In Summer most of us eat a healthier diet, rich in fresh fruits and other foods. During the cold Winter months and at Christmas we all tend to overeat, but overeat the "wrong" foods. Too much alcohol, not enough fresh leafy vegetables and foods rich in calories can make you feel under par. After Christmas many people start thinking about losing some weight but how about giving your general health a welcome boost?
The majority of people, in the Western World, are all too well aware of the need for good nutrition. Food labeling, advertising and education have all changed in recent years, which has meant that we all understand our body's nutritional needs more.
This does not mean that we always obey the rules though.
In a vague sort of way, most of us tend to have heard of vitamins and know that in-taking the right level of vitamins is important. What vitamins actually do though, may still be a mystery to many people.
Let's start with a couple of facts about vitamins then:-
In the past, people envisaged that everyone would have much more free time in the 21st Century. Unfortunately, as we all know only too well, this is not generally the case. What has actually happened, in many cases, is the exact opposite.
Long shifts at work, or working strange shift patterns, seem to be the order of the day around the globe. The 21st Century has seen many people having to work longer days, more days of the week and until they are much older. Many western countries are currently looking at increasing the retirement age for their working population.
Added to this we all seem to have to travel more. Gone are the days when our work was on our doorstep, well almost. Commuting is necessary for many workers these days. This can mean travelling from one town to another, often on a daily basis. Travelling a few hours a day at least, to and from work, is common place nowadays.
In many ways we may have less leisure time but we definitely know how to fill what we have. Gym membership, swimming, the theatre, technology, jogging and sports clubs are just a few of the leisure activities that we enjoy.
So, what does all of this mean to our lives?
In most cases it means that we grab fast foods as we dash out of the door and eat whilst we are busy, working or playing. Leisurely meals around the home table are few and far between these days. Quick microwave, or take-away, food has become a big part of our eating regime. Too big a part, many health professionals would say. The trouble is that much of this fast food is high in fats and sugars but low in nutrients.
So if a sensible diet is hard to follow these days how can we stay healthy?
Well one of the best ways to ensure that we receive all of the vital nutrients, our bodies need, is to regularly take vitamin supplements.
So, do they work and, if so, how?
Our bodies need vitamins in order to function properly. Each reaction by your body will have needed a vitamin. Currently it is thought that we need at least 13 vitamins. These are:-
These vitamins all have distinct roles to play in your body. They can be ingested from food but many people find that the most convenient way to get vitamins into their bodies is by a vitamin supplement.
The jury is still out on just how useful a vitamin supplement can be but, generally, such supplements are felt to be a good idea. Some vitamins are stored in the body but others need to be used immediately.
Vitamin A is needed in order to maintain good eyesight. This vitamin is stored in the body and so caution needs to be exercised. Too much vitamin A can be harmful. Taking the recommended dose of Vitamin A though will aid growth, eyesight, appetite and taste.
The B group of vitamins.
This group of vitamins are especially useful, and needed, for a variety of reasons. Vitamin B1 helps maintain healthy growth, your muscles, digestion and your heart. Vitamin B2 has some similar functions but also helps your hair, skin and nails stay in good condition. As B12 helps the production of red blood cells it can be very useful for maintaining a woman's health. A, B Complex vitamin supplement, may be just what you need if you are young, female and feeling a little run down.
Most of us are fully aware that Vitamin C can help stave off some infections. If you smoke your Vitamin C level will soon be depleted. Quitting smoking is the best option but, if you can't, make sure that you top up your Vitamin C with a good supplement. A severe lack of Vitamin C may also lead to scurvy, which affects the skin.
Strong and healthy, teeth and bones, need Vitamin D. In the past shortages of Vitamin D have caused Rickets in children. Thankfully this is rare these days.
Oxidants are recognised as harmful to our health. Vitamin E has good anti-oxidant properties. It will help a body fight any toxins which may attack it.
Pregnant ladies these days know the importance of Folic Acid. It is vital that pregnant women receive enough Folic Acid in the first three months of their pregnancy. Without enough Folic Acid it is possible that the baby will have Spina Bifida or a Cleft Palate.
Minerals also have a role to play in good health. Calcium helps keep teeth and bones healthy and strong. Working with Vitamin D, calcium completes the picture for strong bones.
Iron's primary role is red blood cell production. However it plays a part in the production of white blood cells, our immune system and the working of our muscles.
Magnesium and Zinc are the last two in the list of main minerals. Magnesium helps our bodies to receive energy from food. The conversion process of food to energy needs magnesium to work well. Zinc aids our immune system and helps with various processes, such as the breakdown of fat and protein.
The necessary vitamins and minerals from food
In an ideal world our vitamin and mineral needs should be satisfied by what we eat. In reality this may not be the case. Apart from our lifestyle in the 21st Century there may be other reasons.
Bright sunny weather can supply Vitamin D but we are not all lucky enough to enjoy such weather frequently. Getting out and about outdoors, as much as possible, may help even in Winter. It could be cold out there but the sun may be shining.
Weighing up the cost of vitamin supplements against the cost of food, you will probably find that the supplements are more cost effective. Vitamins are available from many suppliers and they are often competitively priced. Check the expiry date though, to ensure that the vitamin supplement is not cheap because it is past its useful date.
Fresh food will offer the best food source of Vitamins and minerals. However, it is often hard to discern just how fresh, food on sale is. Bread may have been frozen for a period of time, before being put on the supermarket shelves and sold. With fruit and vegetables, the quicker they are out of the ground and on to your plate the better. If fruit and vegetables have been languishing in a supermarket for days, vital nutrients will have been lost.
Even the way that fresh food is prepared and cooked can mean that vital vitamins and minerals are lost. Food needs to be cooked for the minimum period of time. Skins need to be thinly removed and the food should be sliced or chopped as little as possible.
Bearing all of this in mind it is easy to understand why many people rely on receiving the vitamins they need from a food supplement. As long as the supplement is:
-From a reputable source.
-Taken with a drink and food.
Follow the above advice and the supplement will work as expected and desired.
Vitamin supplements should never be taken on an empty stomach, with just a drink. If they are many will be simply urinated away. It is best to take your supplement with a little food.
Now you know a little more about Vitamins do you need a supplement?
In the cold winter months a good all round vitamin supplement can mean the difference between a winter full of coughs and colds, or a healthy, enjoyable time. Looking at the long view such a supplement should also strengthen your bones and teeth, which will ensure that you keep healthy in the years to come.
Having looked at some of the vitamins, that we need daily, and their uses it is easy to assess just how important vitamins are to us. Our sight, size, condition, strength, agility, mental ability, digestion, thought processes and general well being all rely on the vitamins that we have in our bodies. Not all of these vitamins are needed in huge amounts but all vitamins have a significant role to play in our good health.
When you consider all of this, the price of a vitamin supplements seems negligible, doesn't it? Once you get into the habit of taking daily vitamin supplements you should find that this easy practice brings huge rewards to your health.