According to Johns Hopkins research on health and wellness, 50% of Americans take a multivitamin or other vitamin/mineral supplement every day. Based on that fact alone there are one of two conclusions that can be made: either multivitamins are essential, or a huge part of the country is being duped on the necessity of multivitamins. So which is it?
Well it’s kind of both and it’s kind of neither. The reality is that vitamins are essential. In order for our bodies to function optimally we need to get our daily dose of vitamins. We’re talking vitamin C, a few Bs, D for sure, iron, zinc, etc. Honestly the list is a long one and can sometimes seem overwhelming, which is why the most simple solution is to grab a multivitamin. We can look at the list of everything the product contains and confidently note that we’re getting all of our vitamins. But is it really giving us the same health benefit? That’s the important information we need to know.
Pills will never outperform food
At the end of the day a healthy diet is always going to be the best way to get your vitamins and nutrients. The difference between the two is that pills are essentially extracts of the nutritional component it is replicating. The actual food will not only have the vitamin in question, but it will pack additional nutritional punch, including fibers and other benefits. If you take your vitamins and then eat fast food and snacks all day, are you technically getting your daily dose of vitamins? Sure. But do you honestly think that you have the same nutritional value in your diet as someone that eats healthy foods and gets their vitamins naturally? No shot.
Natural foods contain the aforementioned fiber and also antioxidants. We love antioxidants here at Influential Gentleman, and if you’ve been reading our other health articles you know this to be true. Antioxidants have a wide array of benefits like reducing the risk of heart disease and certain cancers. Adding foods high in antioxidants generally will give you not only the antioxidant properties but a wide array of solid vitamins as well.
Healthy foods also contain phytochemicals, protective substances that also can fight cancer and disease, including diabetes. I don’t think it’s that hard to convey how much healthier food is in general when compared to simply taking a multivitamin. You’re getting a much better version of the pill your taking while also adding additional health benefits. Eating healthy will also help in other areas like consuming less sodium and the bad types of fats found in processed food. A balanced diet is definitely the way to go.
How can I know I’m getting all the vitamins I need?
This is actually a good questions. Like I said a multivitamin simply says on the back all the vitamins that you’re getting, which makes it very easy to track. They even use percentages so you know if you’ve hit the 100% recommended value or not. Point to supplementation. However, it really isn’t difficult if you are concerned with your health and taking other measures to ensure a healthy lifestyle. We recently talked about counting calories by using a calorie-counting app like MyFitnessPal. When you enter your food into there it not only gives you the calories like we talked about, but includes vitamins as well.
Even if you don’t want to track calories you can always simply look on the label or do a quick search to see what types of foods have which vitamins. That’s what I used to do. I had essentially a list of the foods that contained different vitamins and made sure I added the ones that I liked to my diet, looking at the labels to get a vague idea of whether or not I was hitting my daily goal.
At the end of the day if you’re eating a healthy, balanced diet, you are probably taking care of your vitamin needs. If you’re eating vegetables, fruits, meats, and whole grains, you’re doing fine. If you’re a vegetarian, simply look up the vitamins that meat contains, such as zinc, and find it in non-meat options, such as beans and nuts. There is a minimal amount of research that can be done briefly that is a one time thing. Once you find out where your vitamins are you can simply move forward with a diet that includes them all. No need to constantly research because food profiles aren’t going to change.
So where does proper supplementation come in?
Supplementing vitamins is a good solution in a couple of situations. First, if you are deficient in any vitamins. Plenty of people are iron-deficient, vitamin D-deficient, etc. In this case you would almost definitely be recommended by a doctor to supplement your already healthy diet with some vitamins in pill form. Obviously there is nothing wrong with this. In fact, it’s actually a good idea to get some testing done to make sure that you don’t have some sort of deficiency that could require some supplementation. It’s better to find out sooner than later so that your diet can be on track as quickly as possible.
Second, if you have a specific health issue. If you find that your hair is thinning, it might be time to take some Biotin supplements. If you are sick, you may want to take some extra vitamin C. These are more specific and kind of are on the same page as the first reasoning, based off of specific health needs. Again you can consult a doctor to see if this is the path to take.
Finally, and this one is very specific, taking Vitamin D in the winter is a good idea. Vitamin D is most readily available through sun exposure. Going outside even for just 10-20 minutes a day will get you the vitamin D you need. However, going outside in the winter is not fun if you live in an area that gets cold. So, you may want to supplement some vitamin D if you know that you will be outdoors significantly less frequently.
Stick to the good stuff
If you can, try to maintain a health diet. This will be the best way to get all of your vitamins plus the additional benefits that comes from eating healthy foods. If you need to, you can supplement, but always first try to fill your vitamin needs the proper way.