Top 10 Vitamins You Need to Know About
Taking her vitamins is at the top of Rebecca’s list of resolutions this year: “I want to be healthy,” confesses Rebecca. “I know what I put into my body has an impact on my overall health, and I am more conscious of that now more than ever. I also know that I don’t always get all the nutrients and vitamins in my daily diet.”
Erin agrees: “I want to be better educated, both for myself and my family. While I try to feed my kids a balanced diet every day, that doesn’t always happen. I would like to know where I might need to supplement them – and I want to keep them healthy through cold and flu season.”
According to naturopathic doctor Jen Tanner, you can get your vitamins and minerals from diet. “But the reality is that many people have diets that are increasingly heavy in packaged simple grains and sugars, and don’t get all the vitamins they need. ” You can have your blood tested to see if you are low on certain levels, but be on the lookout says Tanner. “Your body is built to survive minor deficiencies, but if you have prolonged vitamin deficiency it can make you more predisposed to chronic disease. Check out the shape and quality of your fingernails, which is a good health predictor. Also, if you are suffering from fatigue, headaches, muscle cramps or are having trouble sleeping, this could be a sign you need a multi vitamin/mineral complex.”
Vancouver nutritionist Maria Thomas adds that a multivitamin is simply a good idea for busy women: “I think of it as insurance – no one eats perfectly all the time, and a multivitamin will help fill in the cracks for what would be missing in your diet.”
We asked Tanner and Thomas for their Top 10 vitamins you need and consulted on what we should consider adding to our vitamins lists (and yours, too!) and why.
Top 10 Vitamins & Minerals
A big player in immune health – which is especially important this time of year. Vitamin C contributes to maintaining the integrity of our immune cells, protecting them during periods of inflammation. Great food sources are kiwis, bell peppers, citrus fruit and strawberries.
Zinc is something you need a small amount of daily: it provides steady immune support, and helps your body use carbs, protein and fat effectively. Look for zinc in the ingredient list of a multivitamin, especially during the winter months; zinc capsules and lozenges can also be effective if a cold comes on. Good food sources are: red meat, liver, baked beans and wheat germ.
“We are becoming increasingly aware how lack of Vitamin D in Canada effects autoimmune conditions, Seasonal Affective Disorder, bone health and immunological functions,” says Tanner. Have your Vitamin D levels tested – 1000IU is recommended. You can take Vitamin D drops, and salmon is a great food source!
Calcium is important for bone and teeth health, and takes top billings for women. “This nutrient is something women just don’t get enough of. Many of my clients only get about half of the calcium they need through diet. Taking a supplement can help them meet their needs.” How do you know if you are calcium deficient? “Calf cramps at night are a common sign of deficiency,” advises Tanner. There are different types of calcium you can take: “Their absorbability factor varies. Calcium carbonate is most commonly used, but calcium citrate is better absorbed.” Best sources are dairy and leafy greens.
“Vitamin E is a fantastic antioxidant,” says Tanner. And did you know that frequent colds and hard PMS could be signs that you are Vitamin E deficient? Not only that, but a 2010 study found that the naturally occurring chemical found in almonds – one of your best food sources of Vitamin E – can boost the immune system’s response to infection!
Iron is important for overall health, and carries oxygen to your blood – low levels of iron can leave you pale. “Iron is essential for maintaining energy,” says Thomas. “When our bodies don’t’ get enough, we end up feeling tired and are more susceptible to getting sick.” Good sources of iron including red meat, but seafood such as clams, shrimp and sardines have the same amount as beef – this gives you ‘heme’ iron, which is easily absorbed by the body. Vegetarians can get their iron from soybeans, lentils and pumpkin seeds. “Iron supplements are sometimes necessary if you are anemic – but be sure to talk to a healthcare provider because excess iron can be harmful.”
“Magnesium is a calming mineral,” says Tanner. It also helps with bone health, and keeps nerves and muscles strong. “If you suffer from anxiety or insomnia, you might benefit from a magnesium supplement.” Good food sources include Swiss chard, legumes and lentils.
We both took folic acid when we were pregnant, but did you know that folate helps heal our cells and stimulates white blood cells for new growth? We didn’t! Here’s the thing – folate can’t be stored in your body, so you need to eat folate-rich foods every day, like collard greens and legumes. And, pregnant or breastfeeding women (and those trying to conceive) should take a supplement daily.
“If you have any skin issues – like those little red bumps on the backs of your arms – you might want to talk to your doctor about increasing your Vitamin A,” says Tanner. Vitamin A keeps skin, eyes and immune health in top form.
B Vitamins (B5, B6, B 12)
“I use Vitamin B6 frequently in women’s healthy, as it assists in hormonal regulation,” says Tanner. Try and find a multivitamin that includes 50-100 mg of B Vitamins daily.
For Kids: As for kids – getting them onto a good multivitamin daily is a good idea, says Tanner. “The fact is, like Erin you might try to feed your kids the best you can, but they might be missing something. Children grow quickly, and our foods are not as nutrient-dense as they once were. If your child is a picky eater, is developing learning difficulties, or has behavioural concerns or allergies, a good quality multivitamin can help fill the gaps where they are deficient.”
Probiotics: This one’s a bonus, because probiotics aren’t vitamins, but experts agree that they’re key to maintaining a healthy digestive system and immune system. Learn more about probiotics and how they work here.
With vitamins and minerals, you should consult your physician, naturopath or a dietician before taking large amounts of vitamins or minerals – excess loads can be dangerous. If you take too much Vitamin C, for example, this could cause gastrointestinal problems. Be honest about your eating patterns, and whether a good supplement is right for you.
Oh, and Rebecca is onto something in her New Year’s Resolution to up her Omega 3s! about Omega 3s, says Tanner. “A good quality Omega 3 supplement is beneficial for so many organs and systems in your body, including your circulatory, nervous and digestive systems, as well as your brain and your joints.,” says Tanner. “I recommend Omega 3s to many of my patients.”
Check out our Top 100 Vitamins here. Do you take your vitamins? Which ones are on your must-take list? Tell us in the comments!
Rebecca is a mom to three young children and a passionate online shopper – and Well.ca’s CEO. She loves shopping for green & natural products at Well.ca to keep her family well.
Erin is a mom to three young kids, and she’s also Well.ca’s superstar CMO! She loves running, travelling, and cooking.
Jacki LockePosted at 15:36h, 18 January
Erin and Rebecca, How much Vitamin A should you take each day? I take a mulit vitamin that has 3,000 IU ( it says 60%). I used to take an extra 10,000 IU 3 times a week but a doctor said the mulit vitamin was enough. I felt much better when I was taking the extra 10,000 3 times a week. I thought about taking 8,000 twice a week. Any suggestions or comments? Thank you.
Dr. Laura Belus NDPosted at 21:33h, 20 August
Hi Jacki- great Q! Vitamin A is an important for our immune system, skin & eye health (to name a few). However, it is a fat soluble vitamin that can build up in the system if taken in large doses over time. If you are thinking of becoming pregnant or are nursing, taking higher doses than the recommended daily intake is not advised. Keep in mind if you eat a diet rich in beta-carotene foods (mainly orange & red produce) you should be getting more than enough daily!
Adrienne CPosted at 14:16h, 18 August
Does Evening Primrose Oil really help with hot flashes?
Dr. Laura Belus NDPosted at 21:38h, 20 August
Hello Adrienne, I’m happy to help! Evening primrose oil is a source of an essential fatty acid known as GLA that can help to reduce inflammation and may support healthy estrogen balance (the reason for hot flashes during menopause). Other concentrated sources of GLA are found in Borage seed and black current seed oils.