A balanced diet rich in nutrients is essential, especially one that contains the right amount of vitamins and minerals. However, that's not always the case.
So you might stop by the vitamin aisle at the grocery store to make up for a deficiency or to help keep your bones strong — only to be faced with rows and rows of vitamin options. Now what?
Before you hit the vitamin aisle, the first thing you should do is consult with your primary doctor, according to Robert F. Sherman Jr., a pharmacist at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington, Vt.
Not everyone needs to take vitamins, he said.
"I, myself, as a pharmacist, am not a big proponent of taking [vitamins] as an oral supplement," Sherman said. "You can get all of the essential vitamins and minerals that you need through your daily food intake and there are certain age groups and populations that we can carve out of that, such as vegetarians, vegans or postmenopausal."
Athletes, for example, may need more protein, iron, B6, B12, riboflavin and folate than the average person because their bodies are recovering daily from a breakdown of muscle and what their bodies go through in training, he said.
Once you and your doctor decide an oral supplement is right for you, next you need to understand what you're swallowing. There are two types of vitamins: fat soluble — or A, D, E and K — and water soluble — or B1, B2, B3 B12 and C. Fat solubles are stored away for when needed and water solubles are used right away.
Sherman said he prefers liquid-form vitamins because they are better absorbed by the body.
Vitamins can be bought pretty much anywhere, but be careful what brand you choose. Sherman mentioned Nature Made being one of the more well-known, but said the quality of a vitamin will vary and sometimes the shelf life will make it less active or it can eventually decay.
Unlike prescribed medication, vitamins have no inscriptions on the pills. Sherman said the shape and what the pill is made out of will provide the most information. The thicker the tablet is, the more active it will be. The smaller it is, the less active and less potent of a dose it will be.
When staring at the rows of labels, Sherman suggested not picking up something that has 100 percent of the daily nutrient. You should account for the nutrients you already consume from food.
"As a pharmacist, we always worry about that extra. Don't look for mega doses. Don't look for the enhanced or super-high potency," he said. "They don't add a lot to the actual consumption of your daily multivitamin, just adds to the cost. You're just paying for more drug that your body isn't going to absorb."
In regards to taking more than your body can absorb, he suggested speaking to a pharmacist or primary doctor for recommendations. Also, read the label to see how often the supplement should be taken per day. Sherman said if someone feels tired, they might try taking iron, but not know the reason behind being tired, and high levels can be dangerous to the body.
It's also important to note whether the supplement needs to be taken with food or not, because chances are it will cause an upset stomach if not taken with food.
When taking a daily vitamin, Lisa Zeleny, supplement and beauty consultant at Guido's Fresh Marketplace in Pittsfield, Mass., said if it's hard to remember to take it, figure out a way to include it into a routine.
"Try to put it by your toothbrush or by your breakfast," she said.
Contact Makayla-Courtney McGeeney at 802-490-6471.