Vitamins & Supplements: The Good, The Bad & the Necessary

Remember back in the day when all your nutritional bases were covered by a bowl of cereal and a chewable Flintstone vitamin for breakfast? You just had to choose from four colors—all of which ended up tasting the same—and you’d get your daily dose of all the necessary vitamins and minerals to keep you strong and healthy. Fast-forward twenty or so years to the present day and you’ll find yourself with more than just four colors to choose from. Thanks to both research and our growing obsession with vitamins and supplements, you’d be faced with an entire store’s worth of options touting various benefits. This is the age of wonder supplements and superfoods, all calling your name with loud, colorful labels sporting “essential” ingredients. Nowadays, with influencers pushing must-haves left and right, new compounds coming out every day (adaptogens, anyone?) and the industry valued at $30 billion a year, it’s time to step back and ask two very important questions: 1) What do you actually need, as in which vitamins and supplements have actual proven benefits, and 2) How much of each do you need? The second question is especially important, considering the way our bodies absorb the vitamins and supplements we put into it. The fact is, our bodies are only able to absorb so much of each compound we take in, and a higher dosage doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll absorb more. Here’s an example using vitamin C, one of the most frequently taken supplements, based on a study from the National Institute of Health. At moderate intakes of 30-180 mg/day, between 70%-90% of the vitamin C is absorbed, however once the dose hits 1,000 mg, the absorption rate falls to less than 50%. So when it comes to vitamins, more is not necessarily better. Here we’ll break down the top vitamins and supplements with proven benefits, along with the recommended daily dosage so you can have more confidence that your steps to committing to more complete nutrition are making a difference.

Vitamin D Overview and benefits: also known as “the sun vitamin” because of our body’s tendency to produce it while exposed to sunlight, vitamin D has powerful immune-boosting benefits and helps with the absorption of calcium, which can affect bone density and hair loss. Surprisingly, most of us don’t get enough on a daily basis, especially because vitamin D isn’t concentrated in many foods. Getting your daily dose of vitamin D has an overall effect of preventing you from getting sick, keeping your mind healthy, and preventing bone and back pain. Recommended dosage: for adults 19-70, 600 IU of vitamin D are recommended daily, which is increased to 800 IU for older adults. Magnesium Overview and benefits: magnesium has enjoyed a bit of fame lately, as its anti-stress benefits have come to light as one of nature’s anxiety remedies. In addition to that, magnesium is essential to bone health and cell energy production, it calms the nervous system, balances blood sugar levels, and boosts the synthesis of bone, protein and DNA. According to experts, the main culprit of a magnesium deficiency is poor diet, as it’s rich in foods like pumpkin, spinach, soybeans, brown rice and nuts. Recommended dosage: any supplement between 300 to 350 mg of magnesium is sufficient, and the NIH recommends the following optimal forms: aspartate, citrate, lactate and chloride, which are proven to have better absorption. Calcium Overview and benefits: it’s why your parents told you to drink more milk when you were a kid! Calcium comes with a whole host of benefits, the most obvious being strong bones and teeth. Women need to be particularly mindful of taking calcium to prevent bone density loss later in life. Some experts note the recent upsurge of non-dairy milk alternatives as a cause of calcium deficiencies, but in addition to milk, cheese and yogurt, calcium can also be found in leafy green vegetables like broccoli and kale, as well as beans and pulses. Recommended dosage: 1,000 mg a day should be fine for most adults, and most experts agree that taking a supplement containing calcium citrate is a wise option, since it’s known for high absorption levels.

Zinc Overview and benefits: zinc is a metal with myriad benefits, ranging from immune system support to regulating the body’s processing of carbohydrates, protein and fat, even extending to abetting the healing of wounds. And while zinc is found in a diverse selection of foods, including oysters, spinach, animal organ meats, and brown rice, the population as a whole isn’t getting enough, which is where a good zinc supplement comes in. Recommend dosage: the NIH recommends 8-11 mg of zinc every day, which is usually less than what most multivitamins offer, so if you’re looking to up your zinc intake, maybe a supplement is the way to go. Iron Overview and benefits: iron is another mineral that’s been getting some attention lately, thanks to a variety of different supplements emerging on the market promising energy-boosting benefits, but that’s not all it’s famous for. Iron (also known as folate or folic acid) is essential for proper fetus development, and through life iron can also battle depression, strengthen nails, and reduce internal inflammation. Recommended dosage: normal, healthy adults can best benefit from 400 mcg of folate daily, upping that dosage to 600 mcg for pregnant women. Another important dosage tip is to take your folate supplement with food, as it boosts the absorption rate from 85% (on an empty stomach) to almost 100%. Vitamin B-12 Overview and benefits: part of the powerhouse B-vitamin complex, B-12 stands out as a superstar tasked with keeping nerve and blood cells healthy and supporting DNA synthesis. The most prominent source of B-12 is animal-based foods including meat, poultry, fish and eggs, putting vegans and vegetarians at particular risk for deficiency. Recommended dosage: a little goes a long way with vitamin B-12 supplements, as experts recommending 1-2 mcg a day. Anything over 3 mcg is a waste, as your body will expel the excess in urine anyway. To increase absorption, it’s recommended you opt for a supplement containing B-12 as methylcobalamin or methyl B-12.

Keratin Overview and benefits: keratin is one of the body’s building blocks, an essential fibrous structural protein found in hair, nails and the outer layer of the skin. Not only does keratin serve to give our body shape and stability, but it also protects epithelial skin cells from damage and stress. You’ll often see the word “keratin” in some form on hair products, as it’s touted for its ability to restore strength and shine to hair. Taking Biotin supplements, a B-vitamin that boosts keratin production, can help strengthen hair, nails and skin from within, restoring health and vitality. Recommended dosage: when it comes to Biotin supplements, it’s important to choose one designed with pure ingredients and engineered for optimal absorption. Most of today’s supplements are sold as “keratin gummies” and contain more sugar than actual Biotin, so be on the lookout for one that contains between 30 to 100 mcg a day, the recommended dosage, with a minimum of sugar and other additives. The general rule of Biotin supplements is the purer it is, the better. So as you can see, even though we’ve come a long way from the Flintstone chewable, a daily multivitamin won’t necessarily cut it when it comes to fortifying your body with complete nutrition. However, if you take the route of supplements, these are the core compounds that are proven to benefit the body in many ways, especially when taken in both the optimal dosage and as part of a healthy diet. Our commitment to informing our customers of the many benefits of health and wellness supplements means we’re constantly on the lookout for new and accurate info. The content we present here has been thoroughly researched using reputable bodies of information. None of the recommendations we’ve made are to be taken as medical advice or intended to treat any kind of medical condition. Remember, even though most supplements are harmless when taken correctly, it’s best to check with your doctor before beginning any kind of nutritional regimen.

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