Ready to get down to basics? With so many supplements and vitamins out there it can be confusing to get what you really need. The Wellness Advisor is here to help you learn about the four basic vitamins and supplements which are the fundamentals of good nutrition. The four basic vitamins and supplements are a multivitamin, calcium, vitamin E and vitamin C. These are considered the ‘basic four' because they provide nutritional support to a typical American diet, one which has been shown to be lacking in key nutrients. With busy lifestyles today, it becomes a challenge for adults to get all the nutrients they need on a daily basis. To ensure that doesn`t happen these are essential nutrients that should be taken on daily basis.
Multivitamin: A daily multivitamin/mineral supplement is the foundation of a nutritional supplement regimen. It provides nutritional insurance by helping to fill in any gaps that may exist in our diet. The key function of nutrients, like vitamins and minerals found in a multivitamin/mineral supplement, is to serve as essential components in important chemical reactions in our body. A daily multi benefits everyone who is not meeting their nutritional needs from diet alone. According to the USDA Healthy Eating Index (1999-2000), Americans are eating a rather poor diet and are not meeting the recommended daily amount of fruits and vegetables. This means we are lacking in many important nutrients that are found in fruits and vegetables such as antioxidant vitamins and minerals that help protect our cells from damaging free radicals. Recent research supports the use of a daily multivitamin/mineral supplement in healthy adults (Journal of the American Medical Association, 2002). A daily multivitamin/mineral supplement can help ensure meeting daily nutritional needs.
Calcium: Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body, and more than 99% of the body's calcium is found in our bones. We need an adequate amount of calcium to build healthy bones and teeth. Calcium is also necessary for many other body processes, such as contracting muscles, releasing neurotransmitters, regulating heart beat, and clotting blood. Over time, especially in women a deficiency in calcium is one factor that may ultimately lead to osteoporosis, which thins and weakens bones, making them frail to the point where they break easily. The symptoms of osteoporosis may not be noticed until most of the bone loss has already occurred. Therefore, calcium supplementation is a key factor in helping to prevent osteoporosis.
Vitamin E: Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that is incorporated into the fat-based tissues of the body. Vitamin E is important for our cellular membranes, where it acts to stabilize these structures and help protect them from free radical attack. Free radicals are constantly formed in our bodies and when in excess, they can damage our body cells. Vitamin E steps in to help protect our cells from damaging free radicals and keep them healthy. There are several natural compounds, called tocopherols, that demonstrate Vitamin E activity, but the natural form of Vitamin E (d-alpha tocopherol) is the most common and most potent form, and is absorbed best by the body. D-alpha tocopherol, or natural Vitamin E, is the most active in terms of antioxidant activity. Because of Vitamin E's strong antioxidant effects, supplementation exerts a protective effect in many common health conditions. Vitamin E is also complimentary with vitamin C in its function, therefore it is suggested to take vitamin E and vitamin C together.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that has numerous roles in the body. One of vitamin C's major role is to make collagen, the main protein substance of the human body that holds connective tissues together in skin, bone, teeth, and other parts of the body. Vitamin C is also critical for the proper function of our immune system, for manufacturing certain nerve transmitting substances and hormones, and for the absorption and utilization of other nutrients, such as vitamin E and Iron. Vitamin C is also a very important and powerful antioxidant that works in the aqueous (water) environments of the body, such as the lungs and lens of the eye. When vitamin E becomes oxidized in an effort to protect our cells from damaging free radicals, vitamin C becomes particularly important because it helps to restore the antioxidant potential of Vitamin E in the body. In addition, during times of stress, vitamin C is excreted from the body more rapidly. Therefore, additional vitamin C may be necessary to maintain an adequate intake.