Is it worth taking a vitamin and mineral supplement?
We all know vitamins and minerals are good for us.
But we get them in our food - right?
So why go to the trouble and expense of buying supplements? Isn't this just pouring money down the drain?
This page gives a few very good reasons for taking supplements as part of your health care programme. There's also a brief guide to what to look for in a good supplement.
Picture above of fish oil capsules with thanks to Zimpenfish
Good supplements for green living include ones of organic and natural origin.
A vitamin and mineral supplement as part of your daily routine is a good idea for the simple reason that you get a degree of health insurance. Many diseases are partly caused by dietary inadequacies. These may not be easily noticed.
You can be sticking to good diet and eating mainly things which are from the main food groups, in the right proportions and yet you can still be deficient in vitamins and minerals.
How can this happen? There are several reasons. The first concerns farming.
Modern farming practices don’t put everything back into the soil that is taken out. Only the main nutrients needed for plant growth are applied to the soil. Nitrogen, Potassium and Sodium (NPK) are present in fertilisers but very often many important trace elements and minerals are completely or largely absent.
This means that the soil becomes ever more depleted and the plants which grow there, even though they look robust and healthy, are seriously lacking in some of the nutritional qualities which we need. Calcium and zinc are two very important minerals which are often deficient in the soil because of modern farming practices.
Also, many plants are grown very intensively, using hydroponics and do not even have access to real soil. This means that they are dependent upon the proper nutrients arriving at the right time.
Although hydroponic growers are becoming more sophisticated in their techniques, they still cannot fully reproduce the natural processes of plant growth. Many hydroponic growers do now pay a lot of attention to plant nutrition and some even use organic feeds. Nevertheless, replicating the huge diversity found in natural conditions is a difficult task. And of course, the whole process tends to be relatively unsustainable, depending as it does on fossil fuels.
Another reason we don’t always get what we need from our food is that it has lost vitamins while being transported and while sitting on supermarket shelves. Some vitamins simply do not keep well. As soon as the crop is cut, the process of depletion starts. This is particularly true for vitamin C.
The process continues in the kitchen even if food is in a fridge, and then when we cook the food, more losses occur.
Modern lifestyle choices also affect our need for vitamins. For example, if you live in an area where traffic pollution is bad, (perhaps not your choice!) you will have a greater need for vitamins and minerals than if you didn’t.
Drinking and smoking also affect our need for vitamins. Even tea and coffee have an effect. Coffee, for example, causes potassium loss, leading to increased fatigue.
Sugar in your diet will use up vitamins in your body as it is processed so if you often eat sugar-laden foods you will need a more vitamins than otherwise.
So, unless you are lucky enough to be eating mainly freshly-picked foods, grown in rich organic soil, and you live in an unpolluted place and you are a bit of a saint, you are unlikely to be getting enough vitamins and minerals from your food!
Can you achieve this ideal lifestyle? Most of us try... but various pressures and temptations lead us to fall short.
The easy way to remedy this is to take a good vitamin and mineral supplement, preferably from organic and sustainable sources.
You can buy vitamin and mineral supplements together as one combined supplement, or separately as a multi-vitamin and a multi-mineral supplement.
Here are some basic components to look for in a good supplement.
Vitamin A or carotene which the body can use to manufacture vitamin A.
Vitamin B complex with all 12 B vitamins in the right balance. This is very important, as some vitamins in the B group work together.
Vitamin C with bioflavonoids which are the small co-agents which help vitamin C be absorbed. Naturally sourced products such as those made from Acerola cherries are far better than purely synthetic vitamin C (ascorbic acid).
Vitamin E from a natural source such as wheatgerm.
Calcium* – most women are deficient in calcium and it is incredibly important for keeping our bones healthy as we get older.
Iodine – to keep the thyroid gland working correctly. Iodine is naturally low in some soils but is often reasonably well supplied as an additive to salt.
Iron. The value of iron is well understood but many people, even those living in rich western countries, still suffer from deficiencies.
Magnesium* – the anti-stress mineral. Some authorities even blame the increase in hyperactivity of children on the lack of this mineral in modern junk foods.
Manganese - helps with nerve response times and memory.
Potassium – protects against allergies, helps with de-toxifying the body, promotes clear-thinking. Again, junk diets are very deficient in this mineral.
Selenium – an anti-oxidant so it helps to slow aging along with vitamin E. Also, it has a role in preventing cancers.
Zinc – has a huge number of roles in metabolism including preventing cholesterol build up in the arteries and helping the immune system to function well.
Always buy the best quality vitamin and mineral supplement that you can find. Try to take them reasonably regularly, especially if your lifestyle is demanding or stressful.
A good vitamin and mineral supplement, together with a good diet, can form the bedrock of good health.
* Calcium and magnesium work together, so do not take one without taking the other.
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