Vitamins and supplements can be really useful for your body and your health. But which supplements do you really need? According to the Council for Responsible Nutrition, 77% of Americans take at least one vitamin or supplement every day. Understanding what different supplements are used for can help you chose the best ones for you.
In theory, you should get all the nutrition you need from the food you eat. But many foods today are highly processed and don’t have the same nutritional value as fresh or whole foods. Doctors at Harvard Health state there is no risk of taking a daily multivitamin and it may have health benefits.
In a 10-year study known as The Physicians Health Study II, researchers found a modest decrease of cataracts and cancer in people who took a daily multivitamin. A multivitamin can help you get enough nutrients even when your diet lacks nutritious value.
Fish oil contains Omega-3 acid, which can improve your overall health. Studies in the International Journal of Cardiology, Translational Psychiatry, and Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, among others, point out the potential benefits of omega-3 and fish oil:
- Lower Cholesterol
- Lower Blood Pressure
- Help Manage Parkinson’s Disease
- Weight Management
- Decrease Inflammation
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 75% of adult Americans do not consume enough magnesium. Magnesium is needed for:
- Nerve Transmission
- Muscle Contraction
- Energy Production
- Cell Production
Getting enough magnesium may help with medical conditions including:
- Migraine Headaches
- Muscle Cramps
- Osteoporosis (weak bones)
- Heart Disease
Vitamin D is another essential nutrient that many people lack. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 25% of Americans have insufficient Vitamin D levels in their body. Vitamin D is absorbed naturally from sunlight. But many people spend most of their time indoors, limiting their sun exposure. Vitamin D is necessary for:
- Calcium and Phosphorus Absorption
- Fighting Infections
- Prevent Against Autoimmune Disease
Your intestines have over 100 trillion bacteria that help keep you healthy. According to Harvard Health, the bacteria in your intestines is necessary to:
- Limit harmful bacteria
- Aid digestion
- Absorb Nutrients
- Contribute to immune function
A study in Tropical Life Sciences Research showed that probiotics, or helpful bacteria, may help with diarrhea and constipation. Your body needs the right balance of intestinal bacteria to function properly. Northern Europeans eat a lot of foods fermented with bacteria to stay healthy. Drinks with probiotics added are a big seller in Japan. Doctors in the United States may recommend probiotic supplements to help manage Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), general health, and even anxiety and depression.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps support your immune system. Aging, stress, disease, and environmental factors contribute to your body’s cell breaking down and becoming free radicals. According to a study in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Ophthalmology, free radicals are linked to developing:
- Inflammatory Joint Disease
- Senile Dementia
- Degenerative Eye Disease
Antioxidants like Vitamin C destroy free radicals to limit the damage they can cause to your body. A study in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews found that taking Vitamin C daily also helped shorten a cold’s duration.
Protein is another essential nutrient. Your body uses protein to:
- Build and Repair Muscle
- Maintain Strong Bones
- Make Hormones
- Produce Enzymes
According to a study in Frontiers in Nutrition, protein supplements can help build muscle in people who work out regularly. Studies in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and the British Journal of Nutrition state that many older adults do not eat enough protein. Protein supplements may include:
- Protein Powder
- Protein Bars
- Nutritional Supplement Drinks
- Foods with Extra Protein
Some manufacturers include extra protein in pancake and muffin mixes, bread, snack foods, nut spreads, and yogurt to help increase protein intake.