Vitamins and Supplements: What You Should Take and What to Skip

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Minerals and vitamins are important to any diet and studies suggest these may help prevent heart disease, cancer and other health problems. Many studies have been conducted on vitamin-containing food, but not necessarily on supplements.

It is also a fact, that if you consume a diet rich in vegetables, fruits and fortified food, you are probably getting all you need. But supplements can offer an easy form of health insurance.

But do you really need them? Below is a a quick guide to beneficial nutrients and its benefits.

Vitamins and Supplements: What You Should Take and What to Skip
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What to Take:

1. Folic Acid

Folic acid should be taken by women who are actively trying to become pregnant and those of child-bearing age. Folic acid has been proven to help in reducing neural tube defects in the developing fetus.

2. Probiotics

Microorganisms such as Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus to help re-establish healthy bacteria in your intestines, called your gut microbiome. Those people with international travel, recent antibiotic use, changes in diet or living location, immune stress such as cold or flu, or irritable bowel syndrome should take this.

3. Vitamin B3 or Niacin

A meta-analysis in 2009 found that niacin can be beneficial for heart health. Niacin or Vitamin B3 help decrease the levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) or the bad kind and increases levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL), the good kind.

For individuals who are not already taking statins, getting a high dose of vitamin B3 or niacin from a supplement could help in lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease. Niacin is found naturally in a variety of foods, with highest concentrations usually in meat.

4. Zinc

The supplement you should take when you feel that ominous itch in your throat is zinc. A 2011 meta-review of 15 randomized and placebo-controlled trials, found that zinc helps shorten a cold when taken within the first 24 hours after the symptoms set in. The mineral can cause an interference with the replication of rhinoviruses, which cause colds.

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What to Skip:

1. Calcium

For years, women in particular have received the message that calcium supplements are important for strong and healthy bones. But, the latest research indicates that calcium supplements may not actually get into the bone, instead it can calcify soft tissues and arteries, thus increasing your risk of heart disease.

Added to that, calcium supplements can perpetuate kidney stones in those individuals who are susceptible, according to a dietitian. You can get your calcium needs through non-dairy foods, which include almonds, green leafy vegetables, sardines, salmon, white beans and broccoli.

2. Multivitamins

The Annals of Internal Medicine published studies about the inefficiency of supplements.
Long-term studies found that there was no measurable benefit of multivitamins in preventing cancer, heart health or cognitive decline. A multivitamin is not tailored to your particular needs or diet, therefore any effect it may have will be small.

3. Vitamin C

There is no conclusive evidence that vitamin C helps in the prevention of colds in healthy people. A 2007 meta-analysis consisiting of 30 studies with a total of 11,350 participants, found that taking a mega-dosage of vitamin C is not justified.

But the perception that vitamin C is better against colds has been hard to put down. This is due to the 1970 book entitled Vitamin C and the Common Cold by Linus Pauling, a Nobel-prize winning chemist. This author’s advocacy has made vitamin C a part of the known misconception, but large studies, as written it the meta-analysis, have shown it is just not the case.

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