For Charles Collins, there’s little downtime during the workday. As the principal of the Paul Robeson Community School of the Arts in New Brunswick, New Jersey, he never knows what might come up and need his immediate attention. Perhaps that’s one reason why he swears by vitamin supplements.
“I don’t have the best eating habits,” says Collins, who only has a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, a bowl of soup for lunch and one serving of his wife’s cooking for dinner. “I need the extra oomph to help get me going” and keep up with the faculty and 500 students, grades pre-K through eight, under his charge.
Think taking vitamins is a waste of time? “Very few African Americans-in fact, very few Americans of any race-eat a well-balanced diet on an ongoing basis,” say Dr. Marcellus A. Walker and Dr. Kenneth B. Singleton, authors, in Natural Health for African Americans: The Physicians’ Guide (Warner Books, $14.99). “Many of us don’t eat as well as we should, and nutritional supplements provide some insurance that we get the nutrition we need.”
Long, nonstop days at the office often mean fast food and/or skipped meals. Vitamins become crucial to ensuring that your system doesn’t slow down during those times when you need lots of energy. Collins’ daily morning cocktail includes Vitamins A and C, ginko biloba (for memory) and garlic (for circulation). If you’re not into swallowing a handful of pills every day, you can still get the health benefits through a single multivitamin. They come in various formulations by age and gender.
To help you get in the know about basic vitamins, we’ve constructed an at-a-glance chart of 12 key supplements. A word of caution: “Mega-dosing,” taking more than the recommended amounts, can actually do more harm than good. See your doctor or nutritionist for the right dosage for you.
Name What It Does
Vitamin C Enhances immune system; promotes tissue growth and speeds healing; reduces blood cholesterol levels and high blood pressure
Vitamin E Helps improve circulation, prevents cataracts, slows signs of aging
Selenium Maintains tissue elasticity and red blood cell metabolism
Calcium and Magnesium Maintain regular heartbeat; prevent osteoporosis
Vitamin A and Beta-carotene Prevent night blindness and acne; heal gastrointestinal ulcers
B-Complex B5, B6, B12 Maintain healthy nerves, skin, eyes, hair, liver and mouth
Folate (Folic Acid) Stimulates energy production and formation of red blood cells; encourages DNA synthesis, healthy cell division and replication
Zinc Important in prostate gland function; promotes healthy immune system and healing of wounds; affects taste and smell
Chromium Helps synthesize cholesterol, fats and protein
Essential Fatty Acids Necessary for the overall health of the blood vessels and nerves
L-Glutamine Speeds repair of the digestive tract; essential for cerebral function
L-Cysteine Detoxifies chemicals; assists metabolic processes
Source: Natural Health for African Americans: The Physicians’ Guide