(Featured in Diabetic Living Magazine)
(Featured in Diabetic Living Magazine)
Vitamin ABCs: Get the Nutrients You Need
Vitamins are essential to keeping you healthy. But how do you read through all of the confusing hype? Use this guide.
By Madhu Gadia, R.D., CDE
We all need vitamins for a variety of biological processes, such as converting food to energy and resisting infection. "People with diabetes have the same nutrient requirements as people without diabetes," says Karmeen Kulkarni, M.S., R.D., CDE. Research is ongoing as to vitamins' effects on diabetes. The most common vitamins being studied are those involved in glucose metabolism, such as niacin, and antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E.
Two Types of Vitamins
There are two kinds of vitamins: water-soluble and fat-soluble.
Water-soluble vitamins dissolve in water and are not stored in your body. Your body gets rid of any extra intake of these vitamins through your urine.
Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in your body fat and liver to be used by your body as needed. Large intakes of these can accumulate and can, though quite rare, become problematic. Be careful to not take these vitamins in excess.
Where to Get Vitamins
"You can get all the vitamins you need from food if you keep your blood glucose close to your target range and eat a balanced and varied diet that includes fruits, vegetables, and whole grains each day," says Eugene Barrett, M.D., Ph.D., and director of the University of Virginia Diabetes Center in Charlottesville.
Whole foods are your best sources of vitamins, plus they contain other nutrients your body needs, such as fiber, antioxidants, and phytochemicals that help protect your overall health.
Fortified versus enriched foods: Both terms mean vitamins or minerals were added during processing to make food more nutritious. Enriching means adding back nutrients that were lost during processing, such as B vitamins in grain products. Fortifying means adding nutrients that weren't originally present in the food, such as vitamin D in milk or folic acid in grain products.
Should You Take a Supplement?
If you eat a variety of basic foods--vegetables, fruits, and lean meats--chances are you don't need to take vitamin supplements. However, some people, such as pregnant women, older people, and those on low-calorie (fewer than 1,500 a day) diets have altered nutrient needs and may benefit from supplements. "In general, there's no clinical evidence that people with diabetes benefit from taking a vitamin supplement," Barrett says.
Remember, vitamin supplements can't replace nutrients found in whole foods. But they can complement your diet.
If you decide to take a vitamin supplement, do it wisely:
• Avoid supplements that provide megadoses. Choose a multivitamin that provides 100 percent or less of the recommended daily allowance. High doses can be toxic and may cause health problems.
• Read labels carefully. Look for USP on the label. This is one way to ensure that the supplement meets the standards established by the testing organization U.S. Pharmacopeia.
• Tell your health-care provider which vitamins you're taking and in what dosages. Some supplements may interact with your diabetes and other medications.
• Remember that supplements shouldn't replace your diabetes medications or a healthful eating plan.
The Best Food Sources for Vitamins
In one easy list, here are the proven benefits of the vitamins you should include in your diet, the recommended dietary allowances (RDA) for adults each day, and the best food sources.
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)
RDA for adults: Men: 90 mg, Women: 75 mg
Functions: Keeps immune system healthy, protects against bruising, helps in iron absorption, helps heal cuts and wounds
Top food sources: Fruits (especially citrus), tomatoes, peppers, dark leafy vegetables
Vitamin B1 (thiamin)
RDA for adults: Men: 1.2 mg, Women: 1.1 mg
Functions: Converts carbohydrates into energy
Top food sources: Whole grains, enriched grain products, legumes, nuts
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
RDA for adults: Men: 1.3 mg, Women: 1.1 mg
Functions: Helps metabolize or use food and produce energy
Top food sources: Milk and milk products, enriched grain products
RDA for adults: Men: 16 mg, Women: 14 mg
Functions: Helps metabolize carbohydrates and fatty acids
Top food sources: Poultry, fish, meat, legumes, peanut butter
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
RDA for adults: Men: 1.7 mg, Women: 1.5 mg
Functions: Helps make new cells, helps fight infection
Top food sources: Chicken, fish, pork, whole grains, legumes
RDA for adults: Men/Women: 400 mcg
Functions: Keeps red blood cells healthy, helps make new cells, helps keep heart healthy
Top food sources: Legumes, orange juice, spinach, broccoli, peanuts, fortified grain products and cereals, yeast
RDA for adults: Men/Women: 2.4 mcg
Functions: Helps make red blood cells, helps metabolize fatty acids
Top food sources: Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, milk products
RDA for adults: Men/Women: 30 mcg
Functions: Helps use the protein, fat, and carbohydrates from foods you eat; helps produce energy
Top food sources: Eggs, liver, yeast, cereals
RDA for adults: Men/Women: 5 mg
Functions: Helps produce energy, helps use the food you eat
Top food sources: Meat, poultry, fish, milk, legumes, sweet potatoes
RDA for adults: Men: 900 mcg, Women: 700 mcg
Functions: Promotes normal vision and cell and tissue growth, works as an antioxidant to reduce risk for some diseases
Top food sources: Red, yellow, and orange vegetables and fruits (carrots, mangoes, apricots, yams, winter squashes), green leafy vegetables, fortified milk, liver, fish oil
RDA for adults: Men/Women: 5 -- 15 mcg
Functions: Helps absorption of calcium and phosphorus
Top food sources: Fortified milk, sunlight
RDA for adults: Men/Women: 15 mg
Functions: Helps maintain cells, works as an antioxidant to lower risk of heart disease
Top food sources: Vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, wheat germ
RDA for adults: Men: 120 mcg, Women: 90 mcg
Functions: Needed for proper clotting of blood
Top food sources: Leafy vegetables, spinach, broccoli
Featured in Diabetic Living magazine (Meredith Publications)