If you have read my blog for any period of time you know that my core belief is the Hippocrates statement, “Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food.”
I really do believe that God created this earth perfectly, and if we consume what he made available to us in the earth then our nutritional needs are supplied. Having said that, I do realize most of us don’t eat perfectly. At the rate most Americans consume processed foods that have little to no nutritional benefit, there is a deficiency in our diets. Consequently, we require a little help, which comes in the forms of vitamin supplements.
I’ve never really considered the need for supplements until I started following a plant based diet. Of course, the #1 question posed to vegans is “where do you get your protein?” The second question is “how do you get B12?” I’ve never been concerned about my protein because I get more than enough in my diet through my consumption of veggies, nuts, and beans.
The B12 issue is a different story altogether. This vitamin is only found in animal products. Therefore, vegan and vegetarians may be at greater risk for anemia from deficiency. My focus for this blog isn’t entirely about B12, but vitamin supplements in general.
My normal practice is to take a vegan friendly multivitamin (I love Alive by Nature’s Way) with high levels of Vitamins A, B, C, D. & E. I also take Biotin. The Alive version is all natural – no synthetics. Despite the fact that vitamins are micronutrients that do not provide energy, I feel more energetic when I’m taking them. I notice a dip in my energy level when I run out. Of course this is more noticeable when I’m not following a good diet. So, even though vitamins don’t provide energy, they are required to turn food into energy.
The Issue With Vitamins: There is constant debate about whether or not vitamin supplements are necessary and whether or not they are effective. There’s been plenty of research on the efficacy of multivitamins. Unfortunately, the science is sending mixed signals. For example, researchers in one study of 38,772 women found that multivitamins may be associated with an increased risk of dying. Another study found people who take multivitamins do not live any longer on average than those who don’t.
Many medical professionals and nutritionists argue that supplements are necessary because:
- Most people don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables
- Most people eat processed foods, which lack essential nutrients
- The soil in which our food is grown is depleted, thus lacking essential minerals
- Pregnant women and the elderly need more vitamins than food provides
In general, there are a few essential vitamins that most experts can agree upon.
- Folic Acid/Folate – is most important before a woman becomes pregnant and during the first few months of pregnancy. It helps decrease the likelihood of birth defects like spina bifida.
- Vitamin D –the body can make vitamin D with enough sun exposure, but unless you live in California or Florida, you’re not getting enough sun exposure to produce adquante amounts. (1,000 IU daily recommended intake)
- Multi-vitamins – make sure it has Vitamins A, C, D, E & K; as well as potassium, zinc, and iodine. It should contain 100% of your daily value of most vitamins and minerals. Avoid megavitamins that may contain dangerously high levels of vitamins and minerals.
- Calcium with Magnesium – 600 mg of Calcium, 400 mg of Magnesium (daily recommended intake)
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids – there are three: DHA, ALA, EPA. They’re not created equal; DHA is the one you want – 600 mg per day.
Remember, supplements should not be a complete replacement for whole fruits and veggies. Plant foods are excellent sources of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. They are also great sources of fiber, contributing to the recommended daily fiber intake of 20-35 grams per day.
Also, don’t forget that vitamin requirements and safety can depend on your personal health issues and certain supplements can interact with each other or with medications. You should always check with your doctor before taking a new supplement.
Question: Do you take vitamin supplements?
Exercise and the Vital Role of Vitamins by Cindy Berner, RD, CSR, LD; American Fitness magazine, November/December 2013 issue.