The ABCs of Vitamins



BY TABATHA RENEGAR

Many of us grew up with our parents giving us a Flintstone chewable vitamin to start our day. They were strange little things – not quite as tasty as candy but the tart sweetness that claimed to also be good for us made them irresistible!

Then, at some point in our early teen years, we became much too cool to take a kid’s vitamin, and for many of us, that marked the end of vitamins in our daily routine. Now as grown women, we are bombarded with advice and suggestions about daily supplements. Pre-natal when we’re pregnant, “silver” when we’re over 50 and everything in between! And some genius even turned them into gummies so we can feel like a kid again while trying to take care of ourselves!

Where to start if you’re looking to add vitamins to a plan for healthier living? Let’s take a look at the basics of some of the most popular and common vitamins recommended for women of all ages:

(First an important reminder that you should always talk with your doctor before beginning to add supplements to your diet! Not only to ensure that you are taking what’s best for you, but so that she can also talk to you about the proper dosage for your height and weight and about effects on any other medications.)

ACE – the Queens of the Antioxidants

Vitamin A and E are similar in their work as the protectors of healthy cells and warriors against cell mutations, hence their reputation for possibly helping to fight the signs of aging and skin cancer. While vitamin C, well, what DOESN’T it do? It improves immunity against the common cold, helps fight off infections, is good for your vision, good for a hangover AND can help strengthen your hair and add shine to it.

Boosts from the B’s

One could write an entire book just about the powerhouse B vitamins! From B6 to B12, the benefits the B vitamins are incredible! Not to mention B2/riboflavin, B3/niacin, B7/biotin. For the sake of space, let’s focus on just those first two.

B6 aids our brains and nervous system in their essential work and is involved in the production of hemoglobin, the protein in blood that carries oxygen throughout the body. Believe it or not, it also helps your body make serotonin, the hormone which regulates our moods, and norepinephrine, which helps us cope with stress! And once your mood is good due to your excellent stress management, B6 kicks in to whip up some melatonin to help you sleep and regulate your internal clock. B6 is a vitamin powerhouse!

Meanwhile, B6’s big sister, B12, plays a vital role in the health of the nervous system by helping to control appetite and it contributes to the production of red blood cells. B12 has been said to benefit digestion, memory, healthy hair, skin and, like its B6 buddy, it contributes to a good mood and higher energy levels.

Vitamin Q&A

What is the best time of day to take vitamins?

Good arguments can be made for taking vitamins first thing in the morning and at bedtime. However, the 2 most common denominators to both times are these: it is generally best to take them on a full stomach and you should take them at the time of day that is easiest for YOU to remember to take them each day!

Can I take more than one kind of vitamin at a time?

It is fine to take the essential vitamins (i.e.: A, B, C, calcium) at the same time. There may even be benefits to doing so as they work synergistically. However, some mineral supplements work better when not competing with vitamins. If you are taking any prescription medication or using other mineral supplements, then this is a question for your doctor.

Are there age-specific vitamins?

The health benefits of vitamins do not discriminate based on age. Vitamin C is as good for a teenager as it is for her grandmother! However, there is one supplement whose name comes up time and again in the context of women over 50: calcium! It is an unfortunate fact that women are more prone to osteoporosis, or thinning of the bone, than men. And this is especially true after menopause. It is recommended that calcium supplements be taken with a large glass of water and either with or after a meal. To increase absorption, you may want to take a lower dose supplement a couple times a day, instead of a larger dose all at one time. As always, check with your doctor.

Does brand matter when buying vitamins?

In short, yes. Most multivitamins are not required to undergo the FDA’s testing procedures since they are considered dietary supplements and not drugs. And vitamins from different companies could be manufactured differently. This means that the product might not contain exactly what the bottle says it contains. Therefore, when selecting vitamins, you don’t necessarily have to choose the most expensive, but it is a good idea to stick with the recognizable, mainstream names such as Centrum or One-A-Day.

Additionally, check the vitamin bottle for the United States Pharmacopoeia (USP), NSF International (NSF), or ConsumerLab.com (CL) seals. The USP and NSF are nonprofit groups that verify whether companies offer contamination-free products and use good manufacturing practices.

Of course, if you happen to find any tart, chewable adult supplements in the shape of Fred or Wilma, be sure to stock up.


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