Nutritional supplementation with a multivitamin is a consideration for most individuals throughout their life. Recommendations from the food and drug administration include eating eight to 10 servings of raw fruits and vegetables daily in order to help the body receive enough vitamins and minerals to function appropriately. Unfortunately, many individuals find that eating this many raw fruits and vegetables every day is a challenge. And because of this challenge they turned to multivitamins and nutritional supplements to make up the difference.
Unfortunately, researchers and physicians as well as nutritionist know that you cannot skip the daily servings of fruits and vegetables and expect vitamin and mineral supplements to make up the difference. The micronutrients that are available in raw fruits and vegetables have a greater bioavailability than anything that can be manufactured in the lab. This means that those enzymes, vitamins and minerals are much more unavailable to the cells within the body when they are obtained from fruits and vegetables, raw seeds and nuts as opposed to a pill which was manufactured and delivered in a bottle.
That said, when the choice is between nothing and vitamin or mineral supplementation it is always better to do something than nothing. Dietary supplements will complement a regular diet if you have trouble getting enough nutrients but they seriously aren’t meant to be food substitutes. They cannot replicate all of the nutrients and benefits of whole foods so, depending upon your own personal situation, a daily dietary supplement may or may not be worth the expense.
Eating whole foods also has the added benefits of providing greater nutrition which is available to the body, having dietary fiber which helps to prevent certain diseases and manage constipation. Whole foods have a protective substance called phytochemicals which can help protect against cancer, heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. Many of these whole foods are also a good source of antioxidants which are substances that slow down oxidation, cell and tissue damage, the effects of free radicals in the body.
Researchers believe that if you are generally healthy and eat wide variety of foods which include raw fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds you likely do not need a dietary supplement. However, these supplements will be appropriate if you don’t eat at least 1600 calories per day, are a vegetarian, are pregnant, are a woman who experiences heavy bleeding during menstrual period, are postmenopausal or have a medical condition which affects how the body absorbs and uses nutrients. These medical conditions can include chronic diarrhea, food allergies, food intolerances and diseases the liver, gallbladder or pancreas.
Individuals who have also experienced surgery to their digestive tracts, such as surgeries to assist in weight loss, may not be able to digest and absorb nutrients properly. These individuals will also benefit greatly from a daily nutritional supplements. You should talk to your doctor or dietitian about which supplements and doses may be appropriate for your particular specific needs.
If you do choose to use a dietary supplement you should always read the labels carefully to be sure that the nutrients you want included are included. Avoid supplements that provide megadoses of vitamins, such as a greater than 100% of the daily recommendations. Some vitamins are actually dangerous when taken in doses greater than water recommended.
When shopping for vitamins also look for the expiration dates since they can lose their potency over time and for the “USP” on the label which ensures that the supplement must meet standards for strength, purity and disintegration established by testing organizations in the United States.
Once you have them home, store all your vitamins and minerals in a safe place which is also dry and cool. Avoid keeping them in a hot or humid locations such as in the bathroom and leave them in a locked cabinet or secure location away from children. Do not rely on child resistant packaging to keep out curious little fingers. Adult strength vitamins can actually cause significant liver and kidney damage to young children.
Whether or not you use a dietary supplement or nutritional supplement in the form of vitamins and minerals is a choice that resides between you and your primary care physician. Always be sure that the vitamins you take will not interact with any medication you may already be taking. For instance, those individuals taking a “water pills” need to carefully watch the amount of potassium they take every single day. Taking a multivitamin with additional potassium may actually cause problems with their current daily regimen.