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Getting Your Vitamins – From Your Plate or your Pill?

Taking a vitamin pill as a part of the daily routine is quite common today. Whether they are a part of weight loss programs or for good hair or eyes – the market is flooded with different varieties to suit one’s purpose. But are they necessary? Does one really need all these supplements?

Our body requires vitamins for its growth and development. Vitamins help to boost immunity, strengthen the bones, heal wounds, improve eyesight, keep skin healthy, etc. Vitamins also play important roles in bodily functions such as metabolism and digestion. Inadequate intake of vitamins makes you feel lethargic, susceptible to infections and other complications. Where do we get the vitamins from? A well-stocked pantry with real foods sufficiently provides the necessary vitamins. So, how about a vitamin pill? Most people today vote for the vitamin pill considering that they have an essential role to play in our bodies. But do the vitamins from the pill match the biologically active compounds coming from natural foods?

It is possible to get your daily requirement of vitamins through the food on your plate instead of medicines from the drug store. The vitamins that you get from food also provides an abundance of other nutrients and fibre that the pills or medicines lack. The best way once can fulfil their requirement of vitamins is by eating a healthy and balanced diet. Multivitamin pills or medicines seem easy to take and give you some benefit but they are in a synthetic form and not in the natural form. Also, there is little or no evidence saying that the supplements that one takes can actually improve health. So, which are the vitamins that our body needs on a regular basis to maintain good health?

VITAMIN A

Vitamin A promotes growth and development, improves the eyesight, promotes immune system health, plays a role in reproduction and also helps in developing healthy hair, nails and skin. However, over-consumption of this vitamin can be toxic.

Food Sources: Green leafy vegetables, green and yellow-orange vegetables such as broccoli, carrot, sweet potatoes, red pumpkin, and bell peppers, yellow-orange fruits like mango, cantaloupe, apricots etc. It is also found in non-vegetarian foods like meat, fish, eggs, chicken etc.

VITAMIN E

Vitamin E is an antioxidant. It protects your cells from damage. It also helps in building up strong immunity and keeps skin and eyes healthy. High doses of this vitamin can cause serious side effects.

Food Sources: Green leafy vegetables like spinach, broccoli and kale, nuts & oilseeds such as almonds, walnuts, peanuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds etc.

VITAMIN D

One of the main roles of Vitamin D is boosting calcium absorption. A vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteoporosis and has been linked to certain cancers, might lead to type 1 diabetes, and other chronic illnesses. It also has a role to play in your immune system.

Food Sources: Little amount of vitamin D is found in fatty fish like tuna, salmon etc, cheese and egg yolk also provide some vitamin D. However, the major source of vitamin D is sunlight as the body produces its own when exposed to sunlight.

VITAMIN K

Vitamin K seems to play a role in bone health according to some studies. Vitamin K plays a key role in blood clotting.

Food Sources: Dark green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, mustard greens, lettuce, vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. Non-vegetarian foods like fish, liver, meat and eggs contain in small amounts.

VITAMIN C

Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps in maintaining a healthy immune system and also protects the cells from oxidative damage. It is also important as it helps in the absorption of iron. Maintaining cartilage, bones and teeth and wound healing are some important functions that this vitamin also plays.

Food Sources: Citrus fruits like orange, strawberries, guava, kiwi, pineapple and mango etc. vegetables like bell pepper (red and green), broccoli, leafy green vegetables like spinach, cabbage, etc.

B Vitamins

B vitamins are a group of vitamins like thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, folic acid and pantothenic acid. These vitamins are essential for converting our food into fuel. Besides this, they also promote healthy skin and hair, etc.

Food Sources: Milk, cheese, eggs, liver, meat, chicken, fish such as tuna, mackerel, salmon, shellfish such as oysters and clams, dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, vegetables like beetroot, potatoes, and avocados, fruits such as all the citrus fruits, banana and watermelon, cereals and whole grains, beans such as kidney beans, black beans and chickpeas, nuts and seeds, etc.

DO VITAMINS HELP IN WEIGHT LOSS?

Thyroid hormones in our body regulate how our body cells use energy, which affects our metabolism. Vitamin A plays an important role in thyroid hormone regulation and insufficient intake of vitamin A is associated with reduced levels of thyroid hormones which may cause parts of your body to slow down and decrease your metabolism. Eating enough of vitamin A rich foods will help to keep your metabolism good. According to a study people who are overweight or obese tend to have lower levels of vitamin C. This study that was published in Journal of the American College of Nutrition said that increasing your intake of vitamin C may help you to burn up to 30 per cent more fat during moderate-intensity exercises, such as a brisk walk. B – Vitamins help to control appetite and keep up the energy levels which may help in weight loss.

IMPORTANCE OF VITAMINS IN SPORTS

The training intensity of the athletes leads to damage of the connective tissues. Vitamin C is important for the repair of connective tissue. Vitamin C, vitamin A and vitamin E are important antioxidants; they may help to reverse some of the oxidative damage that can occur from exercise. This oxidative damage caused by free radicals may interfere with the cells’ ability to function normally and is believed to play a role in many different health conditions, including the ageing process, cancer, and heart disease. Physically active people who have a poor nutritional status for B vitamins may have decreased the ability to perform exercise at higher intensities. This is because the B vitamins help in extracting energy from food. Vitamin D deficiency in sportspersons can lead to stress fractures and musculoskeletal pain.

Currently, there are no scientifically backed studies stating that pills are a better option for real foods with reference to vitamins for good health. Most people get their daily dose of vitamins from a balanced diet without the need for a pill. However, there is a class of people that benefits immensely from the vitamin pill. For example ageing people, people who may be undergoing a surgery, pregnant women, etc.

Dietitians in Mumbai can help you chalk out a healthy food plan that takes care of the vitamins in your diet. The weight loss programs they provide include food plans that help cover most of the vitamins in the diet. Supplements are not a way of life even for those in active sports hence, a sports nutritionist is always available to counsel the budding and elite sportspersons on the importance of getting the vitamins from the food and not supplements.


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