Vitamin Buying Guide
Taking vitamins and minerals to supplement a healthy diet is much easier today than in prehistoric times, when cavemen had to fashion weapons in hopes of spearing the wily vitamin A. Now that all supplements have successfully been domesticated, the only thing left for you to determine is which vitamins you should take to fulfill your body’s unique needs. You may want to take specific supplements to address a specific concern, or you may trust the generalized boost of a multivitamin.
For a Specific Need: Individual Supplements
Many people augment their diets with individual supplements. Some find themselves needing more of a crucial vitamin for general health. Others may have a particular concern in mind and look for a supplement that addresses it. Seeking the input of your doctor is always a good idea, whether you’re about to take a new supplement or climb into that circus cannon.
Vitamin and Mineral MVPs
Calcium fortifies bones and helps repair them if they’re damaged. There’s also evidence that calcium can help prevent high blood pressure. Besides its best-known presence in dairy products, calcium can also be found in leafy greens, seafood, and legumes.
Vitamin A is a key contributor to strong eyesight, immune systems, and cell growth. It comes in two forms: retinoids, which come from animal products, and beta carotene, which is found in plants such as carrots, eggs, and apricots.
Vitamin E, found in vegetable oil, green leafy vegetables, and fortified cereals, helps build up immune systems and maintain healthy eyes and skin.
Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes. Fish oils have the highest amount of vitamin D in food, and it also pops up in foods such as cheese and egg yolks.
Folate, a form of Vitamin B, can help prevent anemia. In women, folic acid (synthesized folate) can prevent certain birth defects. For men, folate can reduce the risk of heart disease. Folate can be found in dark leafy greens, citrus fruits, and avocado.
Vitamin B12 is essential for healthy brain function; as such, it can help prevent memory loss and boost both moods and immune systems. It can be found in eggs, milk, shellfish, and poultry.
Supplements for Specific Needs
- Bone: Calcium supplements help strengthen bones; get one with extra vitamin D to help boost absorption.
- Joints: Glucosamine and fish oil both help keep joints limber and can be used by everyone from athletes to older adults.
- Digestive health: Probiotics, the so-called good bacteria, can help regulate digestive cycles and positively affect your mood better than amateur biotics ever could.
- Cardiovascular health: Try fiber supplements, which can lower LDL (“bad cholesterol”) and increase HDL (“good cholesterol”).
- Sleep: Valerian is a natural extract that can help you get to sleep and reduce symptoms of mild anxiety. Melatonin pills supplement your body’s natural melatonin reserves to help regulate your circadian rhythms.
- Female libido: Zinc and compounds found in watermelon have been found to increase circulation, which can boost female arousal. Zinc can be found in pumpkin seeds, mushrooms, and oysters.
- Male libido: Horny goat weed may help boost circulation and reduce symptoms of erectile dysfunction disorder.
- Dehydration: Like sports drinks, coconut water contains electrolytes, which can help restore the body after a workout or during an illness. Coconut water, however, is natural, with less sugar, fewer calories, and far fewer football-star endorsements.
- Energy: Extra B12 or CoQ10 (short for coenzyme Q10) helps support metabolism, which in turn can boost energy.
- Focus and concentration: DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish, can help boost brain function. Ginkgo biloba has also been studied for its potential benefit to memory and cognitive speed.
- Immune system: Vitamin C, one of the most commonly taken supplements, can help fortify your immune system against seasonal colds and other ills.
- Hair and nails: Biotin (also called vitamin H) may help prevent brittle nails and maintain your hair’s lustrous health.
- Acne: Tea-tree oil has natural antibacterial properties that can help fight breakouts; just apply to your face with a cotton ball every evening.
- Teeth: Try “oil pulling,” or swishing with coconut oil, to naturally whiten your chompers.
- Weight loss: Some studies suggest that green-coffee-bean extract may help boost metabolic processes and speed weight loss.
- In general: Omega-3 fatty acids, commonly found in fish and fish-oil tablets, may help give your mood a lift. St. John’s wort may also help to lift spirits.
- Anxiety: Magnesium can help alleviate mild anxiety, as can supplements with SAM-e. This compound is produced naturally in your body, but extra SAM-e can help boost serotonin levels and make you feel more at ease.
- Seasonal affective disorder: Some studies have also suggested vitamin D is beneficial in staving off the wintertime blues. Vitamin D is primarily absorbed as sunlight, which isn’t as plentiful after the sun flies south for the winter.
For General Health: Multivitamins
Multivitamins aim to address a wide range of health concerns in just one dose. Most incorporate essential vitamins and minerals, as well as specialized ingredients. You might consider a multivitamin if you just want to take one pill or simply want to bolster your diet. That said, even multivitamins aren’t one size fits all. Multivitamin makers often consider the following in their formulas:
Time of Life
- Childhood: Kids can benefit from a multivitamin, particularly if they’re picky eaters. Kids’ vitamins often come in a flavored gummy or chewable form, so store them safely out of your child or gremlin’s reach.
- Reproductive years: Women who are or are considering becoming pregnant can reap the benefits of prenatal vitamins, which are full of nutrients such as folic acid and calcium. Men should look for a formula with plenty of folate to help boost sperm count.
- Seniors: Many multivitamins for older adults contain Vitamin B12 and DHA to help maintain memory and mental acuity. Calcium can also bolster bone health.
- Male: Formulas with extra B-vitamins and lycopene help promote healthy cardiovascular systems.
- Female: Menstruating women can almost always benefit from multivitamins with extra iron, which can prevent anemia. Extra calcium and vitamin D can also reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
- Sometimes forget to take pills: Consider a gummy vitamin, which easily fit into meal or snacks and just plain taste good. And keep vitamins where you’ll see them, such as next to your favorite coffee mug or under a spotlight.
- Sensitive stomach: Try a liquid multivitamin or a multivitamin formulated with digestive enzymes and probiotics.
- Always active: Multivitamins enriched with amino acids can promote healthy muscle development and function. Extra collagen and hyaluronic acid can also help strengthen and support joints.
- Not a fan of veggies: No multivitamin can replace a balanced diet, but some are formulated with extra vitamins A, C, and E to help fill in the gaps left in low-produce diets. Some even have vegetables and greens as ingredients.