Nowadays it seems we're bombarded with conflicting messages about supplements. While certain vitamins are important for optimum health, others may be unnecessary (or even harmful). Here’s a guide to what vitamins to take, and which ones to skip.
Warning: Before starting any supplement regimen, make sure you contact your doctor first to make sure supplements are beneficial for your health needs.
1. Supplements: Vitamin D
Vitamin D: Take
Vitamin D – also known as the “sunshine vitamin” – has gotten a lot of media attention these days for its many health benefits, from cancer prevention to asthma prevention. The problem is some of us are deficient in this vitamin due to lack of sunshine. And it's been shown that Latinos are even more at risk of being deficient than other groups. Here’s the good news: research shows you can benefit from taking a vitamin D supplement just as much as you would from getting out in the sunshine.
Warning: Vitamin D is a fat-soluble supplement – meaning toxic levels can build up in your body. Make sure you stick to the recommended daily dose and don’t go over 2,000 IUs daily.
2. Supplements: Multivitamin
There’s been a lot of controversy throughout the years surrounding whether or not we need to take a multivitamin. While some people may need to take a multivitamin, most of us are overloading our system with these vitamins and minerals, which can be unnecessary (and dangerous). Your best bet is to skip the multivitamin and eat a balanced diet, unless you hear otherwise from your doctor.
3. Supplements: Probiotics
They say your health is your wealth; when in fact, your health is your digestive system. Your digestive tract is not only responsible for immune function, but also plays a part in regulating your mood as most of your serotonin can be found in your gut. (Ever get butterflies in your stomach when you’re nervous? This is why.) Because of this, keeping your digestive tract healthy is vital for optimum health. Probiotics fill your stomach with good bacteria that can help weed out the bad, so this supplement is definitely a keeper.
Quick Tip: If you are hesitant to take a probiotic supplement, start out with yogurt (like Activia) that also provides healthy bacteria, just not as much as a supplement would.
4. Supplements: Vitamin C
Vitamin C: Skip
Vitamin C seems to be most everyone’s “go-to” vitamin when feeling under the weather. Since vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, taking large doses can be relatively safe. However, many studies have shown that you don’t actually need to take large doses of this vitamin, and may benefit more from eating vitamin C rich foods such as oranges, kiwi, and strawberries.
5. Supplements: Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12: Take
Many women tend to be deficient in the “feel good” supplement vitamin B12. Known for it’s calming and soothing effects, vitamin B12 helps keep the nervous system healthy, and can also give you energy. The good news is, this vitamin is water-soluble, so your body will get rid of whatever you don’t need.
Quick Tip: Many doctors are now offering vitamin B12 shots for their patients. Talk to your doctor to see if a vitamin shot may be right for you.
6. Supplements: Calcium
Most of us as a child were told to drink our milk for healthy bones. Now as adults, calcium can be harder to come by. While calcium is very important for osteoporosis prevention, too much of this supplement can lead to some health issues (seriously!). Unless your doctor tell you to take calcium, it’s safest to get it in foods – such as cheese, yogurt and milk – instead.
7. Supplements: Zinc
Zinc: Take (When You’re Sick)
When you have a cold, reach for the zinc! Studies show that this powerful mineral can help shorten the duration of a cold as well as the severity of the symptoms. While you can take zinc daily, you want to make sure you don’t take over 40 mgs. Make sure you read the label for dosage information and stick to the guidelines.
8. Supplements: Iron
Many women tend to be deficient in iron, especially those who are vegetarians. Since there are plenty of food that contain iron- (soybeans, meat, beans, and spinach) skipping the supplement is your best bet, unless told otherwise by your doctor. If you do chose to take this supplement, don’t go overboard as too much iron can up your risk for heart disease.