Daily vitamin and mineral requirements vary according to age and several other factors. How can you ensure you’re getting an adequate intake?
Vitamins are crucial for growth and for the body’s proper functioning. They are divided into two categories: water-soluble vitamins and fat-soluble vitamins. Water-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin C, dissolve in water. When an excess of vitamins is taken in, it is eliminated in the urine. As for fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin D, they are absorbed and stored in fat.
The human body needs 13 essential vitamins in order to function. They include: vitamin A, C, D, E, and K and eight from the vitamin B complex. Each of these vitamins has its specific function in the body, such as transforming food into energy, maintaining healthy cells or helping the immune system. Vitamins impact a number of essential biological processes related to life and health.
Like vitamins, minerals must be consumed in adequate amounts for the body to function properly. Minerals play a part in several biological processes and are vital to the human body. Among minerals, we find:
- Calcium—essential to maintain healthy bones
- Iron—responsible for transporting oxygen to our cells
- Magnesium—to strengthen bones and teeth, and ensure the proper functioning of the heart and muscles
- Phosphorous—essential for calcium and energy metabolism and to help form teeth and bones
- Zinc—is one of the components of several enzymes and is essential to growth and to the immune system’s proper functioning
Daily vitamin and mineral requirements are known to scientists and are referred to as the “Recommended Dietary Allowance” (RDA). RDA can be defined as the average intake level that is sufficient to meet the é.nutritional needs of 97 to 98% of healthy individuals, according to sex and age.
Many people wonder if they should take vitamin and mineral supplements. If you eat well, and more importantly, if you follow the recommendations of the Canada Food Guide, it may not be necessary for you to take them. Remember that supplements don’t replace a healthy, balanced diet, but serve to enhance it.
Speak to your pharmacist before taking a supplement. There are various formulations available on the market and choosing the right one for your needs can be difficult. Several factors must be considered when choosing a supplement, including age, sex, lifestyle, diet, health problems, the medication you take, and cost.
Calcium and vitamin D
It’s a well-known fact that calcium and vitamin D are essential to bone health. Calcium is the most abundant mineral found in the body and is obtained through diet. Dairy products are the main source of calcium; it’s also found in a number of other foods such as chickpeas, lentils, spinach, and dried fruit.
The main source of vitamin D is the sun. In summer, exposing the face, arms, and hands to the sun for 15 minutes a day helps increase vitamin D production significantly. Some of the main dietary sources of vitamin D include dairy products, margarine, eggs, fish, and cod liver oil.
For many Canadians, daily calcium and vitamin D requirements are not met, therefore a supplement is needed. It’s important to know the recommended intake for your age group, and to overcome any deficiencies to maintain bone health. Ask your pharmacist for information on the subject.
Advice about supplements
If you think you may need a daily vitamin and mineral supplement, here are a few useful tips:
- Ask your doctor or pharmacist what your specific vitamin and mineral needs are.
- If possible, adapt your diet to your vitamin and mineral needs.
- If you take a supplement, follow the recommended dosage. A surplus of vitamins and minerals can sometimes be harmful to health.
- If you are under drug treatment, ask your pharmacist if it’s necessary to take your medication and supplement at separate intervals. Some minerals such as calcium and iron may compromise proper drug absorption in the body.
- Mention the fact that you are taking vitamin and mineral supplements during medical appointments with health professionals.
Speak to your pharmacist for additional information about vitamin and mineral supplements.