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Vitamins and Supplements: a Necessity, a Luxury, or Neither?

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Over a third of Australians purchase vitamin and supplements each year, and over half of these purchases were made at Australian chemists.

You can pull out your calculator and do the maths if you like, but just trust me: that’s a lot of vitamins.

People seem to fall into two camps when it comes to supplements. Either they are true believes, swearing by their Swisse multivitamin or their Ostelin Vitamin D3. Or they are sceptics, believing that there’s nothing that a little sunlight, exercise, and clean living can’t fix.

Do you need supplements?

Ultimately, the best person to talk to about whether your need vitamin and supplements vitamins is not your next door neighbour, the guy at the gym at the bench press, or someone with a status update on Facebook – the best person to talk to is your doctor.

For most people, most of the time, a balanced diet should provide you with the full range of vitamins that you need to lead a healthy life, and vitamin supplements should not replace a healthy diet.

You might benefit from supplements if you:

  •       Are pregnant or a recent mother
  •       You have a diet that may make it difficult to access the full range of nutrients (for example, you might be a vegan or a vegetarian)
  •       Are elderly and find it difficult to get all your required intake of vitamins and minerals from your food
  •       You have a recent or chronic health condition
  •       You have a particular need for calcium or iron
  •       You do not currently have a healthy, balanced diet.[1]

Two common vitamins that Australians are deficient in are calcium and vitamin D.

Calcium deficiencies

When I was younger, I used to have a skeleton costume. It was essentially an all-black body suit with glow-in-the-dark bones stitched on the front. When the lights went out, you would light up, becoming a happy, dancing, glowing skeleton.

I want you to picture this very carefully – it’s going to help me explain the importance of calcium now and Vitamin D later.

Basically, calcium is vital for health bones. If you want to be a happy, dancing, glowing skeleton – and who wouldn’t? – then you need enough calcium to keep you fit as a fiddle.

Here’s the problem: calcium is the most likely nutrient to go AWOL from your diet. The Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) of calcium for Australian adults is 1000mg/day. If you’re a woman over 50 or a man over 70, then that goes up to 1300mg/day.

To put that into perspective, a 1 cup serve of regular milk has just over 300mg of calcium.

If these numbers are making your head spin, that’s okay. Let me put it really simply: over half of all Australian adults don’t get enough daily calcium.

If you’re a woman, that number is even higher: over 70% of Australian women consume less calcium than necessary.

You can boost your calcium intake by eating foods such as leafy greens, cheese, nuts, and salmon. Work these into a healthy, balanced diet to meet your nutritional needs. Prepare yourself a delicious salad, tossing together greens, goats cheese, almonds, and salad.

Good for you bones, and good for your taste buds. Soy and tofu products are also a rich source of calcium, so order in dinner from your favourite Japanese restaurant.

If you find it difficult getting all your calcium needs from food, then supplements might be appropriate for you. Bring this up with your doctor or another health professional. A multivitamin like the Swisse multivitamin might help you to meet your daily needs as well as addressing any other deficiencies.

Vitamin D deficiencies

Think about my glow-in-the-dark skeleton costume again.

I left out a key element of my story: for the glow in the dark effect to work, you had to leave the costume out in the sun during the day. The glow in the dark material would soak up the sunlight, storing it away until nightfall. You couldn’t keep the costume in a cupboard: no sunlight, no glow in the dark effect.

Your body is kind of like that glow in the dark costume.

To keep your bones (and your muscles) strong and healthy, you need the right amount of calcium. But to help the calcium do its job, you need the right amount of Vitamin D.

We get most vitamins through the food we eat. Vitamin D is different. Eggs, some fish, and a few other types of food have some vitamin D, but the easiest, best, and most common way to get the vitamin D that you need is through the sun.

Each and every one of us is like my skeleton costume: we need vitamin D for health bones.

Even more importantly, Vitamin D has other health benefits and can lead to a stronger immune system.

Some Australians, however, are particularly at risk of having a vitamin D deficiency. These include:

  •       Workers who spend most of their time indoors for their job
  •       Those who wear clothes that cover significant portions of the skin for religious, health, or personal reasons
  •       Individuals whose weight is outside of the healthy range
  •       Children of a mother with a vitamin D deficiency
  •       Those who have been advised by their doctor that they are likely to have, or to develop, a vitamin D deficiency due to hereditary factors, underlying healthy issues, medication, or other reasons

If you believe that you have a vitamin D deficiency, it would be worth exploring this with your doctor. A vitamin D supplement may be appropriate.

Ostelin Vitamin D3 provides a daily dose of vitamin D3. The capsules a small and easy to swallow, and they contain no added yeast, gluten, lactose, sugar, artificial colours, preservatives, or dairy products. Swisse Vitamin D similarly provides a dose of vitamin D and is free of lactose, egg, yeast, and artificial colours and flavours.

Are vitamin and supplements for me?

Whether it’s a Swisse Vitamin D, a Swisse Multivitamin, an Ostelin vitamin D3, or something else, vitamin supplements might be suitable for you. Speak to your doctor or another health professional, use always as directed, and remember that a balanced diet is the cornerstone of meeting your dietary needs.

I’m proud to be part of Aussie Pharmacy, where we genuinely want the best for you, so you can be the best for yourself and those you love.

[1] From https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/food-supplements