Supplementation: yes or no? I wish my answer could be that easy but the truth is it's a personal choice based on individual needs.
The best way to get nutrients is by eating nutrition-dense foods. They supply the body with much-needed vitamins and minerals, fiber and other compounds, such as phytochemicals and antioxidants, which work synergistically in ways that supplements cannot. Unfortunately, with the best of dietary intentions, we can still fall short in meeting nutritional needs.
On its website, the Harvard School of Public Health explains that multivitamins as supplementation provide "insurance" against nutritional deficiencies that should not replace a healthful balanced diet. This is absolutely true: in no way should we be using supplements as replacement to an unhealthy diet, but only to be sure we are getting our 100 percent daily recommended values.
Some people think the body excretes what it does not need in terms of vitamins, but that is not necessarily true for all. More specifically, there are water-soluble vitamins and fat-soluble vitamins: water-soluble vitamins will leave the body more rapidly but fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the liver and fatty tissues, and are eliminated more slowly. Because fat-soluble vitamins are stored for longer periods of time, they generally pose a greater risk of toxicity when consumed in excess. Eating a normal, well-balanced diet will not lead to toxicity in otherwise healthy individuals.
Here are a few other important things to consider when choosing supplementation:
- Consider environmental factors, such as where you live. In colder climates with less sunlight, you might want to check your Vitamin D levels for deficiency. This can cause symptoms such as depression, irritability and fatigue.
- Be sure to look at "other ingredients" on labels. Many contain sugars, starches, artificial sweeteners and colorings.
- Supplements are never “one size fits all.” Women and men require different nutrients, as do children.
- See how you feel when taking supplements. If you are feeling nausea, experiencing reflux or digestive issues, that supplement is likely not right for you. Consider trying a liquid form, which is easier to break down and digest.
- Do your research. Not all vitamins are treated equally when it comes to quality. Cheap vitamins could be poor in quality and contain fillers.
Before you start taking supplements, I advise you to check with your health practitioner or coach to see what’s right for you. It’s as simple as that.
Dana Pettit Canneto is a holistic health coach based in Croton on Hudson.