It can be frustrating and overwhelming, to know you need to maintain a healthy diet to maintain a healthy lifestyle but see at all the options of vitamins and supplements that are being offered, and not know the best choice. We live in a time where we are given ample choices, but we cannot often decipher how these choices differ from one another or how an individual option will benefit us the most.
This gap in consumer understanding not unfounded since many, if not all, dietary supplements and vitamins are not reviewed for safety nor effectiveness by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).Whether you seek supplementation or not, rest assured knowing that you can achieve the healthiest diet by just eating the correct kinds of foods, in the correct amounts, and achieve all of your daily vitamin and mineral intake needs.
The body needs a variety of what are called trace minerals and macrominerals. Minerals are compounds that are essentially found on the periodic table of elements. Some trace minerals include copper, iodine, and iron; these are only needed in small, or trace, amounts in your diet. Macrominerals are needed in larger amounts for your body to function properly and these include calcium, potassium, and sodium.
One of the most important minerals is calcium. It is involved with bone and teeth development and density, nerve conduction, and muscle contraction. We have often heard our mothers say, “Drink your milk to become big and strong”, and this phrase is supported with a lot of evidence! One of the best ways to ensure you get calcium through your diet is by eating dairy (like milk, yogurt, and cheese) and leafy green vegetables (like broccoli or kale).
Iron is also essential for our health as it helps our red blood cells bind oxygen and transport it across our body to every cell. Getting enough of this mineral is easy though because there are so many sources that it can be found in. One of the most obvious is red meat, but vegetarians fret not, because iron is also found in fruits like strawberries and watermelon, veggies like spinach and peas, as well as tofu and beans. The great thing about many of these food options is that they contain many other minerals and nutrients in them as well, so it is easy to reach your daily requirement of trace and macrominerals if you eat whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and protein sources.
Vitamins are not elemental compounds like minerals because they are made up of different compounds and organic particles. However, they play just as important of a role as minerals in your body. The 13 essential vitamins vary widely in their functions such as hair growth, reproduction, and vision.
Vitamin A is important for its role in vision, and also its lesser-known roles in bone growth and immune response. Foods that are rich in vitamin A include dairy products like cheese, fish, sweet potatoes, and carrots. A diet rich in these kinds of foods can help prevent cataracts as well as a lower lung cancer risk.
Vitamin B has many subcategories such as B2, B3, B5, etc. It can get confusing trying to keep these untangled but luckily, many foods can provide us with the variety of vitamin B (and others) that we need. Very common foods we see vitamin B’s in our meats, poultry, whole grains, avocado, and broccoli. We often get enough vitamins in our daily diet without thinking about it because healthy food choices that are not over-processed often contain nutrients we need daily.
Many resources will guide you in your journey to understanding nutritional information about the food we eat as well as what your individual needs are. However, if you prefer, you can stick to the World Health Organization’s guideline that states the average adult should eat 400g or five servings of fruits and vegetables a day to ensure a diet that is fully balanced in vitamins and minerals (without the need for supplementation).