1. Understand Why You Need Vitamins

Vitamins are produced by living material such as plants and animals and are natural substances that are necessary for almost every process in the body. While vitamins do not provide calories or directly supply energy, they do help carbohydrates, proteins, and fats produce energy.

The micronutrients found in vitamins can help trigger thousands of chemical reactions that are essential to maintaining good health. Most of these reactions are linked because one reaction will trigger another. A missing vitamin or a deficiency of a certain vitamin anywhere in the linked chain can cause a collapse, leading to a slower metabolism. Remember, your body needs to be healthy and active to function properly; if it’s not getting the vitamins it needs, your metabolism is guaranteed to slow down.

Most vitamins are not made by the body in sufficient amounts to maintain health and must instead be obtained through food. Vitamins are found in a wide variety of foods, and some foods are better sources than others. For this reason, eating a wide variety of foods ensures a better intake of vitamins. However, sometimes people don’t get the vitamins they need through diet, which is why some supplementation is both safe and desirable.

2. Evaluate Your Need for Supplements

Before you head to the drugstore and drop every nutritional supplement you see into your cart, check to see if you’re already doing enough on your own in the multivitamin department.

• Do you eat 6 to 11 servings of grains (bread, cereal, rice, pasta, and other grain foods)?

• Do you eat at least 3 servings of vegetables?

• Do you eat at least 2 servings of fruit?

• Do you eat 2 or more servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, or cheese?

• Do you eat 2 to 3 servings of lean meat, poultry, fish, dried beans, eggs, or nuts?

• Are you under sixty years of age?

If you’re not answering yes, you may want to invest in a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement. These are not to be used in place of meals, of course, but to supplement them. One way to improve your eating habits in the meantime is to choose one food group at a time and strive to eat all of the servings for that group each day.

3. Make Sure Your Needs Are Being Met

People who may want to consider a multivitamin or mineral supplement to boost their metabolism include the following:

• Strict vegetarians may need extra calcium, iron, zinc, vitamin B12, and vitamin D.

• Women with heavy menstrual bleeding may need to replace iron each month.

• Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding (an activity beneficial to metabolism) need more of some nutrients. Be sure to speak with your doctor first.

• Menopausal women may need calcium supplements.

• People on a low-calorie diet can benefit from supplements.

• People over sixty years of age may have a decreased absorption of numerous vitamins and minerals.

• People who suffer from lactose intolerance or milk allergies may be advised to take a vitamin D and a calcium supplement.

• People with impaired nutrient absorption may be instructed by their doctor to take a supplement.

• People who regularly smoke and/or drink alcohol because these habits interfere with the body’s ability to absorb and use certain vitamins and minerals will need supplements.

4. Familiarize Yourself with Vitamin Labeling Practices

Before learning why each vitamin is important and how much you need, it is crucial to understand how these values are generated. In the United States, the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences / National Research Council is responsible for establishing and updating nutrition guidelines. The Recommended Dietary Allowances, or RDAs, have always been the benchmark for adequate nutritional intake in the United States. Based on scientific evidence, RDAs reflect the amount of a nutrient that is sufficient to meet the requirements of 97 to 98 percent of healthy individuals in a particular life stage and gender group.

5. Eat Biotin

The water-soluble nutrient known as biotin, or B7, biotin plays a key part in the formation of fatty acids and glucose (which are later broken down into energy) and in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. It also helps to transfer carbon dioxide and generate energy during aerobic exercise when the body is engaged in the citric acid cycle. Though deficiency is rare, this nutrient can be found in healthy foods such as oatmeal, fortified cereals, Swiss chard, and eggs.

6. Consume Pantothenic Acid

This vitamin, also known as B5, is an extremely important piece of the metabolism pie. It metabolizes fats, carbohydrates, and proteins and is required to form an enzyme that breaks down fatty acids. By doing so, B5 helps your body produce energy. In addition, derivatives of pantothenic acid may improve the amount of fat contained in the blood and liver as well as lower LDL and triglyceride levels.

7. Try Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes contain pantothenic acid. Try mashed sweet potatoes for a new take on an old favorite. Other sources include meat, poultry, fish, whole-grain cereals, legumes, yogurt, milk, and eggs.

8. Eat Vitamin A

If you munched on as many carrots as Bugs Bunny as a child and still ended up with glasses, don’t think vitamin A let you down. You can blame genetics for that. Vitamin A, otherwise known as retinol, does promote the healthy development of cells and tissues—including those in your eyes—but it also strengthens the mucous membranes, which protect your body from invading viruses and bacteria, and it also stimulates bone growth. However, do keep in mind that while a serious deficiency of vitamin A can cause eye problems, dry skin, and reproductive problems, an excess of the nutrient can lead to nerve and liver damage, bone and joint pain, headaches, and in some cases, birth defects.

9. Try Winter Squash

One healthy way to make sure you have enough vitamin A in your diet is by eating winter squash; one serving contains about 145 percent of your dietary allowance. If you really want to make sure you’ve got enough though, munch on some raw carrots. They’re tasty, low in calories, and have nearly 700 percent of the amount of beta-carotene you need for the day. If neither of those foods do it for you, try sweet potatoes, spinach, turnips, dark leafy greens, and apricots.

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