SOURCE: Nature Made

December 15, 2011 05:00 ET

Know Your Vitamin ABC's

(and D's and E's...)

MISSION, KS--(Marketwire - Dec 15, 2011) - (Family Features) A walk down the vitamin aisle at your local pharmacy or grocery store can be overwhelming. There are so many options that it can be hard to know where to begin.

Pharmacist Lauren Fallieras says it's important to understand how and why your body uses certain nutrients in order to decide which supplements are right for your needs. "Vitamins play a key role in building a healthy body from the inside out," she says. "It is important to get these nutrients from a well-balanced diet, but it's not uncommon to fall short on select vitamins and minerals without even knowing it."

Fallieras recommends not only understanding what nutrients your body may need more of, but when you are looking at supplements, to ensure you know the ABC's of what to look for on the vitamin bottle.

Here's what you need to know about some of the "letter" vitamins -- A, B, C, D and E -- that will help you make the right choices to support personal health and wellness.

Vitamin A -- An important developmental building block, vitamin A plays a key role in vision, white blood cell production, tissue maintenance and more. Good food sources include yellow and green leafy vegetables, such as carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes and squash, as well as yellow fruits such as peaches and cantaloupe.

The B Vitamins -- There are actually quite a few B vitamins. Here are just some of them:

  • Vitamin B-6: Involved in over 100 cellular reactions throughout the body, vitamin B-6 is instrumental in keeping various bodily functions operating at their best. B-6 is needed to metabolize amino acids and glycogen and is also necessary for normal nervous system, hormone and red blood cell function. Vitamin B6 is fairly abundant in the diet and can be found in foods such as meat, poultry, bananas, fish, fortified cereal grains and cooked spinach.

  • Vitamin B-12: Is needed for the synthesis of DNA, for red blood cell formation and for healthy nervous system function. It also helps maintain healthy red blood cells which deliver oxygen to the body and support normal energy levels. Vegetarians need to be sure they get enough B-12 because this vitamin is found mainly in animal products like chicken, beef, seafood, milk and eggs.

  • Riboflavin: Also known as vitamin B-2, riboflavin is a basic building block for normal growth and development. It is needed for normal/regular energy production and also supports antioxidant activity throughout the body. Commonly found in a variety of foods such as fortified cereals, milk, eggs, cooked salmon, beef, spinach and broccoli.

  • Folic Acid: While it is true that folic acid is very important for women of child-bearing age, all people should ensure adequate folic acid intake through the diet. It is essential in the development of DNA and amino acid synthesis. Fortified foods such as breads and cereals are good dietary sources of folic acid. Other good sources are dark green leafy vegetables such as asparagus and spinach, as well as, liver, orange juice, beets, dates and avocados.

Fallieras says, "If you are not able to get your daily dose of these important B vitamins through food consumption alone, I'd recommend a supplement, like Nature Made's Super B-Complex with Folic Acid and Vitamin C. As a pharmacist, I know that getting the nutrients you need means taking the highest quality vitamins available in the right dosage. I like Nature Made because they have been the leading choice of pharmacists in many of the key vitamin and supplement segments since 2006, according to a ranking by Pharmacy Times."

Vitamin C -- As the body's main water-soluble antioxidant, vitamin C has been found to fight against free radicals and guard the healthy cells of the body. It is active throughout the body, and is especially effective when taken in conjunction with vitamin E. Additionally, vitamin C is a building block for collagen (connective tissue), supports healthy immune function, and is essential for synthesizing compounds involved in the energy-producing pathways of the body.

Vitamin D -- It plays a key role in the proper absorption of calcium for strong bones and teeth, and some research suggests vitamin D may support colon, breast, prostate, ovarian, heart and colorectal health. It's needed to help muscles move, help support healthy nerve function and supports a healthy immune system.

For most people, sunlight is the most common source of vitamin D because they eat few foods that naturally contain it, such as cod liver oil, oily fish (salmon, herring, and sardines in oil), egg yolks and fortified milk. However, where you live may affect the amount of sunshine you receive, especially in winter, and therefore, sun exposure alone is not adequate.

The current recommendation for vitamin D is 600 IU a day. Some scientists and vitamin D researchers are now recommending having your blood level checked and possibly increasing daily consumption to 1,000 IU or more per day. In addition to fortified foods, such as yogurt, cereals, milk and orange juice, and exposure to sunlight, supplements are an effective way of improving levels of vitamin D.

Vitamin E -- This is a fat-soluble nutrient that helps protect the heart and helps protect body tissues from free radical attack. Vitamin E and vitamin C work as a strong antioxidant team, and taking them together enhances their effectiveness. It's found naturally in nuts and vegetable oils.

Before taking any dietary supplement, read the label instructions. Talk to your health care provider if you have any questions, particularly about the best dosage for you to take. If you experience any side effects that concern you, stop taking it, and contact your health care provider. Learn more about vitamins and your health at www.naturemade.com.

Choosing Supplements
When choosing a supplement, it's important that you keep these things in mind:

  • Talk to your physician or pharmacist. Talk to a health care professional about supplements, including dosage values for your individual needs.

  • Look for the USP Verified Dietary Supplement mark. Seek brands that participate in third-party verification programs with organizations such as the United States Pharmacopeia (USP).

  • Think twice about chasing the latest headline. Sound health advice is generally based on research over time, not a single study. Consider vitamins and minerals for overall health, and be wary of results claiming a quick fix or one study suggesting a certain result.

  • Do your research. There are a number of resources available. Visit FamilyDoctor.org for credible, physician-reviewed information on health and wellness topics, including the role vitamins and supplements can play in a healthy, active and balanced lifestyle.

  • Read the label and follow dosage instructions carefully. Follow the dosage instructions on the label. Look for any warning statements such as combining certain supplements with prescriptions or over-the-counter medicines. Be wary of claims that seem too good to be true.

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