Don’t Go Overboard On These Essentials

by Christia Gibbons

With supplements and fortified foods readily available, you would be smart to realize that too much of a good thing might not be your wisest choice.

You can overdose on vitamins and minerals.

For instance, an overdose of vitamin C can bring on diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, heartburn, stomach cramps and headaches.

Too much calcium can impair your kidneys and thinking, and in extreme circumstances prompt an irregular heartbeat.

A severe iron overdose could throw you into a coma, result in low blood pressure, lead to liver failure, injure your lungs or worse. Vitamins with iron are the most toxic, especially when kids ingest them.

When it comes to multivitamins, overdoses can harm your bladder and kidneys; eyes, ears nose, mouth and throat; heart and blood; muscles and joints; stomach and intestines; skin and hair; and your nervous system.

A healthy diet is your best bet, but if you and your doctor think a supplement could help you, stick to the recommended dose and don’t take too many different kinds of supplements.

The vitamins and minerals you should take daily are:

Vitamin A to help fight infection, maintain healthy vision, keep skin healthy, strengthen bones and aid heart, lung and kidney health.

Mangoes, cantaloupe and apricots are filled with vitamin A, which also is found in dairy products and yellow or orange fruits and vegetables. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) is 700 micrograms for women and 900 for men.

Vitamin B — there are eight B vitamins in the B complex — maintains normal brain function and memory; helps metabolize carbohydrates, protein and fats; improves cholesterol; and is needed for normal blood cell production and nervous system function.

There are varying RDAs and most Americans may not get enough B vitamins daily. In the U.S. many cereals, flour, breads and pastas are fortified with B vitamins to minimize deficiency.

Vitamin C contains antioxidants promoting healthy tissue growth. The RDA is 75 milligrams for women and 90 for men. It is found in many fruits and vegetables.

Vitamin D is activated by ultraviolet light, and besides exposure to sun, can be found in cod liver oil, fatty fish, fortified juices, milk and cereals. Benefits include: maintaining nervous system functions and bone health; influencing immune cell function; and regulating blood levels of calcium and phosphorus.

The RDA for children and adults is 15 micrograms and 20 for people ages 70 and older. Deficiencies are relatively common.

Vitamin E helps your organs function. Good sources include vegetable oils, avocados, spinach, seeds and nuts and whole grains. The RDA is 15 milligrams daily.

Vitamin K is key for blood clotting, and with calcium keeps your bones healthy. This is a protein-rich vitamin largely found in leafy green vegetables.

The RDA is 90 micrograms for women and 120 for men.

Calcium is needed for healthy bone growth. This mineral also helps muscle function and nerves to carry messages from the brain to the body. Eat tofu, spinach, soy and rhubarb to get this mineral. Also, milk, cheese and yogurt are good sources.

The RDA for women and men ages 19 to 50 is 1,000 milligrams; for women 51 and older for men older than 70, 1,200 milligrams.

Iron helps move oxygen in your blood. It improves immune and brain function. Look to red meats, leafy green vegetables and legumes to get your iron.

Zinc is needed in small amounts — 8 milligrams for women; 11 for men. Eat red meat, poultry, beans, nuts and whole grains.

This mineral helps improve the immune system and memory and reduces common cold symptoms.