To supplement or not to supplement?


I just had a really great question. Here's my answer:

So far all of my classes have emphasized the importance of getting your vitamins and minerals from foods. Some of the effects of overdose from vitamins are just as bad as not getting enough. When you juggle various supplements it's much easier to risk toxicity, which is virtually impossible with real food.

Also the vitamins and minerals from foods are much more bioavailable. Have you ever looked at your pee after a vitamin B or multivitamin supplement? That's a lot of the cost of your vitamin being flushed down the drain! Also there's a lot of other goodness that comes from eating, for example, a peach than just the vitamin C. Eating a whole food like that gives you also fiber and phytonutrients - and potentially fills you up so you don't reach for something more naughty.

All that being said though I do take a multivitamin and calcium everyday. A healthy diet is supposed to have a regular variety of all of the macronutrients. That's all well and good but I think many of us have some easy go to foods we enjoy and we may not always be mixing it up or eating the most nutritious things. (I like to buy in bulk to save some $$, and that kind of hinders variability!)

One thing I learned recently, though, is that we can only absorb a certain amount of some nutrients at a time. One way that vitamin marketers make their products stick out is by offering the vitamin with more of a certain nutrient so you think you're getting a better deal. For example, your body can only absorb about 500 mg of calcium at once, but a lot of supplements come in 1000 mg. It's best to either cut those in half or buy the smaller dosage. I do that with my calcium and multis.

For vitamins that we tend to have a deficiency in, like vitamin D, I think it's important to get your levels checked yearly during your annual physical. I used to take a vitamin D supplement but have since found out my levels are perfectly normal with the foods I eat and the amount of sun exposure I get. My husband though takes the same supplement I used to and his levels are still too low, so he knows he can potentially go over the usual daily dose.

I guess the final answer is - there are pros and cons to both. If you're the type of person that only eats fast food everyday, by all means - take a multi vitamin! Just try not to overdo it or mix too many supplements at once. (Also be very careful when supplementing the fat-soluble vitamins. Those don't flush out like water soluble ones do and have a higher likelihood of toxicity.)

Thanks for the awesome question @joyonmyjourney! You can find some really awesome, healthy recipes on their page here -