Healthy Base Initiative
Good nutritional and exercise habits can help boost energy and prevent illness and combat stress. Some service members take daily minerals and vitamins such as calcium and vitamin D. But are they necessary?
The answer varies. Our bodies need a variety of nutrients, but they are usually available in food and our environment. Take calcium — it is vital for bone health. Women who do not get enough calcium as they get older can develop osteoporosis, which may lead to weak and brittle bones.
Calcium, however, can be found in a number of foods such as fortified oatmeal, sardines, milk, yogurt, orange juice and salmon. To help absorb the calcium, vitamin D is needed, which can be obtained through the skin (sunlight), diet (saltwater fish, eggs, fortified milk) or supplements.
The Human Performance Resource Center recommends eating foods that are vitamin rich like fruits and vegetables rather than rely on supplements. Consuming vitamins in pill form can also be costly and does not always provide additional nutrition.
Although most vitamins and minerals can be found in food, women sometimes lack certain nutrients due to health issues. Women need iron during pregnancy, for instance. The Surgeon General recommends they take 400 micrograms of folic acid each day.
The Food and Drug Administration regulates dietary supplements as food, rather than medicine, which means their health effects are not evaluated. Make sure you read the labels on vitamin bottles and, most importantly, talk to your physician to determine whether you need supplements. The Human Performance Resource Center also has a helpful brochure on food and supplements along with what you need to know about supplements and avoiding fraud.
To find out more, visit Health.mil.