Away From Children

* Children’s vitamins may look like candy to a child.

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