The goalposts seem to change all the time when it comes to our health and what we should be eating. Today eggs and butter are good, tomorrow we should only be eating kale and quinoa….so who is a girl to trust?
Let’s take a look at what the experts say, well, today anyway! A quick apology before I start…all the links to products are in the US $. For my loyal South African readers please click here to access all the fantastic Faithful To Nature products. Of course, you can order via the links provided, all products are delivered to your doorstep.
The vitamins our bodies need can be broken down into two groups: fat-soluble vitamins and water-soluble vitamins. Our bodies need both types to function properly.
Fat-soluble vitamins need body fat to be absorbed and used by our organs. Vitamin A, vitamin E, and carotenoids are all fat-soluble vitamins. Because these vitamins rely on fats to be used, we must eat a diet full of healthy fats.
Vitamin A is crucial for our bodies, and it does a lot more than help our peepers. Vitamin A supports a healthy immune system, reproductive system, cell health, and vision. Because vitamin A helps produce healthy cells, it also affects our vital organs like the heart and lungs. Some research has even linked taking vitamin A with improving measles and some types of cancer.
Vitamin A comes in two forms, and we need to get them both from our diets. First, there is provitamin A, which is found in darkly-colored fruits and vegetables like carrots, broccoli, cantaloupe, and squash. Once we eat those fruits and vegetables, our bodies convert the provitamin A into vitamin A that our tissues can use. The most important type of provitamin A carotenoid is beta-carotene. The second type is preformed vitamin A, which is found in animal sources like dairy, fish, and meat. We can also get carotenoids from supplements, liver and fish oils, as well as palm oil, algae, and fungi
Most multivitamins contain vitamin A, and women should aim for about 770 micrograms of vitamin A per day.
Feeling blue or just off? Make sure you’re getting enough vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 helps the body make serotonin and norepinephrine, which are chemicals that help the brain send signals. It also aids in our cognitive development, so don’t forget to take it. Vitamin B6 helps form myelin around our nerves, which helps our brains send signals throughout our bodies. Not having enough vitamin B6 can lead to problems in the nerves, skin, and circulation. The jury is still out, but some research has linked taking a vitamin B6 supplement to improved premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms. Some of the common symptoms like breast pain, depression, and anxiety could be eased by taking some vitamin B6 around that time.
Vitamin B6 can be found in cereal, legumes such as beans or peanuts, vegetables, milk, cheese, eggs, and meat. It’s highest in fish, beef liver, organ meats, potatoes, and starchy vegetables. It is also included in vitamin B supplements.
Vitamin B12 is usually found in animal products and helps our bodies produce new red blood cells. Our bodies can store up to a couple of years’ worth of vitamin B12 in our livers, so not everyone needs to take this every day. One group who should look into vitamin B12 supplements are vegetarians. Vitamin B12 binds to the proteins in our food and can be found in fish, shellfish, meat, eggs, and dairy products. This is why it can be tricky for strict vegetarians and vegans to get enough of this vitamin. It’s usually not found in plant foods, but now some cereals have been fortified with vitamin B12. Those with low levels of vitamin B12 will notice fevers and sweating.
Unlike other animals, we humans can’t make vitamin C, so we need to take it every day. Oranges are of course great sources of vitamin C, but so are other citrus fruits like grapefruits and lemons. Bell peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, strawberries, kiwifruit, and cantaloupe are also rich in vitamin C.
Because this vitamin is water-soluble, heating, and cooking your food can decrease the amount of vitamin that your body can absorb. Have a nice fruit salad in the morning, then fresh bell peppers dipped in hummus for an afternoon snack.
Our bodies need vitamin D for healthy bone growth. Vitamin D is usually added to calcium supplements because it helps our bodies be able to absorb the calcium. A vitamin D deficiency will lead to weak, brittle bones and pain.
Unlike the other vitamins in this list, vitamin D isn’t so easy to get from food. We can take in vitamin D from supplements or our bodies can make it when we’re exposed to sunlight. All you need is 10 minutes outdoors each day to get your fix. Vitamin D can be found in some fatty fish like salmon or tuna, as well as beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks. Some foods like milk and cereals are now fortified with vitamin D as well. The easiest way to get your vitamin D is with a daily fish oil supplement.
If you are keen on having glowing skin and shiny hair, make sure to load up on your vitamin E. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that is full of antioxidants. Its antioxidant properties protect our cells from damaging free radicals. We are constantly exposed to dangerous free radicals from air pollution, ultraviolet radiation, or just walking through some cigarette smoke down the street. That is why it is so critical to have a steady supply of healing antioxidants to keep our cells from mutating and causing chronic disease. Vitamin E also supports our immune systems.
We can get vitamin E from our diets, as well as supplements. Foods with healthy fats like oil are high in vitamin E, nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables, and even fortified cereals are also good sources.
While vitamin E is available as supplements, we have to be careful to avoid high doses. If you have any kind of bleeding disorder or take blood thinners, vitamin E supplements can cause more bleeding. Some research has even linked high-dose vitamin E with an increased risk of death from any cause. Aim to get this vitamin from your diet or a multivitamin.
Folate is in the B vitamin group and is crucial for everyone, not just the pregnant ladies. Folic acid decreases the amount of homocysteine in our blood. Homocysteine levels are used to evaluate if we’re at risk for heart disease, so the lower the better. Folic acid is also linked to improving our cognitive abilities, psychiatric illness, and cardiovascular health. Because folic acid is vital for the health of unborn babies, all women considering becoming pregnant need to ensure that they are taking in enough folic acid every day.
We can get folate from our diets by eating leafy green vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, dairy products, poultry, meat, eggs, seafood, and grains. Some of the best sources include spinach, asparagus, and Brussel sprouts (that is one veg I still cannot get my head around!)
Got milk? Calcium is the most abundant mineral in our bodies and has always been famous for protecting our teeth and bones, but its benefits go far beyond our skeletons. Calcium has been linked to protecting against cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure. It also helps our bodies’ nerves and muscles work properly. Getting enough calcium is especially important for kids, as they won’t reach their full adult height if they’re deficient
Our bodies need to receive calcium every day to protect our bones. Our blood requires a certain amount of calcium in it, so when it’s low, our blood just pulls it from our bones. This keeps our blood safe and working but weakens our bones. It’s important to eat calcium-rich foods daily, especially for most children and teen girls who aren’t getting enough. Of course, dairy products like yoghurt, cheese, and milk are good sources, but so are leafy green vegetables, fish, and soy products. As we mentioned earlier, our bodies need enough vitamin D to be able to absorb the calcium that we take in. Most of us can get enough calcium from food, but there are certain groups who could benefit from a supplement.
Magnesium is a mineral that we can absorb from food, supplements, or even some medications. Our bodies need a sufficient amount of magnesium to keep our muscles and nerves working. Magnesium also helps with controlling blood sugar levels and blood pressure.
It’s relatively easy to take in magnesium from our diets. Some foods that are rich in magnesium include green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Magnesium has also been added to fortified cereals and bottled water. Whole wheat bread should be high in magnesium, but other types like white bread have been stripped of most of their magnesium content. When we eat magnesium-rich foods, our bodies will absorb about 30 to 40 per cent of the mineral. We can also get magnesium from supplements. Adults should aim for about 270 to 400 milligrams per day. If you decide to try the supplement, do yourself (and your family) a favour and take it with food to avoid diarrhoea.
Our bodies need to receive iron every day to be able to make enough new red blood cells. Our red blood cells are responsible for bringing fresh oxygen all over the body. When we don’t have enough iron, we can develop anaemia. Not having enough iron can leave us feeling tired and short of breath. It can even lead to learning problems and infections.
To make sure you’re eating enough iron, look for animal products like lean red meat, chicken, turkey, and fish. Women should aim for 10 to 15 milligrams of iron per day. If you and your doctor decide it’s time to try an iron supplement, make sure to take it on an empty stomach unless you have a sensitive stomach. Women who are pregnant especially need to make sure they are taking an iron supplement or getting enough from their diets. Our blood volume grows when we’re pregnant, so we’ll need more iron to keep up and give the baby a healthy environment.
Where should we get our vitamins?
Our experts agree that the best source of vitamins is our diet. Whole, fresh, unprocessed foods provide the vitamins our bodies crave. Board-certified rehabilitation specialist Dr Scott Schreiber focuses on obtaining vitamins from whole foods. “Whole foods are the best source of vitamins and minerals,” he tells us. “If it grows from the ground, the way nature intended it, vitamins and minerals occur in their most natural states and can be absorbed the easiest.”
It’s also important to remember that heat can alter the makeup of the vitamins in food. “Cooking methods alter the nutritional status of fresh foods, especially the water-soluble vitamins,” nutritionist Amanda Henham of Vaga Nutrition explains. “So mixing up raw and cooked foods throughout the day is ideal.”
Fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of these vital nutrients. Vitamin A can be found in orange-coloured vegetables like sweet potatoes and carrots. Health experts recommend eating healthy fats like avocado and nuts to obtain vitamin E and leafy greens for vitamin K.
For the water-soluble vitamins, reach for brightly colored fruits and vegetables like oranges, bell peppers, and berries.
Why is food not enough?
Experts say that a balanced diet is the best way to get vitamins, but there’s just one problem with that. We don’t eat that way! A report from the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee concluded that Americans do not consume enough of vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, folate, vitamin C, calcium, and magnesium. We’re also not getting enough iron. This is especially true for premenopausal women. The report also found that we’re taking in too much sodium and saturated fat.
Registered dietitian Emily Braaten recommends trying to obtain as many vitamins from our diets as possible. “While a multivitamin may be able to fill the gap, it’s not absolutely necessary to rely on supplements to meet our needs,” she told me. “Simply shifting our eating pattern to include the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables can cover most of the aforementioned [vitamins].”
Always talk with a professional!
While the nutritionists we spoke to agree that supplements can be helpful, it’s important to always talk with your healthcare provider before jumping in with a vitamin regimen. Most vitamin supplements contain 100 per cent of the recommended daily amount, so if you’re already consuming a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables throughout the day, you would be taking in way more than recommended.
Unfortunately, when it comes to vitamins, you really can have too much of a good thing.
Make a plan with your doctor or nutritionist, and you’ll be feeling good. As health coach Clint Fuqua tells his clients, “Seek the advice of a professional well versed in nutrition and leave the guessing to your next choice on Netflix.”
Yours in health and lots of vitamins!
Captain Mike and Nikki.
P.S. If you are diabetic (like we are) then read about some tips to reduce your sugar level naturally here.
Disclaimer: We are not medical experts in any way, shape or form, we have compiled the above after extensive personal research. We may receive a commission if you purchase a product through any of the links listed. This in no way affects the price you pay for your product.