Vitamyths: Everything You Need To Know About Vitamins and Supplements
Why Are Vitamins Important
Vitamins. We’ve all heard of them. We all know we should get enough of them. But what actually are they? What do they do? And how do we get enough of them?
Luckily, Dr Ghosh has the answers, so we spoke to him to find out exactly what’s what when it comes to vitamins, and to dispel some common myths.
Vitamins are important because, in short, they keep your body functioning. They help your body regrow skin, bone and muscle, and help your red blood cells carry oxygen to even the most remote parts of your body (like your fingertips and toes). Certain vitamins (like vitamin D) are also key to regulating your mood and keeping a healthy hormone balance.
How To Get Different Vitamins Into Your Diet
Now we know how vitally important vitamins are to your health, how do we get the most of them into our bodies?
“If you eat a healthy, balanced diet, you’ll get most of your vitamins naturally through your food.” Dr Ghosh told us. “However, if you have a more restrictive diet, such as vegans, vegetarians, or people who don’t eat certain foods for religious reasons, then you may be deficient in certain vitamins. That’s where supplementation can really help.”
Vitamin A plays a key role in maintaining healthy vision, metabolism and cell development. In western countries like the UK and USA, vitamin A deficiency is extremely rare. Vitamin A is found in abundance in carrots and leafy greens, as well as in plenty of dairy and fishy foods, so it’s one of the easiest to incorporate into your diet.
Vitamin B12, iron and folic acid deficiencies are some of the more common deficiencies found in western countries, and vegetarians and vegans are especially susceptible to low B12 levels. It’s commonly believed that the only way to get vitamin B12 is through meats like beef and pork. While these are great sources of B12, spinach, asparagus, and legumes are also high in B12, and fantastic ways to get plenty into your diet.
We all know vitamin C can be found in oranges, and orange juice. But did you know it’s present in many other types of fruit and veg, and in high quantities? Peppers, tomatoes, and other Mediterranean veg are great sources of vitamin C for those looking for a lower sugar option than orange juice.
Vitamin D plays a key role in mood regulation, and keeping your hormones in balance. In the UK, you can get most of your vitamin D from sunlight between March and October, but it is recommended that everyone supplement with a daily dose of 10 micrograms throughout the winter months. That said, if you include oily fish like salmon, sardines and mackerel, and red meat in your diet, you can keep your vitamin D levels higher year round.
We asked Dr Ghosh to put right a few common myths that he regularly hears about vitamins and supplementation, so that you can have a clearer idea of what to do, and how to include them in your diet.
More is Better:
The first myth Dr Ghosh wants to tackle is the idea that more vitamins are always better. “Too high a concentration can become toxic and actually harm the body. Make sure you read up on recommended daily dosage guidelines if you’re taking supplements and be careful not to exceed them.”
Vitamin C Prevents Illness:
You might have heard that vitamin C prevents colds and flu like infections. This is actually untrue. High vitamin C levels don’t prevent illnesses, but it does make the duration of the illness shorter and the symptoms less severe.
You Should Take Supplements On An Empty Stomach:
Dr Ghosh advises not taking your vitamin supplements on an empty stomach. Your gut will actually absorb vitamins better if taken with a light bit of food. Dr Ghosh recommends some natural yoghurt, or other foods rich in natural, healthy gut bacteria. This will reduce the risk of irritating your bowel or stomach lining.
Pregnant Women Should Take Double the Dose:
This is a common misconception, but it’s absolutely untrue. “Remember, you’re not eating for two. Make sure you stick to the daily recommended guidelines so that you don’t get to the point of toxicity.” says Dr Ghosh. If you’re pregnant, you should continue doing the same things as if you weren’t. That is, eating a well balanced diet and getting plenty of sunlight.
Now You’re All Clued Up on Vitamins
So there you have it, the a-z of vitamins. Now you know what to take, how much, and when not to take vitamins. We’ve also gotten Dr Ghosh to bust a few common myths around vitamins and supplementations, so that you’re best placed to ensure you’ve got the right levels in your body.