Minerals and vitamins are an important part of any balanced diet. Research suggests that if you get enough of these healthy little gems in your meals, then you could be taking steps towards a lower chance of heart disease and cancer, as well as other health problems. However, many of the studies involved in producing this data have been conducted on foods containing vitamins, rather than tablet-based supplements. In fact, if you’re eating a diet that’s rich in vegetables, fruits and fortified foods, you’re probably already getting everything you need.

However, in some cases, supplements can provide an easy health boost, so how do you know whether you need them or not?

Beta-Carotene

Found most often in sweet potatoes, carrots and green peppers, amongst a wide variety of other foods, this antioxidant can be quickly converted to vitamin A in the body. Not only that, but it’s great for improving immune system function, enhancing healthy vision, and encouraging beautiful, flawless skin. However, despite what some people might tell you, there isn’t enough evidence to suggest it can really fight off cancer. A study that was conducted in 2004 actually suggested that supplements could raise the chances of lung cancer in smokers. If you’re a smoker, you should skip the supplements, and whether you smoke or not, it may be better to try getting your beta-carotene from veggies and fruits instead.

beta-Carotene

Calcium

Everybody knows that the body needs calcium, a product that is mostly found in milk, yogurt and other dairy products such as cheese. Calcium prevents osteoporosis and helps to maintain healthy bones. Supplements aren’t always a bad idea if you hate dairy, and can only handle so much kale, but you should skip them if you are over seventy years old, or have a history of kidney stones. If you do decide to use supplements, never take more than 500 milligrams at a time, and try to pair them with vitamin D, as this helps to boost your calcium absorption.

Calcium

Iron

Most people don’t approve of the foods that have the highest amount of iron content, such as liver and other organ meats, but it’s safe to say the mineral is essential for red blood cells to function properly. Do your best to get iron where you can from dietary sources such as seafood, lean meats, green leafy vegetables and nuts. However, you may still benefit from supplements, especially if you’re anemic.

Iron

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is ideal for helping your body to absorb calcium, and it’s also great for bone health. It’s generally the most accessible through sun exposure, instead of dietary choices, and too little vitamin D can lead to rickets and osteoporosis in children. Some evidence has suggested that this vitamin can reduce the chances of suffering from type 1 and type 2 diabetes, but other experts remain unsure. Even though little sun is needed to get your daily quota of vitamin D, and some foods are fortified with it, it is easy to suffer from a deficiency, so supplements could be a good idea.

Vitamin D

Vitamin E

Once, researchers were convinced that Vitamin E could protect the heart. However, a large trial that was published during 2005 actually discovered that 600 international units every other day did nothing to lower the risk of heart attack or stroke, or prevent cancer in elderly and middle-aged women. When it comes to getting vitamin E, forget the supplements and aim to gather what you need from foods like peanuts, eggs, fruits, and leafy vegetables.

Vitamin E

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