What are vitamins and minerals?
Vitamins are natural organic compounds that are needed in order to support normal physiological processes within our body.
There are 13 essential vitamins needed in small amounts to carry out normal daily functions.
They are essential because our body simply can't produce enough vitamins in sufficient quantities to support cellular demand.
That is why it is crucial we get those vitamins from our diet. Vitamins are generally classified as either fat-soluble or water-soluble.
The 13 essential vitamins are A, C, D, E, K, and the B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and folate).
Minerals are inorganic compounds that are necessary, like vitamins, for the body to carry out normal physiological functions.
Minerals are much simpler in chemical form and are relatively more stable compared to vitamins, which can be destroyed from exposure to heat, chemical reactions or even sunlight.
There are essential minerals that our body needs as well through our diet, and they are generally classified as macro-minerals or micro-minerals, depending on the amount needed. Some essential minerals include calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, zinc and iodine.
Not a replacement
Why use a multivitamin mineral supplement?
First and foremost, a multivitamin/mineral supplement is not a replacement for a proper diet.
Supplements are only necessary to ensure adequate intake of essential vitamins and minerals that are not acquired through diet alone.
Always consult your physician, as overdosing on certain vitamins and minerals can lead to toxicity, which can cause havoc on your body.
Your goal should always be to get your essential nutrients from your diet. A healthy diet should be rich in vegetables and fruits. However, sometimes you will not be able to get all the nutrients from food alone.
Inadequate nutrient intake may arise from sickness; stress (including stress from exercising); poor quality of fruits and vegetables (due to poor nutrients in soil and environment grown); or you just can't eat enough (veggies, especially, are quite filling).
Situations like these may require supplementation. If you are going to supplement, make sure the multivitamin/mineral supplement is derived from whole food sources; that it contains natural forms of vitamins instead of synthetic form, like in the case of vitamin E.
This is so that it falls within the recommended nutritional dosage, and if it doesn't, that the dosage is not anywhere near toxic levels.
Fish oils are oil from fish, and a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. It is particularly rich in EPA and DHA, which are forms of omega-3 fatty acids.
They are important for cardiovascular and brain/nervous system health. Like vitamins/minerals, deficiencies in omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to certain health problems such as memory loss.
Our cell membrane is made up of a phospholipid bilayer. Fats, especially omega-3, help maintain the integrity of that membrane, which leads to better transfer of nutrients into and out of the cell.
If you have a poor cell membrane it will be more difficult to transport nutrients across the cell.
It's easier to get omega-6 fats because generally they are in the plants and animals we eat.
Food such as various types of plant oils, meats and processed food contain omega 6 fatty acids.
The major problem of our current diet is that we eat way too much omega-6 in comparison to omega-3.
If your diet includes lots of meat, processed food (think corn beef), and fast food, then you are probably ingesting way more omega-6 fats than you need.
Like anything in life, there has to be balance.
Fish over meat
I'm a big advocate of getting most if not all nutrients from food.
Eating about one to two fish servings per week (113 g or 4 oz = 1 serving size) is what most health experts recommend.
However, eating more servings is perfectly fine especially as a protein source. It is a great idea to substitute fish for meats because fish generally have less saturated fat and fewer calories per serving when comparing to meat.
If you are unable to get enough omega-3s from your diet, supplementation may be a viable option.
However, always consult your physician before starting any fish oil supplements.
I prefer taking the liquid form compared to the capsule form because it's quick and easy. If you want to avoid the fishy taste of the liquid version, capsules are great options as well.
You may need to take more than one capsule, though, to get the proper amount.
Research studies have found that positive effects of omega-3 supplementation used dosages of 5 g or more. But do follow the instructions on the label.
The author, a Filipino-American coach, is the founder and president of No BS Fitness Solutions LLC, a New York City-based fitness consulting company.