Popcorn Q&A: “What Supplements Should I Be Taking?”

When it comes to knowing what vitamins or supplements someone should take, this is a hard question to answer, as not only does everyone have a different opinion on the subject, but also, the types of vitamins and supplements that one individual may need might not be suitable for another. For example, you might need to increase your intake of vitamin C, while someone else may need more B vitamins. The types of vitamins and supplements you need to take will also typically depends on several different factors, such as:

• Your age
• Your gender
• Pre-existing health conditions

We all need trace vitamins and minerals, although we get most of those from the foods we eat.

Trace minerals, for example, consist of:

• Iron
• Manganese
• Copper
• Iodine
• Zinc
• Cobalt
• Fluoride
• Selenium

Iron: This helps manufacture our blood and is also an important mineral in early childhood as well as pregnancy. Iron is also one of the most common deficiencies that people tend to have. You can find iron in foods such as meat and poultry, whole grains, nuts, and beans. If you do happen to be iron-deficient and aren’t getting enough through the foods you eat, then you can take an iron supplement, but some people do find them to be hard on the stomach.

Manganese: This helps activate a variety of enzymes as well as assists in many of the body’s chemical processes. It also helps with the digestion and utilization of amino acid and protein. It can be found in leafy vegetables, as well as whole grains, seafood (such as clams, oysters and mussels), and legumes.

Copper: This helps our bone and cartilage form, and also assists in the body’s use of iron. You can find copper in foods such as beef, organ meats (i.e. liver), fruits and vegetables, beans and nuts.

Iodine: Iodine is important as it helps create thyroid hormones which are responsible for the control of many different functions in the body, including metabolism. Examples of foods that contain iodine include certain types of fish such as cod, tuna, and shrimp, as well as dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese.

Zinc: Our bodies need zinc to make DNA, which is the genetic material that is found in all of our cells. In addition, zinc also helps our immune system fight off different viruses and bacteria. Oysters are among the richest source of zinc, but it can also be found in other types of seafood in addition to meat, poultry, while grains, and dairy products.

Cobalt: This is a component of vitamin B12, and helps form healthy red blood cells in addition to improves our neurological health. If you happen to have a deficiency in cobalt, then this means that you also have a vitamin B12 deficiency, which means you should increase your intake of foods containing vitamin B12, such as fish, meat, poultry, milk/milk products, and eggs.

Fluoride: Fluoride helps strengthen our bones and teeth (which is one of the reasons why dentists love it and why it’s used during your yearly dental hygiene appointments.) Some fluoride-rich foods that can also help keep your bones and teeth strong include spinach, grapes and potatoes.

Selenium: Selenium plays a crucial role in many different functions, such as thyroid function and metabolism. It can also improve the immune system, reduce the risk of heart disease, and slow down age-related mental decline. Good sources of selenium include whole grains, dairy products, eggs, meat, poultry, shellfish, as well as some fruits and vegetables.

Much of the vitamins we need also come from the foods we eat, and in most cases, we do not necessarily need to take them in the form of a pill. There are, however, certain instances where we do — such as having a specific deficiency. For example, someone who has an intestinal problem or happens to be vegetarian may be deficient in vitamin B12, meaning they might need to take vitamin B12 and iron supplements. Another example would be individuals who live in parts of the world where there is less sunlight. For example, Vancouver is known to get a lot of rain, as is Seattle. In areas such as these, as much as 20% of the population is known to be deficient in vitamin D, and are therefore suggested to take vitamin D3. Elderly individuals may also need to take vitamin D in addition to calcium supplements.

For more on vitamin and mineral supplements, click here.

Dr. Ali Ghahary is a Family Physician in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. http://www.alighahary.ca

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