Supplements vs Food: The Best Way to Get Nutrients
There are many factors that are crucial for a healthy lifestyle. Two key aspects are a healthy diet and exercise. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes and lean proteins can not only help maintain energy levels, but can also help ward off disease. In some cases, nutrient deficiencies can make a person more susceptible to certain diseases. For example, vitamin D has been shown to prevent or reduce the risk of respiratory infections, including colds. Those with low vitamin D levels may also be more prone to respiratory infections. So it would make sense to resort to nutritional supplements for help, right?
You see, adequate intake of essential vitamins and minerals can usually be achieved through a well-balanced diet. Often, however, many people turn to supplements and vitamins for extra boost as they provide extra nutritional support – but not all. In fact, taking too many supplements can endanger your health. We have consulted Kelli McGrane MS, RD for the Lose It! Food tracking app, and Tamara Bernadot, co-founder and Chief Nutrition Officer of Persona Nutrition's Personalized Vitamin and Supplement Service, to learn more about the great dietary supplement discussions to learn about food.
In your opinion, why is it better for RD to receive nutrients from food than supplements?
We know that there are several vitamins that are marketed to consumers because they contain an equivalent diet as x-amounts of vegetables and fruits. However, we are not convinced that this is the case best Way to get important nutrients.
"Compared to dietary supplements, whole foods like fruits and vegetables are almost always healthier," says McGrane. "Whole foods not only contain more general nutrients, including macronutrients and micronutrients, but also beneficial fiber and protective compounds such as antioxidants that are not always included in nutritional supplements."
Why would someone take a multivitamin? What is the best way to find out if it is necessary to take a multivitamin?
"Although I am a proponent of eating most of your diet with whole foods, there are times when supplements are needed to make sure a person meets their needs," says McGrane.
The registered nutritionist says that multivitamins can be helpful to those who have limited nutrition, have difficulty eating a variety of foods, or have a condition that makes it difficult to absorb nutrients from food.
"While blood tests may indicate a nutritional deficiency, it is important to make an appointment with a registered nutritionist or family doctor before initiating multivitamin treatment if a person feels that their diet is limiting or physical signs of deficiency have been identified." She explains.
Why is it so important not to over-take certain vitamins and minerals?
There are two main types of vitamins: water-soluble vitamins that are dissolved in the presence of water, and fat-soluble vitamins that can dissolve in fats and oils. Water-soluble vitamins are not stored in the body. It is therefore all the more important to meet the daily requirements for these vitamins. In fact, the body excretes most of the water-soluble vitamins – which include vitamins B and C – through the urine. In contrast, fat-soluble vitamins, including vitamins A, D, E and K, are stored in the liver and adipose tissue and can reach toxic levels if over-consumed.
"Vitamin A is particularly important because excessive amounts can cause dizziness, vomiting, fatigue, liver damage, bone loss and hair loss," says McGrane. "In extreme doses, [it] can even be deadly. It is recommended that adults do not exceed the upper limit of 10.00 IU (900 mcg) per day. "
Iron is an essential mineral that can be dangerous if over-consumed. "Acute symptoms of iron poisoning are stomach pain, nausea and vomiting. However, if iron intake is still too high, iron can accumulate in the internal organs and ultimately lead to fatal brain and liver damage, "she says.
Ingestion of too many vitamins and supplements may present a risk of toxicity. Therefore, ask your doctor or a registered nutritionist in advance.
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How common are nutrient deficiencies?
"While many populations around the world suffer from nutritional deficiencies that cause serious health problems (such as rickets due to a lack of vitamin D in the diet), marginal shortcomings in the US are the real concern," says Bernadot. "An analysis of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that nearly a third of US adults are at risk of at least one vitamin deficiency."
We need more or less specific nutrients in different phases of life. For example, children between the ages of 9 and 18 need 1,300 milligrams of calcium per day to support bone growth. Men between the ages of 19 and 70 and women between the ages of 19 and 50 need only 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day. Pregnancy and breastfeeding also require increased intake of specific vitamins and minerals.
"For example, pregnant women need optimal amounts of vitamin B9 (folic acid) to support the baby's growth and development and minimize the risk of neural tube defects," says Bernadot.
How do you determine which supplements you may need to take?
"The best way is to meet with a Registered Nutritionist who will examine your diet for possible nutritional deficiencies and conduct a nutritional physical exam to find any signs of deficiencies," says McGrane. "Nutritionists are not only trained to identify deficiencies, but can also give you personalized recommendations on the dietary supplements, the right dose and trusted brands."
Do I have to be careful when taking supplements?
"If your doctor or nutritionist recommends taking supplements, it's important to remember that dietary supplements are not regulated by the FDA, so it's important to do your homework before you buy," McGrane advises with USP on the label as it indicates that they have been tested for quality and manufactured according to the FDA's Good Manufacturing Practices. "