Several years ago, the fitness director at the Central Queens Y asked me to give a lecture entitled “Vitamins from A to Z: Which vitamins are right for me?” In light of extensive research done in the process of developing VitaShield, my own multivitamin-mineral formula, I would like to share with you some important facts on this topic.
First and foremost, all vitamins are essential since the body requires a full range of vitamins every day. Vitamins act as catalysts that encourage critical chemical reactions to take place; adequate intake is necessary to sustain health and life. Minerals play a crucial role as well.
In an ideal world, we would get all the vitamins we need from the foods we eat. In addition to vitamins and minerals, foods contain enzymes and other nutrients perfectly balanced for best absorption. Today, however, most of us don’t eat balanced meals; 90% of our foods are processed, compared to only 10% at the turn of the 20th century. Our soil has been depleted and is restored only with the barest amount of synthetic chemicals. Foods lose their nutritional value soon after they’re harvested. For example, a day after a head of spinach is pulled from the ground, it may lose about 50% of its Vitamin C value. Further nutritional losses occur when foods are cooked or exposed to light and oxygen.
In addition, certain vitamins are not readily found in most foods. For example, Vitamin D, known as the sunshine vitamin, is only found in significant amounts in oily fish. Deficiencies are fairly common in Americans living in the North, who consume little fish and – for about five months of the year – have very limited sun exposure. Recent research has found that low Vitamin D levels can weaken the bones, cause joint pain, restrict the absorption of calcium, impair muscle tone and balance, and increase the risks of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, multiple sclerosis, and mental illness.
To maximize your intake of vitamins from A to Z, choose foods wisely. Include colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and fish. Add a balanced multivitamin-mineral supplement to prevent deficiencies and boost your vitamin D intake. Keep in mind that vitamins are not created equal and that the vitamin industry is unregulated. It would be best to get assistance from a health care professional who can guide you to a properly balanced supplement produced by a reliable manufacturer.
As far as skin health is concerned, the latest research shows that vitamins and minerals in all forms play an integral role in a healthy complexion, whether their source is food, supplements, or topical creams. According to Rhonda Narins, MD, of NYU’s School of Medicine, most people can get all the nutrients their skin needs from a multivitamin and a healthy, balanced diet. Further lifestyle suggestions offered on webmd.com are to drink plenty of water, use gentle products for skin cleansing, and always wear a sunscreen. The healthiest route is to use a natural sunscreen to protect skin from harmful UVA/UVB rays.
Finally, a certain percentage of older adults have low Vitamin B-12 levels, which may affect cognitive functioning and memory. It becomes more difficult to absorb Vitamin B-12 from foods as we age, whereas Vitamin B-12 found in a supplement is in a more easily absorbable form. It is advisable to have certain vitamin and mineral levels checked in order to avoid deficiencies. More common deficiencies include Vitamin B-12, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Iron, Magnesium, and Zinc.
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