Hey guys! Welcome to episode 25 of The Grapefruit & Granola Podcast. This is actually the last episode of season 25. Thanks for tuning in!
Do I need a multivitamin?
This is a question I get asked about all the time. Like most things in nutrition, the answer to this question is not one-size-fits-all. However, I thought I would give you some background information to help you decide if you need to be taking a multivitamin.
The supplement industry is a multimillion dollar industry, so it’s easy to feel like you should be taking a multivitamin. Actually, it is a pretty popular income stream for wellness professionals who directly sell vitamins. However, there’s very little evidence to suggest that taking a multivitamin can make you healthier, prevent heart problems or help you live a longer life.
If you do not suffer from any chronic disease then you can consume enough vitamins in a well-balanced diet without taking a multivitamin. Having said that, we know that about half of the US population eats poorly and is likely not consuming a well-rounded diet. Your body will naturally use vitamins from food way better than vitamins from a pill. So we should not think of taking a multivitamin as our primary source of vitamin intake. We should think of it more as a back-up plan or an insurance policy.
Those who are at risk for vitamin deficiencies
Here’s a list of those who are at risk of vitamin deficiencies
- Excessive dieting or cutting calories
- Eating disorders
- Celiac Disease
- Crohn’s Disease
- Gastric Bypass Surgery
- Anyone ages 50-70
Nutrients of Concern
The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans named calcium, potassium and vitamin D as nutrients of concern for the general population, and they also named iron as a nutrient of concern for women, women who may become pregnant and women who are pregnant. So we should specifically be thinking of these nutrients and whether we’re getting enough from our diet.
Different Types of Vitamins
Water soluble vitamins are vitamins that can dissolve in water. Your body uses what it needs when you consume these vitamins and then you pee out the rest. Water-soluble vitamins include Vitamin C, folic acid, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, pantothenic acid and niacin.
Fat-soluble vitamins are vitamins A, D, E and K. These vitamins are not typically lost during the cooking process and will be stored in your liver and tissues. You’re not going to experience a vitamin toxicity from eating these vitamins in your diet, but you could be at risk for toxicity by taking mega doses of them in a multivitamin.
If you are of child-bearing age or if you think you may want to start a family in the near or even distant future, your doctor may have recommended that you start taking a prenatal vitamin. This is mostly to ensure that you get enough folic acid, which is important to prevent neural tube defects during pregnancy. Neural tube defects are defects of the baby’s spine or brain, so they are very serious. They develop during the first few weeks of pregnancy, which is usually when a woman doesn’t even know she is pregnant yet. Another thing to note is that according to the CDC, half of the pregnancies in the US are unplanned. The recommendation for folic acid is 400 mcg per day. You can get folic acid from dark leafy green vegetables, oranges and orange juice, peas, lentils, beans, broccoli and asparagus. Many breads and cereals are fortified with folic acid as well. You can definitely meet your folic acid recommendation with a balanced diet that includes a variety of vegetables, but this is an area where it may not be worth taking a chance.
Vitamin D is found in sardines, salmon and dairy products are fortified with vitamin D. It’s actually hard to get enough vitamin D from our diet unless we are consuming foods that are fortified in vitamin D. Our bodies also produce vitamin D when we are exposed to the sunlight. Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with autoimmune diseases, hypertension and cancers. We are finding vitamin D deficiency to be more common because we’re now being more diligent about sunscreen use.
Groups who may experience vitamin decifiences:
PCOS nutrient deficiences
Those who have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome may experience the following deficiencies: vitamin D, magnesium and zinc. I recommend asking your doctor to check these labs to see what your levels are. If you have a deficiency then making sure you’re getting enough of these can help with symptoms.
Vegetarian / Vegans
It’s very common for those who are true vegetarian or vegans to have a B12 deficiency, so I recommend all of my vegetarian and vegan clients get this level checked. Calcium, iron and zinc are also vitamins of concern.