You’ve probably been told since you were a child to take your vitamins to keep your bones strong, your teeth healthy, and your skin glowing. It wasn’t a complicated process; you simply popped a delicious gummy vitamin into your mouth and went about your day.
Now that you’re older and wiser, you’ve probably heard the term supplement used interchangeably with vitamins. It’s kind of confusing because you know there’s a difference, but people tend to talk about them as if they’re the same thing.
Vitamins and supplements are certainly related, but they’re not the same. They each have their own purposes, and understanding those purposes will help you apply their benefits.
Vitamins and Supplements Defined
A vitamin is a natural substance, usually found in food, that helps your body be healthy. It’s a composition of organic compounds that, in small quantities, are essential for your health. It can be found in food as well as in a vitamin tablet. It’s important to note that your body absorbs vitamins better if they’re consumed in food form.
A supplement, on the other hand, is a product that you take orally to consume necessary vitamins for your diet. In other words, it’s the vehicle that carries added nutrients or vitamins from the supplement manufacturer to your body. It can be in tablet or powder form.
So, if you use the term vitamins or supplement interchangeably, you’re not completely wrong. When you consume vitamins outside of food and drink, you are probably consuming it in supplement form.
However, just because you take a supplement doesn’t mean you’re consuming a vitamin. Sometimes, supplements contain nutrients or compounds that are not vitamins. For example, minerals like calcium and potassium are essential for your health, but they aren’t a vitamin.
It would be more accurate to say that supplements contain the nutrients necessary for your body, which encompasses vitamins, minerals, and other organic compounds you need for optimum health.
There Are 13 Universally Recognized Vitamins
Scientists and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have identified the vitamins we need for optimum health. Only 13 are universally recognized as vitamins. Here’s a list of the 13 vitamins and their most common sources.
Vitamin A: soy milk, squash, spinach, milk, and fish
Vitamin B1: oatmeal, eggs, pork, potatoes, and brown rice
Vitamin B2: bananas, dairy products, asparagus, and green beans
Vitamin B3: mushrooms, tree nuts, eggs, fish, meat, and several vegetables
Vitamin B5: avocados, meat, and broccoli
Vitamin B6: vegetables, meat, tree nuts, and bananas
Vitamins B7: peanuts, egg yolk, leafy green vegetables, and animal liver
Vitamin B9: pasta, liver, bread, cereal, and leafy vegetables
Vitamin B12: animal products and meat
Vitamin C: citrus, fruits, vegetables, and liver
Vitamin D: mushrooms, eggs, fish, and liver
Vitamin E: vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds
Vitamin K: egg yolks, spinach and other leafy vegetables, and liver
You might be able to take a supplement for anything other than what’s on the above list, but they’re not considered vitamins.
Other Nutrients and Minerals Consumed in Supplements
Your body needs more than just vitamins to be healthy. If you’re not getting enough of these nutrients in your diet, you might consider taking the following by supplement:
- Healthy fats
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Trace minerals
Each of these minerals and nutrients offers its own unique health benefits, and they can be found in many different foods. Taking a daily multivitamin will help you to meet the recommended levels of daily consumption. You may also take extra supplements of a specific vitamin or nutrient if you’re not getting enough.