Q: Should you take a multivitamin?
This is a very common question and I wish there was a straightforward answer, but there really isn’t. Whether you need to supplement your diet or not will depend on a number of factors including your medical history, surgical history and diet. However, there are a number of key points I want to point out when you are considering a vitamin supplement.
- First and foremost, I want to emphasize the importance of eating foods with a variety of vitamins and minerals first, before considering supplementation. Supplements are, as they sound, supplemental to your stand alone diet. Taking supplements is not equivalent and should not replace the spectrum of nutrients you get from whole foods. Why is that? One reason is that whole, natural foods have far more compounds such as antioxidants, than what we can put in a supplement pill. It’s essential that you choose your foods wisely and prepare them in ways that provide optimal nutrient content to your body. It is when your body is not getting enough nutrients from your food intake that vitamins can help meet our body’s needs to survive and thrive.
- Secondly, more is not always better. There might be the idea floating around that having more vitamins can provide better health or maybe that it’s harmless, but it can actually prove to be very dangerous! Certain vitamins such as Vitamin A, E, K can be harmful if you take too much of them. Always check with your primary doctor before you start supplementing.
- If you are eating a lot of processed foods, skipping meals and not eating enough fruits, vegetables or whole grains, you may be more likely to be deficient in some nutrients. Keep in mind, processing foods often pulls out a lot of good quality vitamins from our food and skipping meals provides you less opportunities to get essential nutrients. Consider first shifting your current diet to healthier choices then consider supplementing, if appropriate. Supplements aren’t magic pills. Again, it’s best to talk with your primary provider first and consider getting a micronutrient panel done.
The takeaway is, if you’re generally in good health and eat healthfully with a variety of foods in your diet, you may already be meeting your daily vitamin needs. There’s limited research evidence that suggests that taking a multivitamin will make you healthier. However, if you suspect you are not getting enough nutrients, a supplement may actually be right for you. For more healthy eating tips, consider working with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist to help guide you on your path to better health.