This is going to sound strange, but in a perfect world, there would be no such thing as vitamins and minerals in pill form. Ideally, you would be getting everything you need from the grains and nuts you had for breakfast, and the leafy salad you had for dinner. Yep, you can see why this is ‘perfect world material only’. In the real world, we end up eating a microwave dinner every now and then. And in reality, we are lacking a few things that would make us a lot healthier. Here is where vitamins and supplements come. They just tip the balance back in your favour. But no pharmacist in the world will advise you to just take everything in a scattergun approach. You should consider what you yourself don’t get enough, and consult a doctor or dietician so that you can reap the rewards. Today, I am going to step you through a few options for vitamins and supplements if you know you aren’t eating enough of a certain food group.
Early disclaimer: This should not be in lieu of addressing that lack of dietary intake. It should act as a support to something hard to come by, not a replacement.
First up: seafood. If you’re anything like me, eating something dragged up from the depths fills you with abject horror. Like me, perhaps your parents had no idea how to cook fish and you were traumatised from a young age with defrosted fish fingers. Rex Hunt himself would have sworn off them if he had experienced what I experienced. Regardless, fish are wildly healthy and I need to address that shortfall somewhere.
The solution: Fish oil tablets. The provision of Omega-3 fatty acids will do wonders. Experts are suggesting that it prevents blood platelets from sticking to the walls of your heart and arteries. In layman’s terms, this drastically reduces your risk of any form of cardiac episode.It also helps to lower your cholesterol levels. You can’t really go too wrong.
Next up: meat. I am actually a huge supporter of vegetarianism and veganism. It is a much more sustainable way to live, and for every one person who gets sick from not eating enough meat, there are a thousand who have gorged themselves on steak and pork (we are talking cancer, diabetes and heart disease). But the fact remains, if you aren’t eating any meat at all, you are probably lacking in a few areas.
- B12: This is a mood boosting supplement that is also responsible for making new red blood cells and supporting the function of the brain. Whilst you can get it from soy products, it is generally found in meat, and studies have shown that 77% of vegetarians were deficient. Their meat eating compatriots? Just 11%.
- Vitamin D: This is critical to your bone health, and can be absorbed by direct contact with the sun (I know, I know, aren’t we always telling you to avoid direct contact with the sun?). Dairy, fish and eggs are all rich in vitamin D, so vegetarians are forced to either sunbake until they are burnt to a crisp, gorge on grains and cereals, or just supplement.
- Calcium: This is like a companion to vitamin D. Without it, calcium fails to absorb, and you end up with weaker bones which will plague you once you get old enough to know what a geriatrician is. Again, it is big in dairy, but a vegan can find it in leafy greens and (bizarrely) turnips. If turnips aren’t getting you hot under the collar, find a calcium supplement.
- Zinc: This is a big one in the process of cell metabolism. Every single cell in your body relies on this mineral to replicate itself. If you’re short, your cells become less and less capable of reproducing themselves properly. Imagine photocopying an original sheet of paper a thousand times. By the end, it is a chiaroscuro nightmare which bears little resemblance to the original. When it comes to my body, I’d rather keep everything ticking as well as possible. A vegetarian can pick this up in buts, seeds, dairy and beans. But of course, a little supplement might be the perfect thing to get you ahead of the curve.
- Iron: This one has been known for a long time, but you shouldn’t muck around with your iron levels. If you go overboard, you can end up nauseous and you might even vomit. Iron helps carry oxygen and nutrients to the various cells in your body. An iron deficiency often leaves people looking a little pale and feeling weak, and for good reason: their bodies are somewhat undernourished. You can pick up iron in beans, dairy, artichokes, eggs, and leafy greens.
Finally, I (or my child) won’t eat vegetables: Well first up, you aren’t alone. Around 9 out of 10 people aren’t eating enough veggies and it is little wonder why preventable diseases are rife. Again, I feel the need to stress that no amount of supplementing will replace a balanced diet! You can’t satisfy your veggie quote with a small white pill. The following are suggestions for what you might do as you being to address the deficiencies in your diet.
- Fibre: This will keep your digestive tract ticking along nicely. Without it, you end up with heart disease, obesity, depression, IBS and an array of autoimmune disorders. Can’t recommend.
- Vitamin K: This keeps your blood at an optimal viscosity inside your body. This prevents heart disease (the supplements have been shown to reduce the risk by 20-30%).
- Potassium: A deficiency will earn you fatigue, cramps, anxiety, and a poor immune system.
- Magnesium: This will prevent irritability, tension and insomnia.
One day, we may well live in this utopia, where produce is so available and affordable that our diets are bulletproof. But until that day comes, vitamins and supplements remain an incredibly helpful tool for addressing those things you just can’t wrangle into your diet. If in doubt, talk to a health professional.