Supplements: Do I need them?
Deciding if you need to take a daily multivitamin can be confusing because there isn’t a rule that states everyone should take them ‐ it really depends on the individual, their diet and lifestyle, and any health concerns they may have. Here are some things to think about when making the decision for you and your family.
It’s important to realise that nutritional supplements are never meant to replace a well‐balanced, whole food diet. This is because they can’t replicate all the nutritional benefits found in whole foods. For example, most whole foods like fruit and vegetables are complex and contain more than one nutrient, as well as fibre, antioxidants and other protective substances. So, if you’re eating a good diet that includes a wide variety of fresh foods including fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and fish, low‐fat dairy and legumes, you may not need to take nutritional supplements on a daily basis.1
In certain cases however, extra supplementation is recommended. For example, during pregnancy a woman’s nutritional needs are increased and it’s recommended that all expectant mothers take folic acid, iodine and iron supplements during this time, as well as paying careful attention to their diet.2
People following a restrictive diet and those consuming fewer calories as part of a weight loss program are also more likely to be missing out on important nutrients. A vegan diet, for example, eliminates natural food sources of vitamin B12 and also dairy, which is a great source of calcium. In such cases, supplementation with key vitamins and minerals is usually recommended unless an individual is willing to undertake very careful planning.3
Modern lifestyles also mean that many of us are often too time‐poor to eat well. Takeaways and processed foods may be easy options to grab on the way home from work, but they are usually also high in salt, saturated fat and provide little nutrition. People who fall into this group would benefit from a nutritional boost with a daily vitamin and mineral supplement until life settles down again. Another concern is modern farming and harvesting practices; the fresh food we are getting may not be as nutrient dense as it should be.
This is because fruit and vegetables are often picked unripe for better transportation and there is a big reliance on chemical fertilizers and pesticides which may affect the quality of the soil. Storage and cooking methods, such as boiling, may also affect the nutrient value of foods. A multivitamin is a way to top up the nutrients your diet is supplying to help support your overall health and wellbeing.
As you can see, a daily multivitamin may be beneficial to many people for many reasons. You could think of it as insurance, ensuring you’re getting the nutrients you need when you’re not getting enough through diet alone.
Always read the label. Use only as directed. Vitamin supplements should not replace a balanced diet.
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Published March 14, 2014
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