Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food. ~Hippocrates

Archive for January, 2012

Vitamins. Do you Need Them or Not?


There is an ongoing controversy about whether or not to take vitamins and supplements. There would be less debate if we all ate a balanced diet, but the reality is that it rarely happens. Still, one must wonder. The vitamin and supplement market is enormous – $68 billion worldwide. Yes, that is BILLION!

My greatest concern is not that we aren’t getting enough vitamins (with exception of  malnourished individuals), but we may be getting too much. In some cases, it can do more harm than good. Fat soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K remain in your tissues and can build up toxic stores. Vitamin D is an exception as the upper limit is high, and more of us suffer from deficiency of Vitamin D than an overabundance. More on that in a future post. Though less risky, even water soluble vitamins in mega doses can be harmful. Further, supplements are not regulated by the FDA. That means there are no standards and you can’t be certain about the ingredients in the bottle. And no one is checking.

As a general rule, a daily vitamin is cheap and safe insurance to be sure that you are getting what you need if you skip the healthy, well balanced meal plan. It is not a license however, to eat poorly or to overindulge. Food quality and variety count. It is safe to take a formulation for your age, such as a senior vitamin for women. It will provide more calcium and Vitamin D as postmenopausal women’s bones need more support. Women in childbearing years for example, would benefit from a formulation made for them. It would include more folate, which is essential for the fetus’s developing brain and needed early in a pregnancy – before a woman may realize she is pregnant. It  also contains iron which is needed for premenopausal women.

So feel free to take a good daily vitamin supplement, with around 100% of the recommended daily allowances and supplement only up to the daily recommendations if more of a substance is required. Eat according to the Healthy Plate recommendations (www.health.harvard.edu/plate/healthy-eating-plate) and get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least 5 times per week.

 

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