Getting essential nutrients from their natural sources is the best way to prevent deficiency and health problems.
Walking through the vitamin aisle in any pharmacy or supermarket can feel like a trip through Alphabet City. How do you decipher the benefits touted by manufacturers of supplements for everything from improved sleep, to weight loss, to more attractive skin, hair and nails?
There are 13 vitamins known to medical professionals and a deficiency of any one of them can lead to a variety of health problems, from anemia to bone weakness. But, despite what you may be led to think, most people don’t need to take daily doses of these organic substances for proper growth and nutrition. In fact, one study in the American Journal of Cardiology found that the most commonly consumed vitamin and mineral supplements do not help in preventing cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke, or premature death.
Dr. Kay Lovig, the Chief of Endocrinology at White Plains Hospital, says that she prescribes multivitamins only for certain conditions and medical situations. In most cases, as long as you’re eating a healthy, balanced diet you’ll get all of the vitamins you need, Dr. Lovig says. “A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and lean protein is the best way to support your health.”
The body produces two vitamins on its own: D and K. People in the United States tend to have vitamin D deficiency, especially in the winter, since exposure to sunlight is what keeps vitamin D production at a healthy level. Vitamin K deficiency is rare in adults, but infants are born with low levels of the nutrient. As a result, most parents opt to have their babies receive vitamin K by injection or mouth after birth. There are certain health conditions and medications that may cause a vitamin deficiency—and may require taking an oral supplement, as directed by a doctor.
Otherwise, try taking advantage of the following natural sources, recommended by Dr. Lovig.
Vitamin C: Helps repair tissues, aids in iron absorption, keeps bad cholesterol at bay, and lowers the risk of heart disease. Citrus fruits, dark leafy greens, red bell peppers, apples, and berries.
Vitamin D: Key to absorbing calcium and maintaining strong, healthy bones. The best source is sun exposure. Research shows that at least five to 10 minutes of sun exposure, two to three times a week, keeps production at a healthy level. Salmon, swordfish, eggs, and fortified milk are also good sources.
Vitamin K: Helps with blood clotting and bone metabolism. Kale, swiss chard, spinach, grapes, and eggs.
B Vitamins: Eight vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9 and B12) aid in everything from healthy cell production, to mood and sleep regulation, to converting food into energy. Spinach, salmon, yogurt, eggs, beans, kale, almonds, and beef are sources of B vitamins.
Vitamin A: Promotes good vision, reproductive health, and immune system health. Beef liver, kale, carrots, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, butternut squash, mango, and spinach.
Vitamin E: Supports vision, protects against tissue damage from free radicals, and helps the body use its vitamin K. Wheat germ, cold-pressed vegetable oils, asparagus, nuts, dark leafy greens, and yams.