Research shows a well-balanced diet is a contributing factor to preventing heart disease, cancer and other major health problems. This leaves people wondering if they need the extra nutrients that multivitamins claim to give. In reality, if you eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and fortified foods, you’re probably getting everything you need.
But multivitamins are an easy way of supplementing your diet. Below are some simple questions to ask yourself before taking a multivitamin.
1. How is my overall health?
The label on the multivitamin package may boast high percentages of the recommended daily intake of vitamins and minerals, but you can’t rely only on supplements. There isn’t sufficient research to suggest that multivitamins will act as a wonder drug and magically cure any new, or existing, health conditions. Diagnosing and treating health problems is best left up to your family physician.
2. Is my diet in check?
Fast food may be a convenient option at the time, but it’s one you’ll pay for in the long run. Most fast foods lack vitamins and minerals. Adding a multivitamin to a fast food diet is only a band aid solution to the real problem. To ensure you’re getting enough of the good stuff, eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins.
3. Are there whole-food alternatives?
Yes! While it can seem daunting to ensure you’re getting enough of everything, your body will thank you. You may be surprised to find out which foods you’re already eating count toward the recommended daily intake of vitamins and minerals.
4. Am I planning on becoming pregnant?
Being pregnant puts a strain on a woman’s body, so it’s important to make sure you are not in a vitamin deficiency prior to, or during, pregnancy. Your body will require an above average supply of nutrients to ensure you and your baby stay healthy. For this reason it’s recommended that you take a prenatal vitamin to help cover any nutritional gaps you may have.
5. Am I over the age of 50?
If you’re over the age of 50 it’s possible you aren’t getting the nutrients you need. Deficiencies in vitamins D and B, and magnesium, are the usual suspects when it comes to older people. As you get older, your body may have a harder time absorbing certain nutrients. It’s also possible that you’ll experience a decreased appetite and eat less, thus consuming fewer nutrients.
6. Do I omit any food groups in my diet?
If any of the food groups are missing from your diet (for example, if you have a vegetarian or paleo diet), the need for a multivitamin may be crucial to prevent deficiencies. Each food group has its own nutrients that contribute to a well-balanced diet. For example, grains contain B-vitamins and iron; dairy contains calcium, riboflavin and beta carotene; protein contains B-vitamins, phosphorus and zinc; fruits contain vitamin C and potassium; and vegetables contain vitamins A, C, E, K and folate.