Growing up, you always popped a Flintstones vitamin with breakfast (and you may have your kids do the same today). Yet, when it comes to your adult vitamin regimen, you just can't seem to stick to it, and you are not alone.
According to a recent survey released by the National Women's Health Resource Center (NWHRC), while the majority of Americans believe they are knowledgeable about multivitamins (67 percent), many do not know which vitamins and minerals are essential for the body or which specific functions in the body they aid. Case in point: Forty-four percent of respondents identified arsenic as an essential nutrient – it is actually a poison!.
"When it comes to ensuring people get the vitamins and minerals they need in their daily diet, we were concerned by their lack of knowledge," says Elizabeth Battaglino Cahill, RN, Executive Vice President of NWHRC. "For women, the concern is even greater," she adds, "since they often take the role of promoting the health of the entire family." "People should know what nutrients their bodies need so they can make informed health decisions," agrees Pamela Peeke, M.D, NWHRC medical advisor and nutrition expert.
Lesson 1: You bought it, now take it. A multivitamin each day can promote and maintain good health. Especially for women of childbearing age, the American Academy of Family Physicians recommends taking a multivitamin containing folic acid, a nutrient key in preventing birth defects, such as spina bifida.
Lesson 2: Don't overdo it. Doubling up on vitamins will not make you immune to sickness, and too much of certain minerals and vitamins can negatively affect your health and even cause serious problems. To be safe and avoid potential toxicity, stick with recommended doses.
Lesson 3: Keep doctors in the know. Besides discussing proper dosages on vitamin supplements, it's important to ask your doctor if your vitamins might interact with any prescription medicines you are taking.
Lesson 4: Eat right. While vitamins can help promote good health, most nutrition experts agree that the majority of your nutrients should come from a balanced diet, so eat a variety of healthy foods (colorful fruits and veggies, whole grains, lean protein, and dairy). Multivitamins and other supplements simply fill in the gaps.
Lesson 5: Remember the big three. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), three of the most essential vitamins and minerals for women include calcium plus vitamin D (to promote bone health); folic acid (for those trying to or who may get pregnant); and iron (for building blood and carrying oxygen). Ask your doctor if he or she recommends taking any or all of these supplements in addition to a multivitamin.
Vitamin 101 courtesy of the National Womens's Health Resource Center's website for women's health information. www.HealthyWomen.org
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