Everything you need to know about vitamin intake
We all know that vitamins and minerals – whether we get them from fresh fruit and vegetables or supplements – are essential for our health. But how do we know if we’re not getting enough? And how can we be sure our medications aren’t affecting our vitamin absorption?
Lucky for you, we’ve got the answers to all your questions.
1. Signs of deficiency
Vitamin deficiency can manifest itself in a number of ways that can mimic symptoms of other conditions, so if you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, it’s worth a visit to your GP.
- Dry, flaky skin
- Small wounds that take a long time to heal
- Unexpected bruises
- Dull, brittle nails
- Spots, stripes and ridges on the nails
- Brittle hair
- Hair loss
- Poor concentration
- Lack of energy
2. Which vitamin does what
We all know the basics, like that calcium is essential for healthy bones and that beta carotene (which turns into vitamin A) is good for eyesight, but what do the rest do? Let’s find out.
1. Vitamin A – Supports eyesight, protects from infection by keeping the skin healthy and promotes growth and development.
2. Vitamin B1 – Good for the nervous system, digestion, muscle and heart health and repairing alcohol-damaged nerve tissues.
3. Vitamin B2 – Promotes growth, supports skin, nail, hair and eye health, aids in the breakdown of protein, fat and carbohydrates.
4. Vitamin B6 – Helps the body produce and use protein and sugar for energy and helps form haemoglobin, which carries oxygen in the blood.
5. Vitamin B12 – Works with folate to make DNA, promotes healthy blood cells and keeps nerves working properly.
6. Vitamin C – May prevent cell damage and reduce risk of certain types of cancers and heart disease, helps heal cuts and wounds, keeps gums healthy and supports immune health.
7. Vitamin D – Supports calcium absorption to keep bones strong and healthy and improves immune health.
8. Vitamin E – Helps maintain a healthy immune system and acts as an antioxidant, promoting cell health.
9. Vitamin K – Produces proteins that cause the blood to clot when bleeding and promotes blood, bone and kidney health.
10. Folate – Produces and maintains DNA and cells, makes red blood cells and prevents anaemia.
11. Calcium – Good for strengthening bones, improving nerve function, muscle health and blood clotting.
12. Iron – Produces red blood cells, supports muscle health and the immune system.
13. Magnesium – Helps convert food to energy, promotes cell repair, bone and muscle strength and temperature regulation.
14. Zinc – Helps maintain a healthy immune system and helps break down protein, fat and carbohydrates.
3. How common medications can affect vitamin absorption
That aspirin might be helping your headaches, but it might also be dragging down your vitamin levels. Here are six common drugs that can affect absorption.
1. Aspirin – Causes a decrease in calcium levels and the amount of vitamins A, B and C.
2. Antibiotics – Reduce the amount of magnesium, calcium, iron and B vitamins.
3. Diuretics – Reduce the amount of potassium, magnesium zinc and B vitamins.
4. Laxatives – Reduce the absorption of vitamins A, E and D.
5. Blood thinners – Can’t be combined with vitamin K or E.
6. Cholesterol-lowering medications – Can’t be combined with vitamin A.
4. Which vitamins to combine for the best effect
If you’re taking supplements to boost your vitamin levels, it can be helpful to combine them with other minerals, which can increase their effectiveness and absorption.
1. Vitamin A – Best used with vitamins B, D and E, phosphorous, calcium and zinc.
2. B vitamins – Best used with vitamin C.
3. Vitamin C – Best used with calcium and magnesium.
4. Iron – Best used with vitamin C.
5. Vitamin D – Best used with calcium, phosphorous and vitamins A and C.
6. Calcium – Can’t be used with multivitamins containing iron.
5. Best food sources of vitamins and minerals
You don’t need supplements to get your recommended intake of vitamins. Here are eight vitamins you can get simply by adding certain foods to your diet.
1. Vitamin A – Milk, cheese, some fish and liver.
2. Vitamin B1 – Liver, yeast, egg yolk, cereal, red meat, nuts and wheat germ.
3. Vitamin B2 – Milk, liver, yeast, cheese, leafy greens and fish.
4. Vitamin B6 – Lentils, fish, legumes, nuts, bran, meat, banana and potatoes.
5. Vitamin B12 – Milk, cheese, eggs, yoghurt, meat, fish, poultry and tofu.
6. Vitamin C – Citrus fruits, leafy greens, kiwi fruit, strawberries, mangoes, capsicum, tomato, brussels sprouts and broccoli.
7. Vitamin D – Milk, soy and rice beverages, some fish, eggs, liver and fish liver oil.
8. Vitamin E – Vegetable oils, avocado, leafy greens, wheat germ, some nuts, sunflower seeds and peanut butter.
9. Vitamin K – Broccoli, soybeans and leafy greens.
10. Folate – Asparagus, cooked spinach, cos lettuce, beetroot, broccoli, corn, green peas, oranges, bread, lentils, seeds, liver and wheat germ.
11. Calcium – Milk, cheese, butter, yoghurt and leafy greens.
12. Iron – Lean red meat, oily fish, egg yolks, leafy greens, nuts, grains and wheat germ.
13. Magnesium – Leafy greens, grains and nuts.
14. Zinc – Meat, shellfish, milk, brown rice and grains.
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