What Vitamins Should I Take?
In 2002, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reviewed the nutritional status of a broad cross-section of society and found that the following groups could be at risk of nutritional deficiencies:
- People who eat less than NINE servings of fruit and vegetables per day
- People whose diet does not include wholegrain, low-fat dairy AND small servings of lean meat, poultry or fish, every day.
- People on a low-calorie diet (less than 1200 per day)
- People who are Vegetarian or Vegan
- People who are lactose intolerant
- People with food allergies
- Women of childbearing age
- People over 60
- People with a history of heart disease
This includes most people! Which is why the article concluded, therefore, that most people could benefit from supplementing their diet with daily vitamins and minerals.
Your Required Daily Vitamin Intake
There is a suggested daily vitamin intake for all vitamins and minerals. This was formerly known as the RDA (recommended daily amount), and is now referred to as the NRV (Nutrient Reference Value).
It should be noted that this NRV is the minimum amount of these daily vitamins your body requires to keep you from developing nutritional diseases such as scurvy (vitamin C deficiency) and Beri Beri (vitamin B1 deficiency).
For this reason, many high strength daily supplements provide some of the key nutrients at levels above the NRV. This is especially true of B vitamins, which help to support the nervous system and energy production, and vitamin C, which supports the immune system.
There are many different daily supplements to choose between, from products which provide 100% NRV to those high strength formulations. Which daily vitamins you should choose depends on why you WANT to take them and what you would hope they will provide.
What Supplements Should I Take?
Firstly, it is important to point out that no supplement provides a replacement for food or
a healthy diet and lifestyle choices. Sorry.
Daily vitamins are there simply to provide a ‘top-up’ of vital nutrients, an insurance policy to fill in gaps in the diet. However, your choice of daily supplement can be guided by what you want the product to do for you:
- Those simply looking for a daily ‘top-up’ as an insurance policy, to cover gaps in their diet, should look for a daily supplement which provides 100% NRV.
- If you have a busy, stressful life and are looking for a daily supplement to help provide a little extra support on top of your diet, then look for a product which provides higher levels of B Vitamins. In particular, look for Vitamin B5 which supports mental performance, and Vitamin B12 to help reduce tiredness and fatigue.
- For people looking for a little extra support for their immune system, the look for a product which focuses on Vitamins C and D, as well as the minerals selenium and zinc, as these nutrients all support a healthy immune response.
Which Daily Vitamins Do I Need?
As well as the considerations laid out above, the other thing to keep in mind when looking at a daily supplement is which nutrients you could be lacking. This could be due to dietary restrictions, or simply because certain nutrients are commonly low in western diets.
So, how many vitamins do you need a day? Here we have a look at five key daily vitamins you should ensure your multivitamin provides, no matter what strength or design of daily vitamin supplement you opt for:
- VITAMIN D
- VITAMIN B12
Vitamin D is required to support healthy bones in adults and children, as it helps with the normal absorption and utilisation of calcium. In addition, Vitamin D plays a role in supporting a healthy immune system.
It is now generally accepted that many people in the UK are at risk of low Vitamin D, due to the lack of sunlight, and increased use of sunscreens. This is why Public Health England suggest that everyone take a daily supplement which provides 400iu Vitamin D.
Vitamin B12 supports the nervous system, healthy psychological function and helps to reduce tiredness and fatigue. It is also involved in healthy blood cell formation, and a deficiency of Vitamin B12 can lead to a specific form of anaemia, known as pernicious anaemia.
Vitamin B12 is only found in animal-sourced foods, so those following a largely plant-based or vegan diet are often advised to add it to their daily vitamin regime.
Iron is needed for healthy red blood cells, oxygen transport, energy production, and healthy cognitive function. Symptoms of low iron will include breathlessness, low energy and if it gets too low anaemia.
Women and girls who menstruate monthly, are at risk of low iron levels, particularly if they avoid red meat and/or exercise regularly.
Some people are nervous that daily supplements which include iron will upset their stomach. However, this only tends to occur when people have to take high doses of iron because they have become anaemic. Using a daily multivitamin and mineral which provides your suggested daily intake is not associated with any digestive upsets.
Zinc is involved in many different processes in the body and plays a role in supporting healthy skin, hair and nails, healthy fertility, healthy bones, healthy teeth, and a healthy immune response.
The average UK diet does not tend to include many foods which are rich in zinc, such as:
- grass-fed beef
- pumpkin seeds
- organ meats
- brown rice
- wheat germ
For this reason, it is a good idea to ensure that your daily vitamin and mineral supplement provides at least 5mg Zinc, which would be 50% NRV.
Selenium is a trace mineral which supports healthy thyroid function and healthy sperm production. It also acts as an antioxidant – helping to protect cells from damage by free radicals.
Research has shown that many western diets are low in selenium because it has been depleted from our soils.
YOUR DAILY NRV
The suggested daily intake for each vitamin and mineral is:
- Vitamin A 800mcg
- Vitamin D 200iu (PHE suggests 400iu)
- Vitamin E 12mg
- Vitamin K 75mcg
- Vitamin B1 (thiamine) 1.1mg
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) 1.4mg
- Niacin 16mg
- Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) 6mg
- Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) 1.4mg
- Vitamin B12 2.5mcg
- Folic Acid 200mcg (women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant should take 400mcg)
- Biotin 50mcg
- Vitamin C 80mg
- Calcium 800mg
- Chromium 40mcg
- Copper 1mg
- Iodine 150mcg
- Iron 14mg
- Magnesium 375mg
- Manganese 2mg
- Selenium 55mcg
- Zinc 10mg
Most people could benefit from taking a daily vitamin and mineral supplement – even those on the healthiest diets – as they help to provide a top-up to ensure that valuable nutrients are not being missed from our diets.
Daily supplements will not make up for a poor diet, and cannot be taken in place of healthy diet and lifestyle choices, but they can help to provide a top-up during busy or stressful times, and where our diet may be falling short.
If you feel you do need to top up your diet with daily vitamins, here at Natures Aid you can find a broad range of natural vitamins and supplements including individual supplements as well as all-in-one multivitamins.
Written By Jenny Logan DNMed. (Jenny is a Nutritional Therapist who has worked with clients in Health Foods Stores and Private Clinics for over 20 years).