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Daily Dose

Multivitamins may not be the answer – but these six supplements are…

By Karen Kwan

Is taking a daily multivitamin one of your healthy habits? In fact, it’s far better to try to get your vitamins and minerals from food sources, and there is research indicating that multivitamins may not be doing much for your overall health. When it comes to taking supplements, focus on specific ones recommended by health experts. These six are a solid foundation for supplementation.

A huge number of Canadians (as much as 87 per cent of adult women!) do not get enough calcium in our diets. This mineral is essential for maintaining strong bones and teeth, and it becomes even more important to get enough calcium once we start to lose bone density as we age. Adults need 1,000 mg daily; those over age 50 should get 1,200 mg daily. Prioritize consuming food sources of calcium, but a calcium supplement is a smart way to ensure you’re getting enough daily.

Vitamin D
Vitamin D helps your body to absorb calcium and keep your bones strong. It can be difficult to consume in adequate quantities from food sources, so supplementing is a smart move. Although your body does synthesize vitamin D when exposed to sunshine, don’t forget that you should minimize your sun exposure. Healthy adults between the ages of 19 and 50 need 400-1000 IU a day, according to Osteoporosis Canada.

If you consume red meat regularly, you likely get enough iron in your diet, but if you’re on a restricted diet (or if your iron levels are being impacted by other factors such as being pregnant or menstruating), pay attention to your iron levels. Iron contributes to your body producing hemoglobin, which is the part of the red blood cells that brings oxygen through your body. Men and post-menopausal women need 8 mg a day, while pre-menopausal women should get 18 mg daily.

Vitamin B12 works on the health of your brain and nerves, and also on synthesizing DNA and red blood cells. It’s a water-soluble nutrient that’s found in many animal proteins. Although many of us meet our needs through diet, some health conditions (including celiac disease, Grave’s disease and Crohn’s) are linked to deficiencies of this vitamin. Also, if you’re on a vegan diet, you’re not consuming popular sources of B12, such as eggs, dairy, meat and fish. HealthLink BC recommends 2.4 mcg daily of vitamin B12 if you’re aged 14-70.

Magnesium is important for bone health, energy levels and sleep, and adults often don’t consume enough of this essential nutrient in their diet. Check what your multivitamin provides in terms of magnesium; if you’re taking it as a standalone supplement, the US National Institutes of Health recommends 310-320 mg for women daily, and 400-420 for men.

You hear a lot about vitamin C when it comes to the common cold, but there’s little research that shows its benefits at helping you when you’re sneezing and congested. Zinc, on the other hand, has been found in studies to help shorten the duration of your cold. Start taking zinc as soon as you feel the sniffles coming on, and you can look forward both to being sick for less time and having less severe symptoms. The recommended daily allowance for zinc is 8 mg.

KAREN KWAN is a freelance health, travel and lifestyle writer based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter at @healthswellness and on Instagram at @healthandswellness.

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