Why Are Vitamins Good for Our Health

When it comes to obtaining the micronutrients your body needs, your best possible source is food, especially fruits and vegetables. But circumstances may prevent you from eating optimally every day. The main reason I take supplements is for insurance against gaps in my diet. Also, researchers are finding that some important vitamins (D and E particularly) and minerals are protective against disease in amounts that may be difficult to obtain through diet alone, no matter how conscientious you are. This is another reason I take supplements faithfully and encourage my patients to do so as well.

I recommend a comprehensive antioxidant and multivitamin for women and men as the basic foundation for nutritional insurance. My recommended daily antioxidant regimen includes 200 mg of vitamin C, 400 to 800 IU of natural vitamin E (or 80 mg of mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols), 200 mcg of selenium, 15,000 to 20,000 IU of mixed carotenoids, and 30 to 100 mg of coenzyme Q10.

Supplementation to cover dietary gaps is only one aspect of optimum health, which also includes the following lifestyle approaches:

Be active
For optimum health, I recommend walking every day.

Eat a diet rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids
Vegetables and fruits are the best sources of antioxidants, although tea and dark chocolate contribute as well. Cold-water fish, freshly ground flaxseed and walnuts all provide omega-3 fatty acids.

Do not smoke and avoid secondhand smoke
Smoking is the single greatest cause of preventable major illness. The best defense against the harmful effects of tobacco is to never use it.

De-stress
Practice breathing exercises and explore other relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation to find ones that work for you.

Question and answer
Q. What is the optimum time of day to take vitamin and mineral supplements? Are there certain foods that interfere with absorption?

A. There are no rules about the best time of day to take supplements. My advice is to take them when they agree with you most. Many people find taking pills of any kind as part of a morning routine makes it easier to remember, so taking them with breakfast is a popular option. Vitamin and mineral supplements can cause nausea, heartburn, and other gastric disturbances, especially when taken on an empty stomach. For best absorption and the least irritation to the stomach, I generally suggest taking your supplements with a meal containing fat. This is particularly important for the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D and E). Experiment with taking your supplements with lunch or dinner if they cause you problems with breakfast.

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