If you are like most Americans, you take at least one vitamin supplement to boost your health.  But are you taking the right ones?  Do you need to take vitamins al all?  How do you know which are the right ones?  Is it possible to take too many or too little of any particular vitamin?  It can be difficult to know.

Your Indianapolis chiropractor can tell you that vitamin needs depend primarily on age, health and lifestyle.  Children need fewer supplements that adults.  The elderly, particularly those with special medical conditions or special diets and pregnant women or those planning to become pregnant all have special vitamin needs.  If your lifestyle includes a lot of restaurant eating and minimal exercise, you probably are in need of some kind of vitamin supplement.

So how do you know?  A recent issue of Women’s Day magazine published a guide that might answer some questions on what to take (or skip) to protect your health for many years.

   1.  I think I eat pretty well.  Do I need to take a vitamin supplement?

  • Possibly.  Most experts agree that if you eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, protein and low-fat dairy products, you can skip the vitamin.  However, be honest with yourself. Experts say that most of us overestimate how well we really eat so taking a multivitamin can’t hurt.  In fact, a recent USDA report said that most Americans consume too few of what is necessary to insure we get the essential vitamins our bodies need.  Adding a supplement can provide a base or insurance if we miss a day.

  2.  Are there supplements that every woman should take?

  •  Yes.  Many healthcare professionals now recommend that all women should add extra calcium and vatamin D as it is difficult to get the right amounts in your diet each day.  These are linked to strong bones and teeth and a decreased risk of heart disease and cancer.  Women are 5 times more likely to develop osteoporosis than men.  Most women need 1,000 mg of calcium daily and a glass of milk only provides 300 mg.  Also, dark sodas, alcohol, and coffee all deplete the body’s store of calcium.  Vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium.  Our bodies can make vitamin D from exposure to sunlight but because of weather variables and sun protection, there is a chance that you are not getting enough.  So, look for calcium supplements with vitamin D added.

  3.  Can supplements boost my energy?

  •  Research has shown that the B vitamins, especially B12, aid in brain function, boost energy levels, and strengthen the immune and nervous systems.  However, as much as two-fifths of us have low B levels but a simple multi-vitamin can provide what is needed.  Also, levels of vitamin B in the body drop as we age, so anyone over 50 should consider adding this to their diet.

  4.  I am a vegetarian.  Do I need a supplement?

  • Maybe.  You may be low in Vatamin B12 and iron, as both are found in meats.  Again, a simple multivitamin can provide the body with the recommended amounts of the B vitamins.

    5.  Are plant based vitamins better than synthetic?

  • Plant based vitamins are ones that are made by grinding whole foods into pills or powders.   The claim is that these are better as these are nutrients in a more natural form.  However, these vitamins do not work any better than others and are generally quite a bit more expensive.

These are just a few answers to some of the most asked questions.  One added method to determine your vitamin needs is to research the recommended daily guidelines for your age, general health and lifestyle.  Then compare that to your courrent dietary habits and that should help you determine what vitamins you may be lacking.  But remember…

Foods, not pills, are still the best way to get the essential nutrients the body needs. So, reach for that fresh orange or strawberry or blue berry instead of a vitamin supplement.