Should you take daily vitamins? If so, which ones? What to know about benefits, marketing

You’ve had a long day. So you’re curled up on the couch with your fuzziest blanket and your fluffiest dog. You’re scrolling through the TV channels where you come across one of those commercials where people are strolling through the park, running a marathon or maybe gardening – the commercial says that they’re able to stay active and healthy in part due to some of the vitamins they are taking.

What are these vitamins, why are they important, and how should you get incorporate them into your diet? We spoke with the experts to break down everything you need to know.

The benefits of vitamins

Vitamins and minerals are nutrients, or small molecules that are essential for our bodies to function.

Dr. Pedro R. Rodriguez Guggiari, an internal medicine specialist and Chief of Staff at Banner Del E. Webb Medical Center in Sun City West, Arizona, says, “Vitamins and minerals are extremely important to keep our development and our daily health optimized. They serve a variety of functions which keep the body working properly, to help regenerate tissues, fight infections, (support) neurological functions, manage our energy and even to help with life-saving events such as blood clotting.”

Elise Heeney, a clinical dietitian at Banner Del E. Webb Medical Center, describes three of the major functions of vitamins:

  1. They support metabolism.

  2. They support immune function.

  3. They help facilitate growth and development.

Heeney also adds that minerals are important for making enzymes and hormones.

What vitamins are the most important and why?

Rodriguez Guggiari says that it’s not that some are more important than others, as they are all important for our body to function properly. You may need more of some and less of others, but they are all important. He adds that there are 13 essential vitamins — vitamins A, C, D, E, K, and the B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, B6, B12 and folate).

How to get your daily vitamins

Eat a balanced diet!

Heeney says, “The best way to obtain all the vitamins and minerals our bodies need is by eating a diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds, lean proteins and low-fat dairy products. Aim for a well-balanced plate at each meal.”

Do over-the-counter vitamins work? Understanding supplements.

Both Rodriguez Guggiari and Heeney say that over-the-counter supplements can work, but you have to be cautious of aggressive and sometimes inaccurate marketing.

Heeney notes that supplements are not regulated (for safety and effectiveness) by the FDA like other medications. She says, “When choosing a supplement, it’s best to look for one that has been through quality testing to ensure the supplement was manufactured properly, contains the ingredients listed on the label and is free from harmful levels of contaminants.”

She adds that there are several independent organizations that provide quality testing of supplements, such as, NSF International and U.S. Pharmacopeia.

Ultimately, supplements work the best when your healthcare provider has found a deficiency – if you are already within range, then excess amounts of vitamins that are water-soluble (dissolve in water) may be washed away in urine. Vitamins that are fat-soluble (don’t dissolve in water) are held onto by the body, and (mostly) stored in the liver. This could potentially be toxic.

If you are thinking of taking a supplement, it would be best to speak with your healthcare provider to help you decide if it’s a good option.

Read more about vitamins, supplements here:

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This article originally appeared on Aberdeen News: Why are vitamins important, and which vitamins should you take?