“Vitamins” and “supplements” often are used interchangeably in everyday speech when it comes to discussing health and dietary concerns, but the truth is they are not one and the same. The line between vitamins and supplements sometimes gets blurred; both are ingestibles involved in regulating or improving our overall health. It’s important to know, though, the difference between the two to ensure that you use them properly without going to excess.
What Are Vitamins?
Vitamins are naturally occurring nutrients that our bodies are unable to synthesize on their own. Where vitamins do occur naturally is in the foods we eat.
Typically, with a physician’s or nutritionist’s guidance, these can be purchased over the counter in pill, tablet, liquid, powder or capsule form and taken at mealtime to supplement our diet. Vitamins serve important functions within our bodies, without which we leave ourselves susceptible to a multitude of diseases, illnesses and complications. For today’s lesson in proper nutrition and the roles that vitamins play, we turn to an alphabet primer:
- Vitamin A – involved in the formation and care of healthy bones, teeth, skin and other parts of our bodies.
- Vitamin B complex – this is a family of vitamins – you’ve heard of B-12, right? – that factor into our metabolism, production of red blood cells and proper brain function, per ausfp.com.
- Vitamin C – an antioxidant that aids in the absorption of iron and in the maintenance of healthy teeth and gums.
- Vitamin D – Helps in the absorption of calcium. The sun is an excellent source.
- Vitamin E – Also an antioxidant. Helps in the formation of red blood cells.
- Vitamin K – Vital for blood’s coagulation, although not considered an essential vitamin.
It is important to note that vitamins should not be taken in excess. For example, vitamins such as A, D and E are fat-soluble and therefore are not eliminated through our urine like water-soluble vitamins are, per 1md.org. Again, which vitamins you take and in what quantities are best left for a discussion with your doctor. Don’t jump the gun.
What Are Supplements?
Now for the other side of the coin. While all vitamins (organic in nature) can also be taken as supplements, not all supplements are vitamins – not by a long shot. For one thing, supplements, are often times comprised of multiple ingredients (occasionally to include herbs and/or multiple vitamins, hence the term “multivitamin”), are designed to complement our diet, even if we are already getting sufficient amounts of vitamins from the foods we eat. Note, though, per fitness19.com, supplements are meant to be added to, not replace, the benefits we get from the food we consume.
Examples of supplements – and there are untold thousands of them, and some of them have different names, depending on the manufacturer – include berberine, fish oil, Echinacea, chromium, magnesium, ginkgo, zinc, cayenne, milk thistle and valerian. Among the myriad benefits they can provide include boosting energy and metabolism; killing pain; warding off deficiencies, infections and viruses; aiding in the regulation of blood-sugar levels; and building lean muscle mass.
Like with vitamins, our use of supplements first should be discussed with, and vetted by, our physician. Some supplements can interfere with medicinal prescriptions.
Deciding which supplements (to include vitamins) to take should never involve guesswork. A physician’s consultation goes a long way, as do blood tests, which should be part of your annual physical.
Now that you have a better grasp of the differences between vitamins and supplements, let them make a positive difference in your life and health.