Snow is falling, Christmas carols are on the radio and lights are twinkling. What is on the top of everyone’s mind? Vitamins, of course!
Maybe Santa isn’t putting Vitamins in your stocking, but as the weather gets colder (oh hey, -6 degrees, Chicago) it is more important than ever to put good things in your body to stay strong, healthy and happy during the holiday season. As someone in her late twenties I am slowly trying to have a more “adult” diet and with that comes not just more vegetables, but a better understanding of what I really am putting into my body and how that impacts my well-being. As a start I looked into four essential Vitamins present on the nutrition facts label to break down what they do for us, how best to get them and how much we really need.
You may hear that Vitamin A is good for your skin and bones, and that is because it often acts as an antioxidant, which fights cell damage in your body. The type of Vitamin A that many people are most familiar with is preformed vitamin A, commonly known as retinol. Yep, those creams people stock up on to reduce fine lines and unclog pores are a form of vitamin A that are found in animal products like eggs, cheese and meat. Can’t eat dairy or meat? Vitamin A is highest in fish oil, a popular supplement that is available at most grocery stores. The second type of vitamin A comes from leafy greens and veggies and will also convert to beneficial retinol. If you have a colorful diet, you probably don’t need a vitamin A supplement as most people reach the required 700 micrograms for women and 900 micrograms for men. As a reference, just one red bell pepper gives you all of the vitamin A you need for the day – have a colorful diet and eggs for breakfast and your skin and eyes will thank you!
There are actually eight B vitamins that help to keep our bodies running efficiently and stay energized all day. If you’ve heard of Folic Acid, a common supplement, it’s actually a form of water-soluble vitamin B. Gaining popularity in the late 90’s, folic acid is commonly added to a lot of processed foods, such as cereals and energy bars. It is best to consume it in a well-rounded diet, as it’s found in natural food such as spinach, broccoli, beans, fruit and much more.
With Emergen-C and other vitamin brands marketing this as your best bet for preventing illness before long flights, finals or flu season, the importance of vitamin C is no secret. Though vitamin C may not actually be the cure for the common cold, it does protect against cardiovascular disease and eye disease as well as improving overall health. Most commonly found in citrus fruits, vitamin C can also be sourced from bell peppers, leafy greens and berries. Though a large majority of the population does not consume the minimum amount of suggested vitamin C each day, with a little effort it is easy to get all you need without reaching for a supplement. One cup of cantaloupe, ½ cup of green pepper or one medium kiwi would all get you to that suggested serving of 500 milligrams.
Last but certainly not least, vitamin D is extremely important to have in the diet of those in their 20’s and 30’s. Vitamin D is imperative to the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, which maintains healthy bones and teeth. When we get older our bones start to deteriorate, and if we don’t have strong enough bones to begin with it can cause osteoporosis. Fragile bones keeps us from doing fun things like running, hiking or biking because of the increased risk of fractures to the hip, spine and wrists. Most milk and yogurt are fortified with vitamin D, whether it’s the whole, skim or even lactose-free variety. Eating foods that contain vitamin D is especially important in the wintertime when we may not get the 10-15 minutes of sunshine that could provide us with this vital nutrient.
Knowing the role of the main vitamins can help you keep an eye on your diet and make sure that you’re giving your body everything is needs. Pay attention to how you feel and adjust or maintain accordingly – and remember everything in moderation!