Supplement Saturday: Should We Take Supplements?
This is a hotly debated question in the health & wellness community.
Some people say that we can meet our nutrient needs through food & that taking vitamins just makes expensive urine, because we will pee out excess nutrients.
On the other hand, others say that most people probably don’t actually meet their nutrient needs because many people don’t actually eat a nutritious diet. Furthermore, our nutrient needs are affected by many factors, such as genetic mutations, disease, amount of exercise, age, pregnancy, breastfeeding, menstruation, gender, & even amount of sunlight exposure.
My Professional Opinion
Admittedly, my professional perspective may be warped. Most people don’t come see me because they’re already healthy.
In my opinion, most people are not meeting their nutrient needs through food.
Reasons Why People Don't Get Enough
There are many reasons that people might not get enough of the vitamins & minerals they need.
Not Eating Enough Overall: Whether you’re counting calories to lose weight, dealing with food insecurity, or just experiencing a loss of appetite, not eating enough means you’re not getting enough of the vitamins & minerals you need. Shakes, like Ensure or Boost, are often provided in hospitals & nursing homes so that sick patients or elderly residents without an appetite get not only enough calories, but also protein, vitamin & minerals.
Avoiding A Food Group: People may avoid or limit a food group for various reasons, such as a low carb diet or simply a dislike of a particular food, like vegetables. One common error I see is avoiding dairy products & not finding an alternate source of calcium. Although you may have heard that green vegetables, like kale & broccoli, contain calcium, you’d have to eat a lot of them. One cup of cooked kale provides only about 7% daily value of calcium & one cup of raw broccoli is even worse at 4% (source: NIH). Better vegan options include tofu, fortified non-dairy milks, & fortified orange juice. Not all orange juices are fortified with calcium, so check the label. Taking a calcium supplement can be a good way to make sure you’re getting enough of this important mineral.
Increased Nutrient Needs: People may have increased nutrient needs due to chronic diseases, wounds, or medical treatments themselves, like dialysis. Pregnancy & breastfeeding also increase nutrient needs because you’re literally feeding a second person (or more, in the case of multiple babies). Taking a prenatal vitamin during pregnancy has proven to decrease the risk of a common birth defect–neural tube defects.