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Kaitlyn Short
Kaitlyn Short | Contributor

There are really only a few professionals in the vitamin world, and there is a 99 percent chance that you are not one of them. If you’re looking for accurate information, where do you start?

A vitamin label will never say the vitamin treats, prevents, cures, or reverses any disease or condition, meaning vitamins are not FDA approved and do not follow the same rigorous approval process as foods and drugs. Even though companies put a label on vitamins, it might not list everything going into your body.

When looking for information about vitamins, ask yourself these simple but important questions: “How can I know if a vitamin is right for me?” and “What health goals am I trying to accomplish?”

How can I know if a vitamin is right for me?

  • Visit with your doctor, health care provider or a licensed nutritionist. This is the safest option for those looking to improve their overall health. Ask about vitamins that you should be taking with your specific health needs. They will know your medical condition and clearly inform you about certain nutrients, minerals, and supplements that you should take. Whether it is to take care of a certain disease or to help you accomplish health and wellness goals, doctors, nutritionists, and health care providers are the best source of knowledge.

  • Go to a vitamin shop in person. If you don’t want to wait for your next doctor's visit, go to a vitamin store. Most vitamin stores have employees who understand the uses and ingredients of each of the vitamins; they are there to help point you towards the safest and best options for you.

  • Do the work yourself. You can also do your own research. Here are a few tips to get you started. However, always consult with your doctor before making significant changes to your diet:
    Although you may be tempted to look for the most expensive vitamins and minerals, some of the worst vitamins we have studied are the most expensive ones. A big precaution is to look for any third party testing. Some of the few that we trust are “USP,” “NSF,” or “Consumer Lab”. These third-party testers ensure that vitamins are what they say they are. When vitamins have these stamps of approval, you know they are safe and are what the company states it is. These companies make sure that the vitamin has gone through a strict and rigorous certification to meet the highest expectations.

  • Don’t take too much. Although most people do not take enough vitamins, taking too many can end up being dangerous. For example, having too much folic acid causes nausea, sleep deprivation, or even anxiety. If you are sick and decide to take over 2,000 milligrams of vitamin C, all you’re really doing is becoming more susceptible to diarrhea and other stomach issues.

  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The newest fad is usually just that, a fad. Don’t get swept away in it. Remember your health goals and strive to live a healthy lifestyle instead of focusing on the number on the scale. Learning to live a healthier lifestyle is going to be much more beneficial than losing 20 pounds in a few weeks. Learning to eat right, exercise, and have a balanced diet is much more important for your future. People who are truly healthy aren’t one time dieters; they have chosen to live a healthy lifestyle through discipline and consistency.

What health goals am I trying to accomplish?

You may be striving to accomplish different health goals than others around you, so find out what will work for you, not your neighbor or coworker. We created an extensive list of different vitamins to help you accomplish your health goals.

Goal: Be Healthier Overall

The average American does not have a healthy diet, and a balanced diet helps in the prevention of diseases and life-long health issues. Obesity, poor heart health, diabetes, and other diet-related issues are a concern for thousands. Start with the basics: Does your diet contain these essential vitamins and nutrients?

Vitamins and nutrients to include in your balanced diet: Vitamin D, Riboflavin, Magnesium, Calcium, Zinc, Iron, Folic Acid, and Vitamin B-12

Goal: Lose Weight

With hundreds of thousands of Americans who are obese or overweight, weight loss goals are common. Did you know a lack of vitamins can be the cause of people becoming overweight? When your body doesn't have the necessary nutrients, your metabolism often slows down, leading to weight gain. Including proper vitamins in your diet can speed up your metabolism and allow you to lose weight more quickly.

Vitamins and nutrients that will help you lose weight: Amino Acids, Vitamin D, Fish Oils, and Vitamin B-12

Goal: Better Women's Health

Women will often need to take extra vitamins and supplements throughout their lives for a few factors including smaller portion sizes in their diet, menstrual cycles, and often times strict diets in order to lose weight. Although strict diets may help you lose weight, when one takes them to extremes it can damage the body, make the body gain weight easier in the future, and not allow for the much-needed nutrients and minerals that the body most desperately needs. A balanced diet and exercise is a safer and more effective way to produce long-term results. These vitamins are important whatever the case in order to accomplish your basic health needs.

Vitamins and nutrients that will help you with women's health: Calcium, Magnesium, Vitamin B, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Multivitamin, Folic Acid, Iron, and Fish Oils.

Goal: Lower Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

For many people who suffer from high blood pressure (hypertension), knowing how to lower your blood pressure is essential. Diet and exercise are the most important factors in lowering your blood pressure. Eat a diet full of these nutrients (and use supplements as advised by your doctor) to lower your blood pressure.

Vitamins and nutrients that will help you lower your blood pressure: Magnesium, Omega-3, Vitamin D, and Folic Acid

Goal: Manage Type 2 Diabetes More Naturally

Naturally fighting diabetes is one of the best things you can do for your body. And with more and more individuals are becoming insulin resistant and at risk for this deadly disease, learning how to naturally deal with it is important for your health. Getting the right vitamins and nutrients will help you fight diabetes and keep you healthier. Cinnamon, for example, has been used for hundreds of years in western medicine to help with the effects of diabetes.

Vitamins and nutrients that can help you manage Type 2 diabetes: Cinnamon, Chromium, Thiamine, and Magnesium

Goal: Improve Heart Health

Heart disease is one of the leading contributors to the mortality rate in the United States. As you include these key vitamins and nutrients in your diet, your likelihood of developing heart disease drops dramatically. And if you are one of hundreds of thousands of Americans who suffer from heart disease, make sure you are taking these to help you live a healthier life.

Vitamins and nutrients to improve heart health: Coenzyme Q10, Omega-3, Magnesium, Vitamin D, and Potassium

Goal: Safe Pregnancy

Pregnancy comes with changes in hormones and increased nutritional needs. Make sure you are taking these vitamins to help keep you and your baby well-nourished and thriving. 

Vitamins and nutrients for your pregnancy: Folic Acid, Vitamin D, Calcium, Vitamin C Thiamine, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B-12, Vitamin E, Zinc, Iron, and Iodine

Goal: Become a Better Athlete

Among the most competitive things that our generation is involved in is sports, and sports nutrition is key to perform at your highest capacity. To gain an edge on the competition many athletes have relied on a wide variety of protein items, different types of food, and other natural health items. Although mainly only hear what is best from a friend, here is a list of vitamins that all athletes need to be taking in order to accomplish their overall sports goals.

Vitamins and nutrients to achieve your sports nutrition goals: Multivitamin, Creatine, Zinc, Branch Chain Amino Acids(BCAA), Selenium, Whey Protein(Post-Workout), Glutamine(Post-Workout), Vitamin B, Fish Oils, Calcium, Magnesium, Insulin Fiber, and Vitamin D.

What are these vitamins, and how do I naturally get them?

Although pills, capsules or vitamin packs there are easier ways to get your daily vitamin needs met. Getting nutrients through your diet is what is recommended for most people. Eating healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables, is an amazing way to accomplish all of your health goals. Allowing your body to process the vitamins and minerals naturally is the smartest way for you to get all of your nutrients and keeps you from feeling like a 90-year-old taking hundred of pills every day.

Vitamin D — Just 15 minutes in the sun daily is usually enough time to stimulate adequate Vitamin D production. Unfortunately, modern work schedules usually mean people are traveling from home to work and then home again without much sun exposure at all. Set aside time to get fresh air and sunlight every day. If you need extra vitamin D, many foods contain this key nutrient.

Foods high in Vitamin D: fatty fish, egg yolks, and fortified milk, yogurt, and cereal (also 15 minutes in the sun provides you with your daily vitamin D needs)

Cinnamon — One of nature's most amazing products, cinnamon has healing properties and has been used throughout time in eastern medicine.

Foods high in Cinnamon: Unlike most vitamins, cinnamon is found in the inner bark of a specific tree species and can be added to almost anything you make

Iron — Iron is key to a healthy diet. Often children and pregnant women suffer from an iron deficiency. Iron is needed to make a protein called hemoglobin. Hemoglobin helps your red blood cells carry oxygen from your lungs to your entire body.

Foods high in Iron: beans and lentils, tofu, baked potatoes, cashews, spinach, and other leafy greens, and whole grains

Calcium — Calcium is primarily used to build strong bones, but it is also aids in the functions of the heart, nerves, and muscles.

Foods high in Calcium: milk, celery, seeds (chia, poppy, sesame), cheese, yogurt, sardines, beans, lentils, and almonds

Zinc — Zinc helps our bodies perform at their maximum capacity. It helps learning and memory, treats diarrhea and the common cold, helps our bodies heal wounds, regulates immune functions, and many other bodily functions.

Foods high in Zinc: meat, shellfish, dairy, peas and beans, seeds, eggs, nuts, and whole grains

Magnesium — This vitamin is a crucial nutrient that many Americans are not getting enough of. A healthy amount of magnesium promotes energy and sleep, as well as balances blood sugar levels and hormones.

Foods high in Magnesium: pumpkins, green leafy vegetables such as spinach or artichokes, fruit (figs, avocado, banana, and raspberries), nuts and seeds, baked beans, tofu, seafood (salmon, mackerel, tuna) and whole grains (brown rice and oats)

Folic Acid — This nutrient promotes tissue growth and cell function. It also helps vitamin B-12 and C to break down and create new proteins. Getting adequate amounts of folic acid can lower risk of miscarriage and neural tube defects in pregnancy.

Foods high in Folic Acid: spinach and other leafy greens, citrus fruits, kinds of pasta, bread, cereals, rice, and beans

Vitamin B-12 — Usually found in meats, Vitamin B-12 is a much-needed vitamin for anyone over the age of 14. It is used for brain function, the creation of DNA, the production of red blood cells, and for nerve tissue health. It also is used to prevent megaloblastic anemia which causes individuals to feel weak.

Foods high in Vitamin B-12: clams, sardines, animal liver and kidneys, tuna, trout, salmon, beef, dairy, and eggs

Chromium — Used to help people with Type 2 diabetes, chromium is a much-needed mineral. Users must be wary though because chromium can make blood sugar go too low as well as cause kidney damage. If taken in low doses, it can help the body metabolize carbohydrates.

Foods high in Chromium: shellfish, pears, Brazilian nuts, and tomatoes

Thiamine — This vitamin’s key function is to help our cells. It is often difficult for thiamine to get where it needs to, so many professionals have started using benfotiamine which is a lipid-soluble.

Foods high in Thiamine: whole grains, beef, liver, oranges, pork, soy, eggs, seeds, legumes, yeast, oats, and nuts

Coenzyme Q10 — Often shortened as CoQ10, coenzyme Q10 is naturally produced by the body to help the heart. It transports cells and helps with blood pressure regulation.

Foods high in Coenzyme Q10: animal liver and heart, beef, pork, chicken, fatty fish, soy oils, and peanuts

Omega-3 — One of the more popular vitamins, Omega-3s are mostly found in fish. In fact, fish oils are one of the best sources of omega-3s. This nutrient is a fatty acid that helps with cardiovascular health. It helps to maintain blood pressure and cholesterol and is a vitamin many do not consume through their normal diet.

Foods high in Omega-3: fatty fish, flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, soybeans

Potassium — Potassium is one of the most important minerals in the body. It helps regulate fluid balance, muscle contractions, and nerve signals. A high-potassium diet may help reduce blood pressure and water retention, protect against stroke, and prevent osteoporosis and kidney stones.

Foods high in Potassium: bananas, oranges, cantaloupe, honeydew, apricots, grapefruit, cooked spinach, cooked broccoli, potatoes, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, peas, cucumbers

Riboflavin — Riboflavin should be taken by everyone to produce overall better health. It helps in the production of energy by breaking down carbohydrates, fats, and proteins help with migraines and cancer in some cases and allow oxygen to be used by the body.

Foods high in Riboflavin: milk, yogurt, whole grains, shellfish, seafood, eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds, and soy

Niacin — Also known as vitamin B3, Niacin can improve cholesterol levels and lower cardiovascular risks as well as help with arthritis and brain function.

Foods high in Niacin: animal liver and kidneys, tuna, salmon, turkey, chicken, pork, beef, peanuts, whole grains, avocados, brown rice, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, peas

Iodine — Iodine is used to create thyroid hormones. This helps in the control of the body’s metabolism, protects the body from toxins, and helps with the development of both bones and the brain in pregnancy and infancy.

Foods high in Iodine: seaweed, cod, dairy, turkey, shrimp, tuna, eggs, prunes, and beans

Vitamin E — This vitamin, like Vitamin C, is an antioxidant that safely interacts with healthy cells and attacks free radicals that are dangerous to our vital molecules. Vitamin E also is used to help create red blood cells and widen blood vessels to prevent blood clots.

Foods high in Vitamin E: sunflower oil, corn oil, soybean oil, seeds, nuts, spinach, or other green leafy vegetables

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Vitamin Stores Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best store/company for my vitamin needs?

Finding the right stores and the right prices are difficult, especially for more expensive items like vitamins. Check out our list of companies/stores that can provide vitamins for your needs.

What vitamins do I need to be taking?

It depends on your health goals, but most people do not get enough Vitamin D, Magnesium, Calcium, Zinc, Iron, Folic Acid, and Vitamin B-12.

How do I differentiate between good vitamins and bad?

Look closely at the label, be sure that the product has had third-party testing and doesn’t have unwanted ingredients. Some companies that do third-party testing are "USP," "NSF," or "Consumer Lab."

Can you take too much of a vitamin?

Yes, although if you take too much of a vitamin, in most cases it causes only a few stomach issues. But in more severe and rare cases, it can cause serious issues that would require immediate medical help.

Do vitamins have ingredients not printed on their label?

Yes. Because vitamins do not have the same regulations enforced by the FDA, vitamin manufacturers will often put ingredients in their products that they do not inform the general public about.

What company can I trust?

Check out some of our favorite companies above.

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