We’ve all been told to pass up the side of fries, the new flavor of Ben and Jerry’s at the Corner Store and that midnight pizza that just always seems to be ordered. Occasionally, we actually listen. More often that not, we give in to temptation, put on some sweats and figure that the “freshman 15” is simply a part of the college experience.
Although many students are intimately familiar with the physical consequences of a diet laden in fat, we often forget about the variety of subtle nutrients, such as vitamins, that we deprive our bodies of when we indulge exclusively in classic college cuisine.
Vitamins are organic micronutrients that do not yield energy, but rather help our bodies carry out necessary and important physiological processes. As our bodies cannot synthesize enough vitamins to meet our daily physiological needs, our diet provides us with the bulk of these essential nutrients.
Vitamins are either water-soluble – water is required for absorption and are excreted in urine – or fat-soluble – require fat for absorption and are stored in fat tissue. Many vitamins work together to regulate several processes within the body. As each of the following vitamins plays a unique role in the daily function of our bodies, a lack of vitamins or a diet that does not provide adequate amounts of certain vitamins can upset the body’s internal balance and lead to serious consequences.
Vitamins are measured in milligrams or micrograms per day based on the Food and Drug Administration’s recommended dietary allowances. RDAs are based on the level of essential nutrients that the Food and Nutrition Board judges to be adequate to meet the known nutritional needs of healthy people.
The best way to ensure a healthy diet that is rich in vitamins is to eat balanced, colorful meals based on the food pyramid. While this can easily be done in your average campus dining hall, some students chose to supplement their natural intake with a daily multivitamin. While multi-vitamins can be an excellent source of vitamins and nutrients, they do not in any way make up for or replace the need for culinary variety.
In addition, some multivitamins actually give you more daily vitamins than you need. Many people think that if some is good, a lot is better. This is not always the case. A consistent high dosage of certain vitamins can actually be toxic and lead to serious health consequences such as loss of vision or weakened bone structure.
If you do choose to use a supplemental multivitamin, be sure to read the label carefully. By knowing your vitamins, you will be well on your way to a healthy, wholesome diet.
Newman works in the Health Promotion Office of the University Health Service and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.