ABC's of Vitamins and Supplements

Do you need vitamins and supplements if you eat well and are healthy? In an ideal world, we’d all eat a nutritionally balanced diet, minimize the stress in our lives, exercise regularly and enjoy plenty of sleep. But in the real world, this often proves difficult. When you are stressed or sleep-deprived, your immune system can suffer, increasing your susceptibility to illness. If it’s not possible to eat  a healthy diet that provides the vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and key nutrients you need, you may want to add a supplement.

It’s easy to remember important vitamins by thinking of your ABCs. Here are the benefits from A to E:

Vitamin A

Vitamin A maintains bones, teeth, skin and vision and supports a healthy immune system. Food sources include liver, dairy products and fish, but did you know that the body converts carotenoids into vitamin A? Carotenoids are found in quantities of dark green, yellow, orange and red vegetables and fruit.

Vitamin B

Important B vitamins include thiamine (B1), niacin (B3), riboflavin (B2), folate, B6 and B12. They work to make red blood cells, keep the nervous system healthy and help the body use energy from food. B-vitamins are found in all four food groups, so eat a variety of foods from Canada’s Food Guide.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is important to grow and repair bones, teeth, skin and other tissues. Well known for its antioxidant properties, Vitamin C also helps prevent cell damage and support immune health. Vegetables and fruit are the best sources of vitamin C.

Vitamin D

It’s important to get enough vitamin D because it helps the body absorb and use calcium and phosphorus, promoting strong bones and teeth. It also can help protect against infections by keeping your immune system healthy. Food sources of vitamin D include milk, yogurt, eggs and fish.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is an important antioxidant that helps support healthy immune functions and protect against cell damage. Vitamin E is found in foods that contain healthy fats like nuts, seeds and cold-pressed vegetable oils, and in green leafy vegetables and fortified cereals.

When food alone cannot provide the vitamins and mineral you need, it’s important to choose a supplement that is right for you. 

To help find the right vitamins and supplements, Christine Yu, a Shoppers Drug Mart Pharmacist, recommends using the online vitamin finder from Shoppers Drug Mart/Pharmaprix to search for products that support specific health concerns or conditions. Your pharmacist can answer questions about vitamins and supplements and check to see if they interact with other medications.

Visit the Shoppers Drug Mart website today to check out the Life Brand Vitamin Finder.


This article originally appeared in the spring 2014 edition of Sage.