Nutrition

Vitamins 101 | A Complete Guide to Vitamins and Supplements

Vitamins and supplements

What Are Vitamins, Minerals, And Supplements?

Vitamins

Water-Soluble Vitamins 

There are nine water-soluble vitamins – 8 of which are B vitamins, and the remaining being vitamin C. The B vitamin group includes folate, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12. As they are water-soluble, they can be filtered in the kidneys and any extra can be easily excreted.  

Fat-Soluble Vitamins 

There are four fat-soluble vitamins – A, E, D and K. Some fat is required in the diet to absorb these vitamins. Fat is also needed to store amounts that aren’t used immediately. A limited amount of vitamin D can be stored in the body, which is then used during the colder months 

Minerals 

There are a variety of minerals, referred to as either ‘major’ or ‘minor’, depending on their importance. The common minerals include calcium, potassium, magnesium, sodium, selenium, iron, iodine, fluoride, selenium, and zinc. Each of these has its own beneficial properties and different functions, often providing support for the functioning of a different vitamin or mineral. 

Supplements 

Supplements are often used to boost the intake of a particular vitamin or mineral. They can also be used to help maintain already healthy levels. 

Why Do We Need Vitamins, Minerals, And Supplements? 

Energy

The body has to create energy at a cellular level, in order to produce enough energy for us to move, breathe and even think! Energy is created by the production and hydrolysation of a molecule called ATP. Many vitamins (especially vitamin B) are involved in the energy production process.  

Immunity

The exact role of vitamins and minerals in the immune system is still uncertain. However, deficiencies of some vitamins can increase the risk of certain diseases and overall illnesses, including autoimmune diseases. 

Anti-Inflammatory

Daily damage from modern lifestyles can lead to a build-up of ‘free radicals.’ These are particles within the body that can cause destruction to existing cells, leading to inflammation. Vitamins and minerals contain anti-oxidant properties that help to fight against free radical inflammatory damage.  

Easy Breathing

It is not only our lungs that help us to breathe – oxygen is essential for this process and is usually bound to iron in the bloodstream. Low levels of iron equate to a reduced oxygen binding capacity, resulting in lower levels of oxygen available for transfer. This can cause symptoms such as shortness of breath or light-headedness.  

Cognitive Function

The blood-brain barrier acts as a filter to protect the brain from harm. However, the brain still requires certain nutrients to function and these need to be able to cross the barrier for maximum effect. Certain vitamins and minerals are able to do this; these help support brain function and maintain overall brain health.  

Movement

Over most joints in the body lies a layer of cartilage. This acts as a barrier to prevent bones from rubbing together, wearing them down and causing pain. Certain vitamins and minerals are needed to help maintain these barriers, allowing for pain-free and easy movements.  

Good Mood

The mood is closely linked to the immune system, hormone levels, energy levels and gut health. An imbalance in any of these can affect physical health, with a knock-on effect on mental health. Having the correct levels of vitamins and minerals can help to support good mental health.  

What Vitamins Should I Take?

Best Vitamins For Immunity

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Vitamin D

Supporting innate immunity and helping to fight infection, vitamin D also plays a role in gut health, which is also strongly linked to immune status. Vitamin D is usually absorbed through the skin from sunlight; however, during winter months supplementation is recommended due to reduced sun exposure. 

Vitamin C

Helping to support the immune system by fighting destructive free radicals, vitamin C is high in antioxidants, which supports the immune system and reduces inflammatory damage caused by free radicals. 

Defence Shots

A blend of vitamin C, B6, B12, zinc and selenium, Myvitamins Defence Shots are essential for innate immunity and are needed for the normal functioning of macrophages. These are the immune cells that trap and help to destroy invaders! Vitamin C of course is high in anti-inflammatory properties, whilst B vitamins help to support energy levels. 

Best Vitamins For Your Hair, Skin, And Nails 

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Hair, Skin & Nails Vitamins

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Hyaluronic Acid

Forming much of the outer layers of skin, hyaluronic acid is needed for tissue repair, especially scarring. Adequate skin hydration also on adequate levels of hyaluronic acid.   

Collagen

Essential for youthful, fresh-looking skin, collagen is a vital part of the extra-cellular matrix. This provides structure and support to cells, contributing towards skin elasticity and prevention of skin dehydration.   

Hair, Skin & Nails Gummies

An expert blend of vitamin C, zinc, selenium, and biotin, these gummies are formulated to support collagen production, skin remodelling and fight inflammation.

Best Vitamins For Your Bones And Joints

The Best Supplements for Joints

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Omega-3, 6, 9

With age, natural wear and tear cause the destruction of cartilage and the wearing down of joints, which can lead to pain. Supplementation with omega, especially when combined with glucosamine, has been shown to reduce joint pain.  

Glucosamine HCL & Chondroitin

Found naturally within joint tissue, these minerals have been linked with reducing joint pain by supporting cartilage health and preventing the breakdown of cartilage tissue.   

Collagen Creamer

Playing an important role in the structure of cartilage, collagen encourages elasticity. Myvitamins Collagen Creamer contains protein, which helps to support muscle repair around the joint and contains the vital collagen needed to help encourage cartilage health.  

Best Vitamins For Energy And Focus

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Vitamin B12

It is recommended that those following a plant-based diet should supplement with Vitamin B12, as this vitamin can only be found naturally in animal products. Vitamin B12 plays important part in the ATP (energy production) and is needed to maintain overall energy levels 

Iron

This mineral is responsible for carrying oxygen to the lungs where it can be exchanged for carbon dioxide. Iron deficiency can lead to reduced levels of oxygen being carried in the bloodstream, leading to fatigue and reduced exercise tolerance.  

Vitamin D

Sluggishness and fatigue can occur as a result of vitamin D deficiency. Low levels of vitamin D can slow down response of skeletal muscles (voluntary muscles). This can lead to feelings of heaviness and increased fatigue.  

Best Vitamins For Digestion

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Inulin

Falling into the category of ‘functional foods’, this fibre has additional nutritional benefits compared to other types of fibre. Inulin consumption has been shown to improve gut health and have a positive impact on blood sugar levels.

Vitacholine

Choline is an essential nutrient, meaning the body is unable to synthesise it and must be obtained through dietary sources. Choline supplementation supports liver health by reducing the amount of fat stored in the liver. Fat deposits in the liver can lead to derangement of liver function which has a knock-off effect on the production of bile acid (needed for digestion). 

Gut Gummies

Containing one billion live cultures to help support your gut health and immunity, these tasty treats can help improve symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating and constipation.

Best Vitamins For Sleep And Relaxation

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5-HTP

5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is an amino acid that helps to regular your serotonin levels.  When serotonin is produced during hours of darkness, it’s converted to melatonin. This hormone is responsible for encouraging sleepiness and may be beneficial if you struggle to fall asleep at night.  

Magnesium

There’s a reason that having a dip in the ocean is recommended if you are having difficulty sleeping – the natural salts found in seawater are high in magnesium. Magnesium is shown to improve symptoms of insomnia by activating the parasympathetic nervous system – the part of nervous system responsible for ‘rest and digest’ processes.  

Myvitamins Relax Shots

Containing a blend of chamomile extract, lemon balm extract and L-theanine, these shots can be used daily to aid sleep. Chamomile tea has long been used to reduce anxiety, improve digestion, and increase feelings of sleepiness. Like magnesium, chamomile helps to stimulate our parasympathetic nervous system.

 

Best Vitamins For The Brain 

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Ashwagandha

Stress can have a negative impact on brain health. Nootropics such as Ashwagandha has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties to help fight inflammatory damage; as well as, have a beneficial impact on brain health in individuals with both healthy brains, and those suffering with neurological conditions.   

Omega-3

As you age, there is a natural reduction in brain tissue. Memory centres in the brain are especially subject to age-related shrinkage.  Higher levels EPA has been shown to be protective against loss of brain tissue, helping to maintain cognitive function.  

Pure Caffeine

Well known for its fatigue-fighting properties, caffeine acts as a mild stimulant in the brain, increasing both energy levels and focus.  Caffeine also helps to boost dopamine levels, which means we often feel happier after consuming caffeine and our productivity levels increase. 

 Best Vitamins For Sexual Health

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Zinc

Linked to increased levels of arousal, zinc helps to boost testosterone levels, and plays an important part in libido in both men and women 

Maca

Usually considered to be a superfood due to its high antioxidant properties, maca helps fight inflammatory damage caused by both daily stresses and the aging process. Reduced levels of inflammation are linked to increased sexual function.  

Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)

Playing a role in the modulation of neurotransmitters, including the happy hormones dopamine and serotonin, low levels of vitamin B6 can reduce libido; therefore, it is important to make sure that levels are balanced for optimum performance. Vitamin B6 also affects the production of sex hormones such as testosterone; supplementation may help to boost levels, encouraging a higher libido. 

Best Vitamins For Older Adults

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Vitamin D

As you age, your skin is less able to absorb and use vitamin D obtained through sun exposure. Therefore, it is important for older adults to ensure they are taking vitamin D supplements, especially during the winter months, when even less exposure is available.  

A-Z Multivitamins

It is quite common for appetite to gradually reduce with age, meaning that older people may be less likely to get all the vitamins and minerals needed. It may be useful to supplement with a daily multivitamin to help support health.  

Coconut & Collagen

With collagen levels decreasing with age, joint pain may increase as there is less protection (collagen is needed for protective cartilage). Supplementing with both coconut and collagen can help to increase these levels, as well as provide essential fatty acids found in coconut extract.   

Best Vitamins For Menopause

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Evening Primrose Oil

Containing ‘phyto-oestrogens’, evening primose oil is a substance that mimics oestrogen in the body, so is a useful aid when oestrogen levels naturally fall as part of menopause.  

Menosure

The oestrogen drop that occurs in menopause is the cause of typical menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, brain fog and irritability. Myvitamins Menosure contains evening primrose oil to help prevent these symptoms, as well as vitamins B6, B12 and vitamin D. These vitamins help to fight fatigue, maintain normal hormone function and also help to protect bone health (oestrogen loss is associated with weaker bones and increased fracture risk). 

Hormone Balance

Any condition that affects hormones can have a knock-on effect on both physical and mental health. Containing B vitamins to help support energy levels during hormone changes, vitamin C to reduce inflammatory damage, and magnesium oxide to encourage the calming of the nervous system, MyVitamins Hormone Balance is the perfect addition to your routine.  

Best Vitamins For Training 

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Energy Bites

Containing a blend of protein and carbohydrates, these tasty treats are perfect for maintaining energy levels and fuelling both workout and recovery. 

Protein Gummies

Strength training and cardio workouts cause muscle micro-tears, and healing these tears helps create larger and stronger muscles. Protein is needed for optimum muscle repair. Containing 10g of protein per serving, Myvitamins Protein Gummies are a delicious alternative to regular protein powders or bars.  

Pre-Workout Gummies

With added caffeine and vitamin B6 to help fight fatigue and enhance your workouts, Myvitamins fruit-flavoured Pre-Workout Gummies are a great addition to your daily routine. Caffeine helps to open blood vessels which increases the ability of oxygen to travel to muscles. This can help to boost workout performance.

Best Vitamins For Vegans 

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Vitamin B Complex

As vitamin B12 is only found in animal products, it is especially important for vegans to take B12 supplements. Playing an essential role in energy levels, metabolism, and immune function, Myvitamin B Complex tablet can help you to meet all your vitamin B needs;  including, improved skin health, improved immunity and reduced levels of inflammation. 

Algae Softgels

A great vegan alternative to traditional fish oil blends, Myvitamins Algae Softgels are great for supporting anti-inflammatory processes and can also contribute towards normal cell functioning.  

Green Tea Extract Plus

Rich in polyphenols ( a type of antioxidant), Green tea has been linked to increased cognitive function and reduced inflammatory damage caused by free radicals The added caffeine helps to provide an energy boost, perfect for a pre-workout alternative, or to help keep energy levels maintained throughout the day. 

Which Vitamins Cannot Be Taken Together?

Iron and Calcium

Supplements containing calcium, or antacids containing calcium should be not taken with iron, as this decreases iron absorption. It is recommended to wait 1-2 hours between taking each supplement.  

Vitamin E and Vitamin K

When taken together, vitamin E may reduce the efficiency of vitamin K supplementation, as both vitamins are involved in the blood clotting pathway. 

Copper and Zinc

With both minerals being absorbed in the digestive system, Zinc tends to be the preferred nutrient. This sometimes results in an increased zinc intake, leading to a copper deficiency. 

Vitamin C and Vitamin B12

Taking both of these vitamins at the same time reduces the absorption of vitamin B12. It is recommended to wait at least two hours between taking each of these vitamins. 

Folic Acid and Vitamin B12

Whilst these are both B vitamins, taken together may hide symptoms of B12 deficiency. Speak to your GP before starting supplementation with folic acid, as vitamin B12 levels may need to be checked first. 

 Can You Take Too Many Supplements?

Whilst supplements are generally not considered to be harmful, it is possible to take too many. Levels of fat-soluble vitamins can accumulate within fat cells, particularly vitamin A can have negative side effects. Some supplements may interact with prescription medications so please speak to your GP if you have any concerns about taking supplements.  

Talk To Your Doctor

This article is for educational use only and should not be used as a replacement for medical advice. Myvitamins are not making any health or medical claims. Please contact your relevant healthcare professional if you have concerns about supplementation.  

Take Home Message

In summary, there are a whole variety of vitamins, minerals and supplements that can be used to support optimum health. Everyone has different nutritional needs, and there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to supplements. Hopefully, this article has helped to demystify vitamins, minerals and supplements and you can start to find what works best for you.   

FAQs

What are some important vitamins and minerals?  

It is recommended that everyone in the UK should take vitamin D during winter months and that all vegans and vegetarians should take vitamin B12 to prevent deficiency. 

Is it good to take vitamins and supplements?  

Supplements should really be used in addition to a healthy and balanced diet. However, not everyone can achieve the right balance of nutrients through diet alone, so supplementation may be needed. Supplements can also be useful if you are looking to include certain ingredients, such as nootropics. 

How do I know what vitamins I need?  

This is completely individual to you and your needs. If you have certain dietary restrictions, you may need different supplements to someone that has a more varied diet. Similarly, those that are more active may have different supplement needs compared to someone that is more sedentary. 

Can you take many supplements at once? 

It may be beneficial to leave a 1- or 2-hour gap between certain vitamins and minerals due to interaction between them. Why not try adding some supplements to your morning routine and others to your evening routine?  

How do you tell if your vitamins are working?

Like most lifestyle changes, the benefits of vitamin and mineral supplementation may not be apparent straight away. However, you should start to see improvements after 2-6 weeks.  

When should you take supplements? 

Most people find it easiest to remember to take their supplements in the morning. However, some supplements such as ashwagandha, magnesium or 5-HTP may have more of an impact taken at night. It is generally recommended to take supplements alongside food to prevent side effects.  

 



rachelgreene

rachelgreene

Nutritionist

Rachel is a qualified Associate Nutritionist (ANutr) who holds an MSc in both Applied Human Nutrition and Physician Associate Studies. Over the last year, Rachel's been working as a freelance nutrition writer and coach, with her areas of interest including weight loss and specialist dietary requirements. As well as this, she's contributed towards published research on weight loss, and is currently studying the role of plant-based diets in health-conscious individuals.