People have been supplementing their diets with vitamins for a while now, but which are the key vitamins for a healthy life and do you really need to take them all in pill form?
Mg – Magnesium – Magnesium is used by the body for the production of fats and proteins. It is also plays a role in the contraction and relaxation of muscle tissue. Symptoms of low Mg include cramps and muscle spasms. Luckily Mg is easy to come by if you eat properly – it can be found in whole grains, fish, bananas, pulses, nuts, seeds and most abundantly in dark leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale.
Vitamin D – Highly touted as one of the most important vitamins, but rarely explained why. Vitamin D is produced in the skin as a result of exposure to direct sunlight. It plays a role in immune function, muscle function and cellular growth by helping cells absorb calcium. Research has also linked with a deficiency of this vitamin with obesity, increased stress fractures in bones and lower strength. Other symptoms include depression, aching bones, digestive problems and headaches. Vitamin D can be found in cod liver oil, salmon, mushrooms, dairy products and eggs – but the main source is the sun. Depending on the climate you live in it might be worth looking at supplementing daily.
Ca – Calcium – Famous for strengthening bones but also key to blood clot prevention, nerve-signal transmission and muscle contraction. Symptoms include brittle nails, low appetite, insomnia, lethargy, tooth decay and the onset of arthritis. You shouldn’t need to supplement with Ca, it can be found in many foods – dairy, leafy vegetables, beans, fruit and meat. A small glass of milk provides about 300mg of your 1000mg recommended daily intake.
K – Potassium – Required for the production of enzymes used to break down carbohydrates – low Potassium can mean lack of energy. K is also used by the body to maintain pH balance and hearth health. Other symptoms include regular cramps, long lasting thirst and numbness in the muscles. Potassium if readily available in white beans, dark green vegetables, baked potatoes, dried apricots, yogurt, oily fish, avocados and bananas.
I – Iodine – Iodine is not something that many people would think of being key to their diet, but it’s main function in the body is the production of the hormone thyroxine, which is needed to convert food to energy and maintaining an active metabolism – a lack of iodine means the speed at which your cells are able to use energy is diminished. A deficiency of I can cause constipation, depression, weight gain, and weakness. This element can be found most readily in seafood, but also eggs, milk, yogurt and strawberries.
If you are going to take something like a multi-vitamin, look for these nutrients on the label.