If you’re trying to make sure you’re receiving the correct amount of vitamins and nutrients per day, no matter how much time you have to actually prepare meals, you’ve probably considered vitamin supplements. However, with conflicting reports on the safety of taking vitamin supplements daily, it’s important to know how much of a mineral to take, and whether or not to avoid certain minerals, especially if you’re pregnant or are taking other medications. Recent medical reports have stated that minerals like zinc could actually damage the immune system, and that iron supplements could cause abdominal pain, but how reliable are these reports, and is the information based on specific cases? While it’s true that the absolute healthiest way to receive the day’s allowance of vitamins and minerals is through foods that contain them, taking a vitamin supplement every once in a while could be helpful. Here are some descriptions of common vitamin and mineral supplements, what they’re used for, and how often you should use them in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Zinc, a mineral used to help the body fight off numerous infections, is also used to help treat the common cold, and as a daily supplement, can strengthen the immune system. Zinc has also been known to prevent and help cure acne, and help enzymes in the body to function properly and aid in digestion. However, too much zinc could be bad for your health. Excessive amounts of the mineral could actually damage the immune system, and could even cause prostate cancer if zinc is taken over long periods of time. Zinc shouldn’t be taken every day, which is why it’s not included in many multi-vitamins; it’s recommended that no more than 25 mg be included in your diet per day. At the first sign of a cold or the flu, take zinc supplements or lozenges for about three days in order to fight off the infection, then discontinue use until you need it again.
Beta carotene – Vitamin A
Beta carotene is found most commonly in yellow and orange vegetables, like squash and sweet potatoes. This mineral was previously believed to reduce the risk of cancer, this may still be true; however, many fruits and vegetables with beta carotene also contain lycopene and lutein, which may be what actually lowers the risk. Beta carotene is also an antioxidant, and helps the immune system to target and destroy cancer cells in the body. This mineral has also be closely linked to Vitamin A, and is the precursor for the vitamin. And, since Vitamin A has been known to cause lung and respiratory problems when taken in excess, beta carotene has been reported to increase the risk of lung cancer in individuals with asbestos and those who smoke. However, the daily allowance of beta carotene found in multi-vitamins is generally considered safe.
Calcium – Iron – Vitamin C
Calcium, along with Vitamin C and iron, could cause diarrhea and abdominal pain. Calcium, which is usually taken in conjunction with Vitamin C (lots of orange juice now have added calcium), has been known to increase collagen production and help in developing strong bones and teeth despite these claims. Taking more than 500 mg of Vitamin C per day could cause damage to the immune system, decreasing the body’s ability to fight off outside toxins. However, Vitamin C has also been known to help cure colds, prevent cancer, and fight off cardiovascular disease. Iron can help in the avoidance of anemia, or low blood count, and can increase energy, but Iron can also cause extreme constipation if taken every day. It’s best to get the right amount of iron from green leafy vegetables, like spinach and cabbage, and to consume at least three fruits containing Vitamin C per day. Calcium can be found in foods like milk, yogurt, or rice, so try to include these into your diet so that you won’t have to rely on supplements completely.
Whether or not you buy into medical reports that vitamin supplements are completely harmful, it’s important to rely on vitamins to be just that-supplements. Adding vitamins to part of a healthy diet can help you receive maximum benefits and reduce health risks. Multi-vitamin and single vitamin and mineral supplements can be found at health food stores across the country like GNC or Vitamin Shoppe, or you can pick up supplements from local grocery stores like Kroger or Publix. Be sure to ask your doctor about the proper vitamin dosage you should take each day, and if possible, try to reduce vitamin supplements to a few times a week, as opposed to daily.