The big supplement guide: We break down which ones you really need to pop and why

Want to know what the real benefits of vitamins are?

23 Sep 2019

If you've ever read up about Gwyneth Paltrow's supplement regime, you'll understand how vast the array of vitamin pills and powders is, and how each of them claims to be essential for wellbeing and overall health. Don't worry - we're overwhelmed, too, which is why we asked the experts to decode the vitamin supplement scene to reveal what will actually benefit you...

Vitamin A

What will it do for you?
Vitamin A specifically helps your eyesight by protecting the eye and retina. “Vitamin A is essential for vision, for helping to maintain healthy skin in concerns such as acne and eczema,” explains Shabir Daya, co-founder and in-house pharmacist at Victoria Health. “Those who suffer with poor vision, recurrent infections and skin concerns such as adult acne would greatly benefit from the introduction of vitamin A.”

Where do you naturally find it?
The biggest source is fish liver oils but you’ll also find it in dairy products like margarine, butter and full fat milk.

Zinc

What will it do for you?
According to Shabir, folic acid is required for blood cell formation and to protect the nervous system including spine birth defects during early pregnancy. “It should be taken regularly by all women of child-bearing age.” Oh, and don’t get confused by labels - look for “folate”, it’s the active form of folic acid.

Where do you naturally find it?
Red meat, liver, shellfish (especially oysters), egg yolks, dairy products, wholegrain cereals and pulses.

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Magnesium

What will it do for you?
Magnesium is incredibly important for the nervous system as well as muscle, bone and teeth health. Many people say it helps calm symptoms of anxiety too. ""Magnesium is commonly insufficient in our diets. Low magnesium is associated with many of modern grumbling wellness issues including poor sleep, stress, PMT, poor muscle recovery and generally feeling fatigued. It is hard to to absorb which is one of the reason ms we aren’t getting enough. Choosing the right supplement in a bioavailable form is important, a food based form is ideal," says Libby Limon, nutritionist and yoga teacher

Where do you naturally find it?
Magnesium is actually found in all green vegetables.

Iron

What will it do for you?
Iron helps to promote red blood cells which carry oxygen around the body; “Iron is required for the production of haemoglobin which is the carrier of oxygen in red blood cells. Iron is also required for the production of hormones and neurotransmitters. Women who experience heavy periods and women of child bearing age may not get sufficient iron. Unfortunately many iron supplements cause constipation or stomach distress because iron disturbs the probiotic balance in the gut. Therefore it is best to take a spray form of iron that ensures that iron is absorbed from the blood vessels around the cheeks straight into the bloodstream by-passing the stomach and intestines,” says Shabir.

Where do you naturally find it?
You can get an iron hit from spinach (Popeye was onto something), red meat, nuts and whole grains.

Selenium

“Selenium is a trace mineral that is vital for the production of the body’s most powerful free radical scavenger called glutathione peroxidase and is thought to protect our cells from damage. It is also important for thyroid hormone activity. Researchers feel that the foods we ingest do not have sufficient selenium to protect our bodies and hence suggest a strength of 200mcg per day,” says Shabir.

Where do you naturally find it?
Brazil nuts and fish are the best natural sources of Selenium.

Omega Oils

What will it do for you?
Omega oils are one of the most raved about supplements because not only do they promote strong bones, they support healthy cholesterol levels, boost your immunity and mood. “Omega Oils comprise of essential fatty acids called omega 3, 6 and 9. Generally speaking we get sufficient amounts of omega 6 and 9 from our diet of spreads, seeds and nuts but it is the omega 3 which many of us are deficient in. It is this specific fatty acid that offers a wide variety of benefits including preventing cholesterol deposition, hormone production, supporting mental health, fighting inflammation and promoting bone health to name a few. Aim for a quality fish oil or Krill Oil which provides the best form of omega 3.”

Where do you naturally find it?
Well the best place is in oily fish (surprise, surprise). Stock up on mackerel, herring, pilchards, sardines, salmon and trout.

Multivitamin

What will it do for you?

We need a multitude of vitamins and minerals to function and ideally we’d get them all from food but, with hectic lifestyles, it’s not always possible to get everything you need. Multivitamins are a very convenient way to ensure you’re at least getting the essentials. “Multivitamins offer smaller amounts of all essential vitamins and minerals for general health, energy production and to support the immune system. Almost everyone would benefit from the use of a quality multivitamins (think of multivitamins as an insurance policy to prevent nutrient deficiencies). Most multivitamins offer semi-synthetic forms so opt for food state multivitamins since these are absorbed more efficiently and utilised effectively such as Alive Multivitamins Once Daily Ultra Potency,” recommends Shabir.

Where do you naturally find it?

Vegetables, fruit, dairy produce and meat.

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Primrose oil

What will it do for you?
Known to naturally help with PMS, many women swear by Primrose oil. It’ll also plump your skin as well as act as an acne deterrent and make your hair shiner. Win. Win. Win.

Where do you naturally find it?
You don’t. You’ll have to buy the supplement.

Vitamin B

What will it do for you?
A vitamin B tablet should include all eight of the B vitamins*: B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6, B7 (biotin), B9 (folate), B1. “B Vitamins are a group of 8 vitamins that work in synergy to provide numerous benefits for overall body function from metabolism right to the production of the enzyme systems,” explains Shabir. “B Vitamins primarily help convert food into energy; involved in production of red blood cells and are important for the protection of the nervous system. Those under stress would great benefit taking B vitamins as at times of stress the body placed huge demands on the whole range of B vitamins. It is best to take then with vitamin C which enhances their effectiveness.”

Here’s what each does:

  • B1 and B2 promote the healthy functioning of the muscles, nerves, and heart
  • B3 regulates the nervous and digestive systems
  • B5 and B12 are required for normal growth and development
  • B6 boosts the immune system and helps the body to break down protein
  • B7 assists in the production of hormones
  • B9 helps cells make and maintain DNA

To increase efficacy, Shabir recommends combining your B vitamins with Vitamin C, or opt for a supplement that contains both like TerraNova Vitamin B Complex with Vitamin C, which contains all 8 B Vitamins and Vitamin C. Also, you can buy B vitamins separately if you don’t want to take a multivitamin B supplement.

Where do you naturally find it?
In all sorts of foods. Cereals, whole grains and kidney beans are a good source of B1, B2, and B3. Green leafy vegetables will give you a dose of B2 and B9, eggs for B7 and B12, chicken for B3, B6, and B12, citrus fruits for a hit of B9 and nuts for B3 and B9. For B6 and B7 stock up on bananas.

Vitamin C

What will it do for you?
Vitamin C not only boosts immunity but actively protects your cells as well as boosts collagen and helps keeps bones, tissue and organs healthy. “Vitamin C is the most under-rated vitamin since most of us think we get enough from our diet,” warns Shabir. “Vitamin C is often deficient in the adult population due to the huge demands placed on the body as it is required within most systems and processes carried out within our bodies – not all vitamin C’s are equal and the best form is Liposomal Vitamin C, which transports this vitamin into every cell within the body.”

Where do you naturally find it?
Well aside from oranges, chilli is incredibly high in Vitamin C as are peppers, kale, cauliflower, broccoli, mango, strawberries, kiwis and pineapple.

Vitamin D

What will it do for you?
Vitamin D is essential for healthy teeth, bones and hair because it allows us to absorb and use calcium.

“A deficiency is very common - I would say at least 80% of my clients are lacking – most notably those who work in an office or live in a city, like London, where the sun is a rare commodity," explains Anabel Kingsley, Trichologist at Philip Kingsley. "I therefore always send clients to have a blood test to check their Vitamin D level. I suggest most people do this once yearly. To boost Vitamin D levels, The NHS has some good advice and recommends “regularly going outside for a few minutes around the middle of the day without sunscreen…the more skin that is exposed the greater the chance of producing sufficient vitamin D before burning”. Many people find it helpful, and indeed necessary if they already have a deficiency, to take a daily Vitamin D3 Supplement. You can buy these in almost any pharmacy."

If you can’t manage it all year round, prioritise the colder months. “Vitamin D in winter is vital,” says Libby. “People often feel lethargic, low mood and more susceptible to colds during winter this is put down to the time of the year. However low vitaminD levels can be a major factor taking a supplement can make all the difference. I recommend a dose of 1000 i.u. Per day. Try Link Nutrition Vitamin D3.”

Where do you naturally find it?
All full-fat dairy products, oily fish and egg yolks as well as through exposure to natural sunlight.

Zinc

What will it do for you?
Zinc is good for all round body maintenance. It will help keep your skin, hair and nails healthy.

Where do you naturally find it?
Red meat, liver, shellfish (especially oysters), egg yolks, dairy products, wholegrain cereals and pulses.

Vitamin E

What will it do for you?
“Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant and displays some blood thinning properties helping to protect the cardiovascular system,” says Shabir. “Diets rich in vitamin E may also offer brain-protective benefits. Vitamin E is actually a combination of four active tocopherols and unfortunately most supplements only offer one type called alpha tocopherol – the supplement link below is the one that offers all four tocopherols for the varying benefits.”

Where do you find it naturally?
If you want to up your intake of Vitamin E, you should increase the amount of vegetable oils (such as wheat germ, sunflower, safflower, corn, and soybean oils), nuts and seeds in your diet.

If you want to find out which supplements you should take and further information about them visit Health Supplements Information Service.

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