As a child, I recall my dad often took me to park during winter noontime in order to get the dose of Vitamin D under the sun. Thereafter, he would give me a glass of carrot juice saying it has Vitamin A which is good for the eyes. In fact, parents look at vitamins as a sound insurance policy when it comes to their own and children’s health. No wonder my eyesight is 6/6 and I am in good health even now in my late thirties!
What is the secret behind living in the pink? A strong nutrient base.
Around 100 years ago, scientists discovered this very important class of nutrients and determined how the absence of vitamins in our diet could lead to certain diseases. This revolutionary research grew with the knowledge of food and nutrition and it was recognized that vitamins regulate body’s metabolism and help in growth, maintenance, and repair while working with certain enzymes.
What are Vitamins?
Vitamins are the necessary organic compounds that must be included in our diet for a normal functioning, growth, and recovery. There are 13 of them and most have to be taken from outside as our body cannot produce them.
Vitamins are the marvel nutrients of a healthy dietary regime
Taking up their names from the letters of the English alphabet (like Vitamin A, B, C, D, E, K etc), vitamins endow good health.
Scientific researchers have found a treasure trove in Vitamin studies. They keep digging to find new and added benefits in it. Nothing tastes as good as being healthy. Let us find out in a nutshell what vitamins can do for us:
- Reduces the risk of chronic health illnesses like arthritis, asthma, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, etc.
- Lowers blood pressure and cholesterol
- Protects smokers and those exposed to environmental toxins.
- Vitamin E has shown benefits in aging, infertility, athletic performance and can cutback arthritis pain and swelling.
- Builds up immunity and fight infections.
- A sufficient amount of Vitamin D helps in maintaining strong bones, teeth, and healthy nervous system.
- Some of the vitamins even work as antioxidants to neutralize the damage of free radicals.
Do we get enough Vitamins from our diet?
To provide the minimum required nutrition at every age, RDA has set up guidelines for the amount of day-to-day vitamin intake. Following them would help in preventing nutritional deficiencies. However, at various points in time, we may require additional doses of vitamins for e.g. during pregnancy, nursing, menstruation, overwork, smoking, dieting, travel, illness, athletic activity, etc.
In spite of the RDA directions, the fact remains that we don’t always eat as per need and may not be getting the required amount in our daily diet. A USDA survey suggests that more than 80% of women and 70% of men consume less than two-thirds of RDA recommendations for one or more nutrients! Is it a wonder then to know that over 20% of Indians suffer from chronic diseases? And the most common ones among them are related to heart, asthma, cancer, etc. which crops up due to a lack of D vitamins and antioxidant vitamins (E, C & beta-carotene).
Role of Dietary supplements as a backup
To fulfill the demands of an optimum diet, there has been a dynamic shift in the conventional thinking. As a strong endorsement, the American Medical Association (an honored journal) now emphasizes the need for daily supplements to meet our nutritional demands.
It is estimated that vitamin based supplements will take up 48% of global market share by the end of 2024.
How to choose a multivitamin
This preventive health care system should, however, be followed with some considerations. Look for these tips before selecting a multivitamin:
- Nutrients present in the supplement should be close to the recommendation by RDA.
- A blend of vitamins with minerals in the supplement works better.
- The more specific a supplement is the better. It can be according to gender, age, need, etc.
- Ingredients should be taken from natural sources.
With over 7 out of 10 Indians being vitamin deficient, it is better to take a smart approach. Just for the health of it!