With literally hundreds of vitamins and supplements available on the market, deciding which ones to take can be overwhelming. “vitamins play background roles in our bodies,” says Kate Patton, MEd, RD, CCSD, LD. “We need vitamins to break down macronutrients like carbohydrates, fat and protein and help the body function. People might take supplements if they know they’re missing a certain food group. Others might take supplements for the antioxidant benefits or because they know they don “Don’t eat fruits and vegetables. Some people may have a true deficiency.” Here are five vitamins crucial to your health, according to experts; be sure to talk to your doctor before starting any. And to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is an essential nutrient. “Vitamin C helps protect your cells from the damage of free radicals,” says patton. “It’s also used to help make collagen in your bodies. If you’re trying to maximize your iron absorption, having more vitamin C is beneficial.”
Zinc is important for immune health and wound healing, experts say. “Zinc’s role in wound healing is multifactorial, and it is required for collagen and protein synthesis, cell proliferation, and immune function, all of which are essential for tissue regeneration and repair,” says Jennifer Sallit, RD, PhD. “Zinc is required for antibody production and proper functioning of lymphocytes and plays a key role in several steps of the blood clotting process. Zinc stimulates the activity of more than 100 enzymes and, in the proliferative and remodeling phases of wound healing, is necessary for achieving membrane stability and the maturation of collagen.”
Vitamin B12 is usually found in animal products such as dairy, meat, and fish. “For vegetarians and vegans — you may be more at risk for having too little B12 in your diet,” says dietitian Mirallic, RD, LD. “Fortified foods can be good sources. Just make sure to avoid the sugary stuff.”
If you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, a good prenatal vitamin is important for the health of both you and your baby. “All of the nutrients and vitamins a pregnant woman takes in will go to the baby first,” says clinical pharmacy specialist Morgan King. “The baby needs that nutrition to grow. When an Ob/Gyn looks at dating a pregnancy, they typically start from the patient’s last menstrual period. That means when you find out you’re pregnant, you could be four to six weeks along in your pregnancy already. Major development happens in the first trimester, those first 12 weeks. The spinal cord and brain are developing so those vitamins help with that. While it’s certainly best to start taking them as soon as possible, the baby is developing and growing during the entire pregnancy.”
Iron supplements are especially important for non-meat eaters and those prone to anemia. “For anybody who is vegetarian or vegan, they’re at risk for having an iron deficiency,” says patton. “While there are a lot of plant-based sources of iron, you just don’t absorb it as well. The amount of fiber in a vegetarian or vegan diet can block iron.” NOTE: Before taking any vitamins or supplements, discuss with your doctor.
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more