This is a standard question I hear not only from my clients but also from my friends, family members and colleagues. So, what’s the deal? Is this the single easiest way to improve our daily health or is it a big waste of money?
Americans have been taking multivitamins and supplements since the 1940s, so this is nothing new. However, in recent years it seems that the supplement industry has really exploded. Likely due to high profit margins and little to no regulations. Today almost 70% of us take at least a multivitamin on a regular basis. And that’s just multivitamins. Beyond that you have individual vitamin supplements, mineral supplements, condition specific, organ specific, age specific, gender specific and more! Supplement selections now take up several shelves and even aisles when we browse through in the convenient stores and grocery stores. If that’s not enough we now have entire stores exclusively dedicated to selling supplements like GNC and Vitamin Shoppe. These places bring your shopping experience to the next level with a “knowledgeable and trained” sales person (not sure what that even means) to help you pick which one is best for you! Hmm.. conflict of interest?
We’ve also seen supplements come and go like fad diets. One moment they are the hottest thing going and the next nonexistent, or worse banned from the market due to safety concerns. Not to mention in the US we are free to sell and consume some supplements and ingredients that are banned in other countries.
There’s no denying that the supplement industry needs a little bit of revamping and a whole lot more regulation but are there some key benefits that we can take advantage of and if so, how do we navigate our selections?
Supplements were originally designed to do just that, supplement our diet. This was a great addition to the clinical industry when patients were deficient in critical vitamins and minerals. This was also great for individuals that were required to avoid major food groups due to an allergy. These individuals now had a way to get essential vitamins and minerals back into their diet.
If we break it down in simply terms – we eat to get nutrition. Nutrition allows our bodies to function properly so that we can live long healthy lives. If we cannot meet our nutrition needs with food, we can supplement what we’re missing with supplements.
For those of us who are knowledgeable in nutrition and maintain a perfect diet with several servings of fruits, vegetables, nuts, healthy oils, fish, lean protein and whole grains every day – supplements may not be necessary. A variety of whole foods is the best way to nourish our bodies with essential vitamins and minerals, this is no secret. Unfortunately, the Standard American Diet aka the “SAD diet” is deficient in several crucial nutrients, meaning most of us are not getting the proper nutrition we need daily. Not meeting our nutrition needs can result in low energy, decrease immune system, deficiencies and has been linked to a number of chronic diseases.
The ideal scenario is that we all start eating a perfectly balanced diet, but in reality that can be incredibly challenging. So, for those of us not eating 5+ servings of fruits and vegetables every day, whole grains, nuts, fish, and healthy oils every day, a multi-vitamin would be recommended to fill in the gaps.
VERDICT: Most of us should be taking a multivitamin!