Confused about vitamins? Get the facts
Few consumer items are as mind-boggling as nutritional supplements. Store shelves featuring endless bottles of vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids can leave the potential buyer thoroughly confused. In addition, many people don’t know where they can find these fundamental nutrients in everyday foods.
Fortunately, Dr. Andrew Weil, a world-renowned leader in integrative medicine whose books have sold more than 10 million copies, has spent a lifetime researching both healthy foods and nutritional supplements. His special area of expertise is the optimal types and dosages of vitamins and minerals.
Dr. Weil believes that many people simply do not have a well-rounded diet, which is why taking vitamins and other supplements should be an important part of everyone’s lifestyle.
Here are examples of Dr. Weil’s insights and recommendations for various food sources of the most fundamental vitamins and minerals:
Vitamin A:"Vitamin A" is the blanket term for retinoids, biologically active compounds that occur naturally in both plant and animal tissues. The facts about vitamin A show that the richest animal source is beef liver: three ounces provides over 27,000 IU, which is more than one needs for a whole day (although toxicity is not a problem unless such high intakes occur on a regular basis). The best natural sources are fruits and vegetables, including carrots, spinach, kale, butternut squash, cantaloupe, mangoes, pumpkins and sweet potatoes.
Vitamin D:Vitamin D, often referred to as the "sunshine vitamin," is actually a fat-soluble hormone that the body can synthesize naturally. There are several forms, including two that are important to humans: D2 and D3. Vitamin D2 is synthesized by plants, and vitamin D3 is synthesized by humans when skin is exposed to ultraviolet-B (UVB) rays from sunlight. It isn't easy to get enough vitamin D from your diet. While fortified foods such as milk and cereals are available, most provide vitamin D2, a form which is much less well utilized by the body than D3. Good dietary sources include fortified foods, eggs, salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines.
Vitamin E:Vitamin E is a powerful, fat-soluble antioxidant. It is necessary for structural and functional maintenance of skeletal, cardiac, and smooth muscle. Vitamin E deficiency is rare in humans, but people who cannot absorb dietary fat or who have rare disorders of fat metabolism may not be able to absorb sufficient vitamin E from foods alone. Good food sources of vitamin E include vegetable oils, avocados, spinach, sunflower seeds, wheat germ, nuts, and whole grains.
Calcium:Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body, present mainly in the bones and teeth. It is an essential dietary element required for good bone health, efficient nerve and muscle function, and overall cardiovascular health. It makes up about three percent of the earth's crust and is a basic component of most animals and plants. Eating a diet rich in calcium helps to restore it to the bones; supplements can help as well. An abundant source of this mineral in the American diet is dairy products. Make sure you use only hormone-free, organic dairy products to reduce your exposure to the antibiotics and hormones found in many dairy products. Dark green, leafy vegetables are also excellent sources of calcium.
Omega-3 / Fish Oils:Fish oil is a rich source of the two essential omega-3 fatty acids known as EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). It is abundant in the fatty tissues of cold water, oily fish. The average American diet is lacking in omega-3s. Dr. Weil recommends eating wild caught, cold water fish two to three per week; choose wild Alaskan salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring and black cod.
If you are not getting enough of the types of foods mentioned above on a consistent basis, then supplementing your diet with daily vitamin supplements may be right for you.
However, understand that not all supplements are created equal:
"Vitamins are much like anything else - you generally get what you pay for," says Dr. Weil. "But even very expensive vitamins sometimes miss the mark." One reason he worked with supplement makers to create better vitamins, he says, was that he could not find ones on the market that met his specifications for his patients or himself.
What's the optimal mix of supplemental vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids for your body? Learn now, by filling out the Vitamin Advisor questionnaire designed by Dr. Weil. This online survey offers a Free Vitamin and Supplement Recommendation specific to your unique needs, and includes an option to purchase Dr. Weil approved supplements.