How Do I Know Which Vitamins to Take?

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Vitamins and minerals are found in the foods you eat. Your body needs them, in different proportions, to grow, respond to disease, and remain active and healthy. If you eat a balanced diet each day and keep in perfect health, you may have little need for taking vitamins.

Many people, however, do not eat a balanced diet. We are too busy, we don't like the taste of vegetables, we're trying to lose weight-there are many reasons for not eating properly and most of us succumb to them at some time. Because of our hectic lifestyle, we may skip a meal completely, or eat sweets and snacks instead of a nutritious meal.

It is important to assess your diet - is it balanced; does it include the five food groups, and fats, in the proper proportions, according to USDA guidelines? Do you eat three meals a day and include only healthy snacks between meals? Do you eat between four and six servings of fruit each day? Do you consume adequate protein? Are you at the recommended weight for your height and age?

Few people can claim perfect health, including being born into a family where everyone else is healthy. Most of us have some health issues at times, such as allergies, psychological issues, colds and flu. Many of us either battle or are at risk for a major illness or disease. And yet we all wish to remain as healthy as possible. What can you do if your diet is less than perfect, and your health and/or family history is less than perfect?

One remedy is to complement your diet with vitamins so you still get the vitamins your body needs. But with all the vitamins available, it can be difficult to know which ones and how much you should take. Yet you know you owe it to yourself and your family to stay as healthy and active as possible.

Although it may seem complex, deciding which vitamins to take will become much simpler after you understand a few basics, and follow some simple guidelines. Knowing what information to look for, and keeping up with the latest research, is not as difficult as it may seem. Being able to afford vitamins has been made easier as discount vitamins are available through discount drugstore sites on the internet.

First, become familiar with the basic vitamins, their types, names and the functions they perform for your body. Fortunately, their names are not complex; they are named alphabetically and include vitamin groups A, B, C, D, E and K. Vitamins are divided into two types as well: fat soluble and water soluble.

Fat soluble vitamins are stored in the fat tissues of your body and in your liver. You can think of them as waiting in your fat tissue until they are needed. Vitamins A, D, E and K are all fat-soluble vitamins.

Water soluble vitamins travel through your bloodstream. They are not stored in your body, and what your body does not use is usually excreted in your urine. These vitamins, which include vitamin C and the big group of B vitamins, need to be replaced often.

Vitamin A plays a big role in your eyesight. It also aids in healthy skin. Foods rich in vitamin A include eggs, milk, spinach and cantaloupe. The B vitamins include B1, B2, B6, and B12, niacin, folic acid, biotin and pantothenic acid. They are important for your body's metabolic activity. They help you make and utilize energy when you need it. The B group also helps make red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout your body. Foods rich in vitamin B include whole grains, fish, beans, and dairy products.

Vitamin C helps keep your tissues, like your muscles and gums, in good condition. It also helps the body heal a cut or wound, and
helps resist infection. Foods known for having a lot of vitamin C include citrus fruits (such as oranges), tomatoes, cabbage and
strawberries.

Vitamin D is the bone vitamin. It helps form strong teeth, and lets your body absorb the calcium you need. Foods that provide vitamin D include milk and other dairy products that are fortified with vitamin D, fish and eggs.

Vitamin E also contributes to the formation of red blood cells. It helps maintain a lot of your body's tissue, including skin and liver, and it protects the lungs from polluted air. Vitamin E is found in leafy green vegetables, whole grains (such as oats and wheat), and nuts. Vitamin K assists in blood clotting. It is available in liver, pork, leafy green vegetables and dairy products such as yogurt and milk.

The USDA web site points out that the adult intake levels of vitamins A, C and E are of concern. This report includes that children may not be getting adequate amounts of vitamins E and K as well. The USDA's 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans notes that persons over 50 may not be getting adequate B12, and that older people, people with dark skin, and people who do not get enough sunlight can be lacking in vitamins D and E.

It is important to remember that you do not, and in fact should not, try to do all of this on your own. You should always involve your primary care physician, as well as any specialists you see, when adding vitamins or supplements. Any current medications you are taking will also need to be taken into consideration.

You can find a wealth of good literature and research reviews, in books, magazines and on Internet sites. The government site http://www.health.gov/ is an excellent source of information. Online stores selling discount vitamins often make literature and
research reports available to their customers. Trade associations for vitamin suppliers and manufacturers, such as the Council for
Responsible Nutrition, are another good resource.

When it comes to the amount or quantity of vitamins, several guidelines will help. The Reference Daily Intakes (RDI) is established by the Food and Drug Administration for nutrition labeling. It is based on the highest Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for a nutrient, to assure that everyone's nutritional needs are met.

The Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI), established recently by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine, may eventually become the basis for updating the RDIs. These tables are available in quality nutrition books, through your doctor's office or dietician, and are easily accessible on the Internet, by searching vitamin requirements or DRI.

Another important standard is the UL, or Upper Limit of intake considered to be safe for use by adults. Just because a vitamin is good for you does not mean that taking 10 times that amount is even better for you. In high doses, vitamins can be counter-productive and even dangerous, especially fat-soluble vitamins. Again, always check with your physician about the quantity as well as the type of vitamins that you are planning to take.

Make it a habit to read newspaper and magazine articles, as well as articles available online, about the possible benefits of vitamin supplements. Soon you will become familiar with topics such as additional calcium for older women, the role of lycopene in men to assist in warding off prostate cancer, and the need for additional vitamin C for people who smoke. Once you begin acquiring a base of knowledge about certain vitamins and their roles in maintaining a healthy body, you will enjoy reading the latest findings and reports and will be able to integrate that knowledge into your current knowledge base, allowing you to make even more sound decisions.

Knowing the basic vitamins, their contribution to your body, and their recommended amounts and upper limits puts you in a good position to make wise choices about which vitamins you should take. Remembering to consult experts, such as your primary care
physician and other medical specialists you see, as well as noted and reputable nutrition experts, publications and research studies, puts you even farther down the road to choosing the vitamins that are just right for your needs. Being aware that vitamins need not cost a fortune, with quality discount vitamins available in retail stores and established Internet sites, is one more piece of the puzzle that allows you to purchase the vitamins your body needs. What will you gain from this research? Nothing less than improving your chance to be healthy and active now and for years to come.

About the Author:

By Darrell Miller sponsored by VitaNet(r) Health Foods at VitaNetOnline.com, who sells quality vitamins and herbs with a wide selection of discount vitamins: http://vitanetonline.com that are in stock and ready to ship. Please link to this site when using this article.

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