There’s definitely a large market for vitamins and supplements, but are they really necessary? Or, are vitamins and supplements just a waste of your money?
The truth is, there’s no cut-and-dry answer. It really depends on many factors. So, let’s explore why you might need a supplement, and why you’re probably better off without one. Let’s dive in.
Can a diet supply you with all your vitamins and minerals?
In an ideal world, your diet should give you all the vitamins and minerals necessary for a healthy mind and body. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for many individuals. According to Dr. Mercola, close to 75 percent of Americans don’t consume the daily recommended amount and variety of vegetables.
This means that most Americans aren’t getting the vitamins and minerals found exclusively in vegetables. This makes vitamins and supplements and obvious choice for these people. After all, if you don’t get nutrients from your diet, why not get them from an easy supplement?
The problem with this approach is twofold. First of all, supplements should always be just that: something to supplement your diet, rather than replace it. Secondly, your body may not absorb the nutrients from your supplements.
Does your body absorb the vitamins and minerals in supplements?
In a 2006 report, it was found that a daily multivitamin did nothing in terms of preventing chronic diseases. This may be because the compressed pills are just too hard for your body to break down. These means that all the vitamins and minerals stay in the pill and your body doesn’t absorb them.
Furthermore, even if your digestive system does succeed in breaking down the supplement, your body may still have a difficult time utilizing the nutrients if they aren’t activated nutrients.
To create activated nutrients, it takes more time and money, but this is a step that many manufacturers skip to save costs and increase productivity.
Therefore, unless the supplement is a very high-quality product, which provides activated nutrients, chances are you’re not increasing your vitamin and mineral intake by taking a supplement.
Digestive disorders can interfere with nutrient absorption
If your digestive system isn’t in good working condition, it can be difficult to absorb nutrients from both food and supplements. Celiac disease, leaky gut, Crohn’s disease, IBS and intestinal damage can all make it difficult for your body to access the nutrients you consume.
Therefore, if your digestive system is already compromised, it’s possible that the supplements you consume will do very little to support your vitamin and mineral levels.
Nutrient levels can be forged
Unfortunately, some vitamin supplements do not accurately list the true nutrient amount on their product labeling. What’s worse, supplements can contain contaminants that negatively impact your health.
To avoid this, Dr. Melina Jampolis suggests finding supplements that have been tested by either the USP or NSF, which are non-profit organizations who certify contaminant-free vitamins and ensure that they’re producing supplements according to high standards.
When are supplements helpful and necessary?
It might seem like supplements are a bad idea. For one thing, they’re not easy for the body to break down and absorb. Secondly, if you have a comprised gut, there’s not much a supplement will do to improve your vitamin and mineral levels.
Nonetheless, since our diets tend to lack certain nutrients, and since certain life situations and health conditions require support, there are times when supplements are necessary.
Let’s take a look at some of the common reasons why you need to supplement your diet with additional vitamins and minerals.
- Age: “As we get older, our ability to absorb nutrients from food decreases”, according to Howard Sesso, a Harvard-affiliated doctor. As we get older, our bodies naturally absorb less and less, making some sort of dietary supplement crucial.
- Winter months and dark seasons: If you don’t get enough sun, you could easily be deficient in a very important nutrient, vitamin D. And since most of us spend a lot of time indoors or surviving old, wintery months, we run the risk of being deficient. Not only does vitamin D support a healthy immune system and prevent some chronic diseases, but it also supports psychological health. A lack of vitamin D could contribute to depression in some individuals. To avoid this, you can use vitamin D supplements.
- Vegan and vegetarian diets: Since the best sources of vitamin B12 are found in animal products, like eggs, milk, and meat, vegans and vegetarians run the risk of being severely deficient in a crucial nutrient, vitamin B12. Without vitamin B12, there’s a great risk for anemia as well as damage to the nervous system.
- Menstruating women: When a woman menstruates, not only does she shed the interior lining of the uterus and blood, but she also loses a significant amount of both iron and magnesium in the process. And without enough iron and magnesium, a woman can have great PMS symptoms and period discomfort.
- Pregnant women: Folic acid is a type of vitamin B, and it’s crucial for the development of the unborn baby. Therefore, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers should consume additional folate to support both their own levels of this B vitamin, but also to ensure that their child develops.
- People who don’t consume enough fish: This study found that U.S. adults don’t consume enough omega-3 fatty acids, which are primarily found in oily fish. Why are omega-3 fatty acids so important? They can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease. Therefore, if you don’t have access to high-quality halibut, herring or mackerel, it might be a good idea to take a supplement like Green Pasture’s Blue Ice Fermented Cod Liver Oil, which is a raw, whole food supplement, free of any additives or preservatives. It can provide you with a safe and heart-healthy serving of omega-3 fatty acids.
Before you decide to take a supplement, try to improve your diet by adding a greater variety of foods that are rich in both vitamins and minerals. Furthermore, it’s a good idea to have your vitamin and mineral levels checked to see if you actually need a supplement.
Finally, remember that a supplement is a great way to support a healthy diet, but it can in no way replace the quality of nutrients found in whole food sources.