Despite our best intentions to eat a healthy and balanced diet, we can still fall short of meeting all our daily nutritional needs. Although the best way to obtain the necessary nutrients is from food, taking vitamins and supplements can be an effective way to correct or prevent any nutritional deficiencies.

Since everyone’s vitamin needs are different, it is a good idea to talk to your health practitioner, registered dietitian or pharmacist to decide which vitamins and supplement products you may need. Moreover, your doctor and pharmacist can tell you which of them could potentially interact with any of your medications and cause undesirable side effects. Still, navigating the vitamin and supplement aisle at your local pharmacy or health food shop can feel like an obstacle course. In this article, we will discuss some important benefits and recommended daily amounts for vitamins, minerals and nutritional supplements that can help you maintain good health.

  1. Calcium

Calcium is an essential nutrient that is necessary for bone growth and many other functions in the human body. The recommended daily amount of calcium is 1000 mg for men and women aged 19 to 51 years. For women age 51 years and older and for men older than 70 years, the recommended daily amount is 1200 mg per day. This mineral has many benefits, including helping to maintain strong bones and teeth, maintaining healthy blood pressure, improving muscle function and helping the body maintain healthy hormone secretion. Dairy products such as cheese, milk and yogurt are good sources of calcium. Plant-based calcium sources include spinach, soy and tofu.

  1. Iron

Iron is an essential mineral that is needed to make hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein of red blood cells that supply oxygen to the body’s tissues. Not consuming enough iron in your diet can cause iron-deficiency anemia, a condition in which red blood cells cannot synthesize enough hemoglobin, causing fatigue and shortness of breath. The recommended daily intake of iron for men and women is between 8-18 mg. Health benefits of iron include improved immune and brain function, improved ability to concentrate and reduced fatigue. Best nutritional sources of iron include red meat, legumes, and leafy green vegetables.

3. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is an essential fat-soluble vitamin that works to increase intestinal absorption of other essential minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, and phosphate, and regulates other important processes in the body. Vitamin D can be synthesized in the skin via a chemical reaction that is dependent on ultraviolet (UV) light exposure. Vitamin D can regulate immune and nervous system function, help to maintain good bone health, and regulate blood levels of phosphorous and calcium. The recommended daily intake of calcium for children and adults is 15 mcg, which is increased to 20 mcg for individuals over the age of 70 years. Aside from UV light, good sources of vitamin D include fatty fish, cod liver oil, fortified orange juice and cereals.

4. Vitamin C

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is an essential nutrient important for tissue repair and synthesis of certain chemical messengers in the body. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin containing antioxidants that have many important health benefits, including prevention of colds, maintaining healthy tissues of skin and teeth, with recent research showing it may help to prevent strokes. The recommended daily intake of vitamin C for men is 90 mg and 75 mg for women, and it can be found in many fruits and vegetables, such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, bell peppers and leafy green vegetables.

  1. B Vitamins

B vitamins are a class of water-soluble vitamins, and dietary supplements containing all eight are referred to as a vitamin B complex. Although many foods, such as cereals, bread, flour and pasta, are fortified with B vitamins, many Canadians do not get their recommended daily amount. B vitamins are important for red blood cell synthesis, maintaining a healthy nervous system, reducing the risk of heart disease and heart attack, and maintaining the body’s metabolic processes. Good sources of B vitamins include animal proteins such as meat and dairy, leafy green vegetables and whole grains.