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The Only Vitamin Supplement Resource You’ll Ever Need

Health trends tend to come and go, and occasionally things that were once deemed a “superfood” suddenly become anything but (looking at you, eggs). However, one thing has withstood the test of time in the health and fitness industry, and that alone is something to marvel at. We’re talking, of course, about the emphasis placed on vitamins and minerals.

We all know that choosing nutrient-dense, whole foods is the best way to eat, but why? It’s because these are the foods that contain a wide variety of the micronutrients critical to the body’s many cellular functions that keep us healthy and thriving. So, what happens if you aren’t totally confident that you’re getting all those vitamins and minerals every day? There are, after all, too many to keep track of.

In that case, many people suggest a multivitamin or vitamin supplements to cover all your bases. But what about that doctor that one time told you that multivitamins are just creating expensive urine, and who knows what’s really in those vitamin supplements anyway? Well, hello – hi, there! We do!

We’re Supplement Superstore, Canada’s friendly neighborhood supplement experts. We want to give you all the information (and probably more) that you could ever want about vitamins, vitamin supplements, and multivitamins. 

This way, you’ll have the tools to:

  • feel comfortable selecting a multivitamin or vitamin supplement
  • understand what different vitamins do in your body and where you can get them
  • gain confidence in your decision regarding using a vitamin supplement (or not)

So, let’s dive in.

What are Micronutrients?

While macronutrients (fats, carbohydrates, and proteins) are types of food required in large amounts for healthy bodily functions, micronutrient is the term used to describe nutrients necessary to survival in tiny (hence, “micro”) amounts. 

Micronutrients are divided into 2 categories:

  • vitamins
  • minerals

Each category of micronutrients is then divided into 2 subcategories:

  • water-soluble vitamins
  • fat-soluble vitamins
  • macro-minerals
  • trace minerals 

As with macros, micronutrients are necessary for the human body from the moment of conception until the end of life. Each micronutrient category has different roles within the body, and each individual vitamin and mineral has more specific jobs. In general, vitamins are involved in energy synthesis, immune functioning, blood health, etc. Minerals are involved with growth, bone health, bodily fluids, and more.

Almost all vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients, meaning the body cannot produce them independently and requires them to come from our food.

Vitamins

Vitamins are organic compounds found naturally in plants and animals. “Organic” here doesn’t refer to the label in the grocery store, but rather complex chemical compounds that include carbon-hydrogen bonds. These substances, by nature, can be dismantled with heat, air, or acid.

When we consume foods with various vitamins or vitamin supplements, our body absorbs them and puts them to work. There are two subcategories of vitamins, water-soluble and fat-soluble.

Water-Soluble Vitamins

Water-soluble refers to the group of vitamins that dissolves in water. These vitamins are not stored in the body. Instead, they’re filtered through the kidneys and flushed by the body through the urine when consumed in excess.

This factor is responsible for the “expensive urine” comment we mentioned earlier. While water-soluble vitamins are essential for many cellular functions, they cannot be stored. So, if you consume more than necessary, say in a multivitamin, your body simply removes the excess.

This factor is also why it’s vital to consume the water-soluble vitamins daily, as there is no reserve store for which the body can tap into when in need.

The following vitamins are water soluble:

  • vitamin B1 (thiamine)
  • vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
  • vitamin B3 (riboflavin)
  • vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)
  • vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
  • vitamin B7 (biotin)
  • vitamin B9 (folate)
  • vitamin B12 (cobalamin)
  • vitamin C (ascorbic acid)

Fat-Soluble Vitamins

Fat-soluble vitamins are those that do not dissolve in water. Consuming these vitamins with some dietary fat improves absorption, and after they’re consumed, the body shuffles and stores them in the liver and fatty tissues.

Unlike water-soluble vitamins, fat-soluble vitamins are less important to consume daily, but rather, consume enough to maintain ideal levels within the body.

This means the fat-soluble vitamin reserves can be tapped into when you go a day or two without consuming them. However, this factor also makes it easier to accidentally consume too much and experience adverse side effects from toxic levels. 

The following vitamins are fat soluble:

  • vitamin A
  • vitamin D
  • vitamin E
  • vitamin K 

Minerals

Unlike vitamins, minerals are inorganic substances found in soil and water and absorbed or consumed by plants and animals. The inorganic nature means they do not get broken down by acid, air, or heat as with vitamins.

When we consume plants and animals which have absorbed or consumed these minerals, our bodies then absorb and utilize the minerals. As with vitamins, there are two subcategories: macro-minerals and trace minerals. These categories refer not to the importance but to the amounts required by the body.

Macro-Minerals

The body requires larger amounts (relatively—they’re still micronutrients) of these minerals to carry out its functions.

These are the macro-minerals:

  • calcium
  • phosphorus
  • magnesium
  • sodium
  • chloride
  • potassium
  • sulfur

Trace Minerals

Trace minerals are needed in smaller (or trace) amounts, making them much easier to consume through food alone.

These are the trace minerals:

  • iron
  • copper
  • zinc
  • iodine
  • fluoride
  • selenium

What About Antioxidants?

Due to the buzz created by the health and fitness industry surrounding antioxidants and all their benefits, you might consider them a micronutrient and wonder why they aren’t on this list.

Thanks to their complex nature, antioxidants are slightly misunderstood by the general public. Essentially, the term “antioxidant,” commonly used as a noun, is rather misleading. The term is actually a verb—it’s a chemical property (mainly the ability to donate electrons and stabilize free radicals) possessed by some substances.

So instead of food substances being an antioxidant, the various vitamins, minerals, and other substances act as antioxidants in the body. There are lots of different substances that possess antioxidant properties and help protect the body from damaging free radicals. 

Some of the most well-known micronutrients that act as antioxidants are:

  • vitamin C
  • vitamin E
  • beta carotene
  • selenium
  • manganese

Another misconception about antioxidants is that all are the same and act interchangeably within the body to fight against free radicals. This isn’t true. Each substance has unique antioxidant behaviors with slightly different roles.

The advice to ensure you’re getting the necessary antioxidants is the same as consuming adequate micronutrients—consume a varied, nutrient-dense, and balanced diet daily. When that’s not sufficient, add vitamin supplements.

Our Background with Micronutrients, Multivitamins, and Vitamin Supplements

You might be interested to know that the term “vitamin” was not coined until 1912 by a biochemist named Casimir Funk. “Vita” means life, and “amine” refers to a substance required to sustain life.

By 1948, all vitamins had been discovered. The combined work of medical doctors, chemists, epidemiologists, and physiologists helped us reach our modern understanding of the micronutrients.

Years of combined work helped form the understanding that some diseases resulted from too little micronutrients in our diets, also known as deficiencies. After this discovery, chemists set out to identify and replicate the chemical structures of these vitamins and minerals, and by 1930 some vitamin supplements were made available for purchase. The first once-per-day multivitamin was brought to market in 1943.

These replicated micronutrients were also added to certain foods to prevent common deficiencies. So today, some foods like cow’s milk, juices, and cereals are fortified with things like calcium, vitamin D, and more.

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Why Are Micronutrients Important?

If micronutrients are critical to vital, daily cellular functions required to sustain life, it makes sense why micronutrients are important. However, true vitamin and mineral deficiencies and their resulting diseases or conditions are rare in developed countries. So, why are we still talking about them?

Well, because in developed countries, through the various phases of development, highly processed and convenient foods and fast-food restaurants have exploded in popularity, and along with it, obesity.

The problem with our shift from eating primarily whole foods to mainly processed foods is that by nature, the processes designed to sustain packaging, shelf-life, and convenience remove a lot of the vital nutrients at the same time. We’re then left with foods that have very few micronutrients while being rich in calories and refined carbohydrates that metabolize to sugar in the body.

Therefore, experts have found that malnutrition is common in the obese population. However, that’s not to say that only the overweight and obese population are at risk for malnutrition. It’s certainly possible to measure as “normal” or even “underweight” on the BMI scale and still suffer from micronutrient malnourishment resulting from consuming foods that don’t contain enough varied micronutrients. We all know that the BMI scale is not the most accurate way to measure health.

So, talking about and emphasizing micronutrients is still very important because getting them is not always the easiest or most convenient. The body without adequate micronutrients is a bit like a car without oil. The gas (food) makes the car go, but without oil (micronutrients), sooner or later, those parts will break down. That’s why so many people rely on the convenience of multivitamins and vitamins supplements.

With that said, let’s move on to the vitamins and minerals that are absolutely necessary to consume daily. Here we’ll discuss:

  • the roles and benefits of the vitamins
  • common sources
  • daily recommended values
  • upper limits 

This will give you a better idea of where you might lack and what vitamin supplements might benefit you.

Essential Vitamins for Humans: The Water-Soluble Vitamins

What follows are the vital vitamins that fall under the water-soluble category. The important thing to note about consuming water-soluble vitamins is that they are sensitive to heating, limiting how much of the vitamin can be used by the body. For this reason, it’s best to consume the fruits and vegetable sources raw when possible.

For this reason and more, many people find receiving the benefits of water-soluble vitamins to be best achieved through supplementation with multivitamins or one-off vitamin supplements.

Folate

Folate, also known as vitamin B9, is part of the B vitamin group. You might also see references to folic acid on vitamin supplements and multivitamins. Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate. 

You most often hear the importance of folate being emphasized regarding pregnancy, as folate plays a crucial role in the health and development of a fetus, especially in the early stages of conception. In fact, it’s so vital to this time frame that experts suggest ensuring you’re taking a folate vitamin supplement or a prenatal multivitamin if it’s even possible that you may become pregnant.

However, pregnancy is not the only time folate is necessary. It’s actually crucial for people young and old. It is involved in cell formation, growth, and functioning. In addition, it’s vital for red blood cell development. Excellent sources of vitamin B9 include:

  • green, leafy vegetables
  • fruits
  • beans
  • nuts
  • dairy
  • meat and seafood
  • whole grains 

Many processed, packaged foods are also enriched with folate, like cereals, bread, pasta, and flour. The recommended daily amount (RDA) to receive the benefits of folate is 400 µg/day for healthy adults. The upper limit is 1000 µg/day. 

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a vitamin that acts as a powerful antioxidant, among other things. Vitamin C is slightly misunderstood—it won’t prevent the common cold like you might have heard, but it does help to support immune function. 

In addition, vitamin C plays a critical role in collagen formation, which supports the health and appearance of skin, bones, muscles, and blood vessels.

Citrus fruits are great vitamin C sources, as are vitamin supplements, and the following foods: 

  • bell peppers
  • broccoli
  • tomatoes
  • kiwi
  • berries

The RDA for healthy adult men is 90 mg/day and 75 mg/day for women. However, some experts suggest a much higher 500 mg/day dose is beneficial, with the upper limit being 2000 mg/day.

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is involved with functions in the brain and nervous system. For example, it helps synthesize serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain and helps to form the protective myelin around nerves.

Vitamin B6 is one of the vitamins that, according to the Mayo Clinic, is commonly found to be deficient. Foods that are high in vitamin B6 include: 

  • legumes
  • starchy vegetables
  • dairy products
  • eggs
  • meat and seafood 

The RDA of vitamin B6 is 1.3 mg/day for both adult men and women. The upper limit is 100 mg.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is the last water-soluble vitamin that it’s important to ensure you get enough as your body requires it every day. One unique thing about this vitamin is that it can be stored in the liver. So, if a person stops consuming vitamin B12, it can take up to five years to exhaust the normal stores.

Vitamin B12 is plentiful in foods like:

  • seafood and meat
  • eggs
  • dairy

So, why is it on this list? If you don’t eat a lot of meat products or are a strict vegetarian or vegan, you are at risk for using more vitamin B12 than your body has stored. That’s why it’s important to be aware of and perhaps use a vitamin supplement or multivitamin that contains vitamin B12 to ensure you have enough to reap the benefits of this essential vitamin. 

The RDA of vitamin B12 is 2.4 µg/day for healthy adults with no upper limit.

Essential Vitamins for Humans: The Fat-Soluble Vitamins

Now, we’re onto the fat-soluble group of essential vitamins. With these vitamins, we’re less concerned with consuming raw fruits and vegetables than we are with consuming healthy fats in our diet. Fat-soluble vitamins are best absorbed when dietary fat is present.

In addition, we also must be more careful not to overdo these essential vitamins with vitamin supplements and multivitamins, as the excess is not flushed out via the urine and is instead stored within body fat tissues and have the potential to reach toxic levels. 

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is also known as the sunshine vitamin because our bodies can produce it when the sunshine combines with cholesterol in our skin. However, most people in Canada cannot produce sufficient levels through sunlight alone because of weather conditions. 

Vitamin D is one of the most influential vitamins for immune function, even more so than vitamin C. It’s also essential for calcium absorption and thus plays a role in bone and teeth health.

Unlike most other vitamins, the best way to receive the benefits of vitamin D is through supplementation with a vitamin supplement, multivitamin, or omega fatty acid supplement. Although, these foods do include a decent amount of vitamin D: 

  • fatty fish
  • beef liver
  • cheeses
  • egg yolks
  • mushrooms 

Some cereals and milk products are fortified with vitamin D as well. The daily recommended amount is 15 µg/day in healthy adults with an upper limit of 100 µg/day. 

Vitamin A

Like vitamin D, vitamin A also has important roles in immune function. In addition, it’s important for reproductive health, cell health, and vision health.

Its role in maintaining cellular health is vital to all organ systems, including the heart and lungs. Our bodies actually convert two different substances into vitamin A upon consumption: provitamin A and preformed vitamin A. 

Provitamin A is abundant in deeply coloured veggies like:

  • carrots
  • broccoli
  • squash

Preformed vitamin A is in things like:

  • dairy products
  • meat and seafood 

The RDA for vitamin A is 900 µg/day for healthy adult men and 700 µg/day for healthy adult women. The upper limit is 3000 µg/day. If you don’t consume much of the above-listed foods, multivitamins are often great sources of vitamin A, and you can also find stand-alone vitamin supplements.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E, like vitamin C, is another essential vitamin that acts as a powerful antioxidant, this being its main purpose. Along with the benefits of vitamin antioxidants, vitamin E is also crucial to immune function and heart health.

Vitamin E comes from foods like:

  • nuts
  • seeds
  • vegetable oils
  • leafy vegetables

Cereals are often fortified with vitamin E as well. The RDA is 15 mg/day with an upper limit of 1000 mg/day. Multivitamins and vitamin supplements are also a great way to get the benefits of vitamin E, but again, as a fat-soluble vitamin, it’s important not to consume too much. 

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Essential Minerals for Humans: Macro and Trace Minerals

Now that we’ve gone over the vitamins necessary to consume every day, let’s do the same for minerals. You can find out basic functions and ideal amounts to receive the benefits of these macro and trace minerals.

Calcium

Calcium is important to consume every day, and most people aren’t getting enough from their food. You likely know calcium is critical to strong bones, but it also plays a role in healthy blood, muscle, and nerve function. 

The body stores calcium in the bones, but 1% is in the blood and tissues. When the blood doesn’t have enough calcium, it pulls calcium directly from the bones, which can weaken the structural integrity.

For the benefits of calcium, healthy adults require 1000 mg/day with an upper limit of 2500 mg/day. Calcium is abundant in:

  • dairy products
  • leafy green vegetables
  • soy
  • fish

Remember that vitamin D is critical to the absorption of calcium. Additionally, as we will discuss further, a calcium supplement should be taken with a vitamin supplement of vitamin K2 as well.

Magnesium

Magnesium in the body helps with maintaining blood pressure and blood sugar levels. It also helps with muscle and nerve function. Foods that contain magnesium are:

  • whole grains
  • nuts
  • seeds
  • leafy vegetables 

Some foods like bottled water and cereal are fortified with magnesium, but we should be aware that our body only absorbs roughly 30 percent of the magnesium content from food. So, it’s easy to receive the benefits of magnesium with a multivitamin supplement. Healthy adult men need 420 mg/day, and women need 320 mg/day. The upper limit is 350 mg/day and refers only to supplement form.

Iron

Iron is needed every day to maintain blood health as it’s critical to forming red blood cells. Iron is abundant in:

  • meat and seafood products
  • whole grains
  • seeds
  • nuts
  • legumes
  • leafy vegetables 

The RDA is 8 mg/day for adult men and 18 mg/day for women. The upper limit is 45 mg/day. Iron supplements are popular to receive the benefits of iron, as many people don’t consume enough through their diet alone. 

Lesser-Known Micronutrients You Might Be Missing

We’ve now covered all the essential vitamins and minerals and amounts that you should consume daily to receive the benefits of these micronutrients. Whether you know you’re not eating enough micronutrient-dense foods or just want some insurance on your diet, multivitamins and vitamin supplements are convenient ways to keep your levels up. 

Now we’d like to discuss the benefits of some other lesser-known micronutrients you might be lacking.

The people who are particularly vulnerable to these micronutrient deficiencies are those who don’t eat any fish, vegans, vegetarians, pregnant people, and the aging population.

Omega Fatty Acids/DHA/EPA

One of the best sources of these heart-healthy foods is fatty, cold-water fish. While there are some plant-based sources, like flaxseed and chia seeds, these options don’t include DHA and EPA, which support healthy brain and nervous system function and heart health and energy levels.

While everybody needs DHA and EPA, these omegas are vital for fetal development, so pregnant people should prioritize them.

Luckily, because fish get omegas from marine algae and don’t actually manufacture them, there are vegan-friendly omega vitamin supplements that are easily added to your nutrition to get the benefits of these essential acids.

Vitamin K2

Vitamin K2 is different from vitamin K, and you’ve probably scarcely heard about it. However, while we typically think of calcium and vitamin D, vitamin K2 is also vital for bone and dental health.

The scariest part about a diet lacking in vitamin K2 is that without it, the calcium you consume might not be entering the bones the way it needs to and instead be shuttled into the arteries where it calcifies and becomes a dangerous building block to heart disease. 

So, ensure your diet or multivitamin includes vitamin K2 or include a stand-alone vitamin supplement. 

How to get the Benefits of Vitamins and Minerals 

Even as a supplement company, we know the best way for your body to get most of the micronutrients required is to eat a balanced, varied diet that’s rich in lots of different fruits and vegetables.

However, we’re all too familiar with the demands of modern life and the struggles of feeling secure in your nutrition day in and day out. You’re not alone, and you’re not failing. It’s just not the way Canadian adults typically eat.

So, while we can’t deny that it’s best to get the benefits of as many vitamins and minerals through food, we also strongly recommend including a quality multivitamin. You can also choose strategically selected stand-alone vitamin supplements to fill the gaps between your body’s needs and what your food can provide.

Benefits of Taking a Multivitamin Daily

The main benefit of including a multivitamin in your daily routine is that you’re making it more likely to consume adequate amounts of all the necessary vitamins and minerals that your body needs daily. 

Regularly meeting these micronutrient needs allows you to feel the benefits of being properly nurtured. These are the benefits of taking a daily multivitamin, proven by science:

Easy Aging 

Because the body’s ability to absorb nutrients decreases with age, taking a multivitamin allows it to continue receiving the benefits of micronutrients when it otherwise wouldn’t.

The antioxidant content in some vitamin supplements also helps ward off diseases and signs of aging.

Pretty Peepers 

That antioxidant content in multivitamins and vitamin supplements also has the proven benefits of supporting eye health. As a result, you’re less likely to suffer from eye disease and degenerative disorders.

Better Absorption of Folic Acid for Bebe

Pregnancy is one time that all experts come together and agree that a prenatal vitamin supplement is necessary from conception until well after birth. This is mostly because of the critical need for folate throughout fetal development. 

Folate is one of the rare nutrients better absorbed as folic acid from a vitamin supplement than from food.

And More 

There are other benefits among these top benefits of daily vitamin supplements or multivitamins. Some of the additional benefits of these supplements are:

  1. boosted immunity
  2. an overall longer life
  3. supported brain and mental health
  4. less risk of cancer 

Risks of Taking a Multivitamin Daily

When you consider the benefits, you must also weigh the potential risks. Usually, the principal risks of taking multivitamins, vitamin supplements, or other dietary supplements come when you don’t use a reputable supplement brand. That’s when you need to consider the potential for contamination or ingredients you didn’t know were included.

We always recommend shopping with trustworthy brands and have talked at length about how to select a brand. So, these risks are what you must still consider, assuming you’ve selected a quality supplement.

  • digestive upset
  • increased risk of toxic levels of fat-soluble vitamins 

The bottom line is to remember that multivitamins and vitamin supplements are not magic pills, and while they can help you get the benefits of various micronutrients, they won’t be a cure-all.

We always encourage you to discuss adding any new supplement with your doctor before beginning. This is because your doctor is likely the only one who has a solid understanding of your health and any conditions you might have. In addition, you and your doctor must be especially aware of potential drug interactions if you are on prescription medication, as some vitamin supplements are known to interact.

Next, we’ll talk about the potential benefits of taking stand-alone (or one-off) vitamin supplements. 

Benefits of Vitamin A Supplements

  • Some of the benefits of taking a vitamin A supplement include:
  • improved vision at night
  • protection from age-related vision decline
  • improved immune function
  • supported bone health

Benefits of Vitamin E Supplements

Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant, so there are many benefits from that factor alone. In addition, the benefits of these vitamin supplements are:

  • improved heart and liver health
  • improved skin health
  • better cognitive function
  • improved lung function

Benefits of Folic Acid Supplements

We briefly mentioned that vitamin supplements with folic acid allow the body to better absorb this essential ingredient, which is especially important for pregnancy. In addition, this vitamin supplement supports: 

  • brain health
  • mental health
  • heart health
  • fertility

Benefits of Vitamin C Supplements

Like vitamin E, vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant. In addition to the benefits of the antioxidant properties, these vitamin supplements:

  • support immune function
  • manage blood pressure
  • support heart health
  • prevent iron deficiencies
  • support skin health

Benefits of Vitamin B6 Supplements

Taking vitamin B6 supplement can:

  • support your mood
  • promote brain health
  • support blood health
  • reduce PMS symptoms
  • support hearth health

Benefits of Vitamin B12 Supplements 

Taking vitamin B12 supplements helps:

  • support blood health
  • support a healthy pregnancy
  • support bone health
  • boost eye health
  • improve mood
  • boost energy 

Benefits of B-Complex Supplements 

To get all the B vitamins in one vitamin supplement, you can try a vitamin B complex supplement. The benefits include:

  • improved cellular health
  • supported blood and brain health
  • improved digestion
  • supported energy levels
  • improved nerve, muscle, and digestive function

Benefits of Vitamin D Supplements

If you’re looking for a protected immune system, this is the one vitamin that can most benefit you in that way. In addition, vitamin D supplements help:

  • support bone health
  • support brain and heart health
  • improve mental health

Benefits of Calcium Supplements 

Calcium supplements can help meet your calcium requirements, but don’t forget the vitamin K2 and vitamin D supplements to aid in absorption! The benefits of including these vitamin supplements are:

  • supported bone health
  • reduced risk of osteoporosis

Benefits of Magnesium Supplements

Magnesium supplements help to:

  • boost performance
  • support mental health
  • fight against diabetes and high blood pressure
  • prevent migraines 

Benefits of Iron Supplements

Maintaining iron levels by using supplements has the following benefits: 

  • healthy pregnancy
  • improved energy
  • better performance

Benefits of Omega Supplements 

The omega fatty acids necessary for optimal health are not typically included in multivitamins, so if your diet doesn’t contain fatty fish or other sources, you should consider adding a supplement. The benefits of omega fatty acid supplements are: 

  • supported mental health
  • boosted eye health
  • healthy pregnancy
  • healthier heart and brain
  • improved bone and joint health
  • better sleep
  • healthier skin 

Benefits of Vitamin K2 Supplements

Lastly, vitamin K2 supplements help with calcium absorption, so it gets where it needs to be in the body instead of increasing the risk of dangerous heart conditions. Other benefits include:

  • improved skin health
  • boosted brain function

So, now you know why there’s still such a big fuss about micronutrients. Often, our foods alone can’t meet all our needs, so including a daily multivitamin is a great way to ensure you get what you need. If you’re not keen on a multivitamin, strategically selected, stand-alone vitamin supplements can give you the necessary support without anything extra.

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