Health A to Z

Vitamins

Vitamins are substances the body needs for growth and maintaining good health.

Vitamins supplements and the benefits

They include vitamins A, C, D, E and the B vitamins, including vitamin B6 and folate (folic acid) — to name just a few. Eating a healthy, balanced diet with a variety of foods can provide a person with all of the vitamins they need to remain healthy. If you don’t get adequate amounts of vitamins from your diet, you may need to take a vitamin supplement, such as a multivitamin.

Depending on your diet, your lifestyle and your stage of life, you may want to consider these supplements:

Iron A person who is anemic, a vegetarian or does not eat much meat, may need an iron supplement. An iron deficiency limits oxygen delivery to the cells, which can result in fatigue and a weakened immune system. Adult women need 18mg of iron daily.

Vitamin D A vitamin D supplement may be necessary if a person drinks less than two cups of milk or a fortified soy beverage daily and does not spend much time in the sun. Vitamin D helps the body utilize calcium and phosphorous to build and maintain strong teeth and bones. Health Canada recommends 200IU of vitamin D for adults under 50 and 400IU for adults over 50. However, due to the growing evidence suggesting vitamin D may help prevent certain cancers, such as breast cancer and colorectal cancers, the Canadian Cancer Society recommends taking a 1,000 IU supplement of vitamin D daily during fall and winter.

Folic acid If a woman is sexually active and considering a pregnancy, the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada recommends eating a diet rich in folate, from foods like spinach, and taking a daily supplement of 0.4 mg to 1.0 mg at least two to three months before conceiving, during pregnancy and while breastfeeding to prevent neural tube defects.

Calcium Calcium supplements may be necessary for maintaining healthy bones. (Calcium also appears to help relieve some PMS symptoms.) Adult women need 1,000 mg of calcium daily (1,200 mg over age 50) from food and beverages or supplements, such as calcium carbonate or calcium citrate.

More info from Chatelaine
The must-take supplements to improve your health
Six tips to get the most out of your vitamins
Health benefits of vitamin D

Outside resources
Eat Right Ontario
Osteoporosis Canada
Public Health Agency of Canada