Have you ever wondered if you should take a multivitamin? A vitamin D supplement? Fish oil? The list of vitamins marketed to consumers goes on and on.
There’s no shortage of information about vitamins on the internet, but here’s a basic rundown of what you may and may not need.
- Foods should be your first source of nutrients – not pills!
- Eating a wide variety of nutrient-rich foods from all five food groups is the best way to make sure you are getting all of your necessary vitamins and minerals.
- For tips on achieving balance in your diet across the food groups, check out the USDA’s Myplate guidelines at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov.
Realize When You’re at Risk
Most adults are not at risk for developing nutrient deficiencies. In fact, you are more likely to be eating more nutrients than you need (due in part that many N. Americans consume too much food!) There are, however, certain populations who may be at risk for micronutrient deficiencies, including:
- Pregnant women who have elevated folic acid needs
- Elderly people and vegans who may be at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency
- Females and vegetarians who may be at risk for iron deficiency
- Those with lactose intolerance or dairy allergy who may be at risk for calcium and vitamin D deficiency
Choosing a Multivitamin Wisely
Your best bet if you want to fill in gaps in your diet is to consider a multivitamin:
- Look for multivitamin preparations with as close to 100% of the daily value for vitamins and minerals as possible
- Choose generic brands or popular brand you have heard of; beware of “prescription strength” and “high potency” which don’t mean anything
Wherever you fall with regards to wants or needs with vitamins, keep in mind that taking a supplement is not a free pass to eat poorly. Supplements are just that – they “supplement” the diet, they don’t reverse poor diet choices!
Special thanks to Dietetic Intern Jenny Legrand for her contributions to this post.