by Jill Waggoner, MD
Family Medicine, Medical Charlton Medical Group
We hear how important it is to supplement our diets with vitamins and minerals, but which ones and how many? With so much information available, it’s hard to figure out which ones are best for you.
Here are some tips to help you supplement sensibly.
What’s on your plate? Before choosing a supplement, list the foods you consume on a regular basis. Healthy foods are naturally loaded with vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that help us all stay healthy.
Are you eating a lot of fatty foods, processed foods, or fast foods? These foods are notoriously low in nutrition. If they make up a large part of your diet, a good place to start is to change that immediately. If you’re not sure what a healthy diet and nutritious meal plan look like, MyPlate.gov is a good place start.
Make sure your diet includes a variety of nutrient rich foods, and then use supplements to address any deficiencies you might have.
Which nutrients are you missing? Take a little time to do some research so you know what foods contain which nutrients. Are you deficient in any food group? A simple way to determine whether a meal contains a variety of nutrients is to make it colorful. A plate filled with a variety of colors is also filled with variety of nutrients.
Take action. Once you determine which vitamins and nutrients you need, it’s time to take action. A daily multivitamin is a good place to start. Taking a multivitamin is a safe way to supplement your diet without the risk of exceeding safe limits. Choose a multivitamin that provides 100% of the recommended daily intake. It is important to stay within the dietary limits in order to avoid excesses that can potentially lead to toxicity.
There are some nutrients our diets are normally more deficient in. Most adults and children don’t get enough calcium, vitamin D, or potassium. Potassium-rich foods, including fruits, vegetables, dairy, and meat are good sources of these nutrients. Most of us need to supplement vitamin D. Have your level checked by your physician to determine how much you should take in order to achieve optimal results.
Other nutrients are important for specific segments of our population. For example, iron and folic acid are important for pregnant women and women of childbearing age to protect from specific birth defects. Fortified grains are a good source of folic acid. People over the age of fifty can often benefit from vitamin B12 supplementation because our ability to absorb this nutrient diminishes as we age.
There are also some supplements that we need to be careful with. Men and postmenopausal women need little or no supplemental iron. Women of childbearing age should also be careful when taking vitamin A supplements, because an excess of vitamin A during pregnancy may cause birth defects.
Using supplements sensibly. When it comes to vitamin and mineral supplements there are a few things that are important to remember.
- Do not use vitamins as a substitute for healthy eating. Instead, use them to supplement your diet.
- Do not take excessive amounts of supplements because too much of some can be detrimental to your health.
- Take note of common deficiencies and the segment of the population in which they are found. If you are in one of those groups, make sure you add those supplements to your daily routine.
Vitamins and minerals are an important part of a healthy regimen. Just remember to supplement sensibly.
Before starting a new supplement, check with a physician.