It has become a very common practice for people to take daily vitamin and mineral supplements. But is it necessary? Beside the hefty price tags, vitamin & mineral supplements may be unnecessary if you already eat a balance and varied diet. The Mayo Clinic recommends eating a balance diet to get the full benefits of vitamins & minerals, rather the limited benefit of a supplement. Certain studies have also shown that the body does not process supplements and whole foods the same way. As well, taking too much of a certain vitamin can have detrimental effects to your health.
For example, a popular supplement is Vitamin C, which is often taken in excess of what the body needs, and can use. This is particularly true during cold season, where people falsely believe taking Vitamin C will prevent a cold. Though certain studies have shown that a diet rich in Vitamin C can help boost your immune system, no study has shown that taking heavy doses of Vitamin C when you feel a cold coming will have any effect.
For an average adult, the body needs 75-90 mg of Vitamin C daily. (Females require 75 mg , while men require 90 mg) This can easily be obtained by eating one kiwifruit or one large orange! But most supplements come in 1000 mg formats. So for every one supplement you take, your body will absorb and use 75 mg- 150mg. What will it do with the remaining Vitamin C? Simply, your body will get rid of it through your urine. (People will excess Vitamin C intake report slightly orange-tinted urine)
But more importantly, when you ingest you Vitamin C by supplement, you lose out on all the other good stuff found in whole foods. One study found that eating a small apple, a good source of Vitamin C, was much more effective at helping your body’s immune system than taking a supplement 1500 mg supplement of Vitamin C. This is because the apple also contains other naturally occurring chemicals that have an anti-oxidant effect. It appears that when you eat an apple, you get a complex mix of chemicals that work along with Vitamin C to protect you. But when you replace this with a supplement, you get only the basic simple Vitamin C which has less beneficial effects when it is on its own.
Calcium supplements are another popular supplements, although it may be necessary if you are unable to ingest the recommended daily intake of 1000mg. Calcium is found in many foods, and more and more, foods are fortified with calcium. If you eat a diet rich in green vegetables, bread & cereals,and milk & yogurt, you are probably getting enough calcium.
If you aren’t sure though, a useful online tool can be found at http://bcdairyfoundation.ca/interactive/calcium-calculator.
There are some cases when taking a supplement is a good idea- if you pregnant or trying to get pregnant, if you are female and over 50, if you ingest a diet of less than 1600 calories per day, or if you are suffering from a digestive problem. And of course, if your doctor recommends it, then you should follow their advice. If you pick a supplement, look for one that meets most of the RDAs (Recommended Daily Intakes), rather than one that match the ULIs (Upper Level Intakes). Excessive vitamin and mineral can have minor side effects like diarrhea to more serious consequences, like hardening of the arteries.
Save Your Money
Generally, a bottle of multivitamins with minerals can cost $10 for one person, for one month. For a family 4, this means $40 per month, or $480 per year. This could be a completely unnecessary, especially if you eat a healthy balanced diet, and your family are all a healthy non-smoking individuals. As well, many studies show that vitamins and minerals have a better effect when taking in through whole foods, rather than supplements. So think twice and save your money! Instead of getting supplements, head to your local farmer’s market and stock up on whole natural foods!