Vitamins, Minerals, and Supplements – Should you be taking them?

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Contrary to what many believe, research shows that vitamins and supplements that you take do not lower your risk of chronic diseases or make you healthy. They’re not the fountain of youth or the path to longevity regardless of the exaggerated claims on the packaging or in advertisements.

The truth is that taking all the multivitamins, minerals and supplements in the world will not make up for unhealthy eating and a sedentary lifestyle.

What are Vitamins and Minerals and what they do?

Vitamins and minerals are nutritional substances that are vital for normal physical and intellectual growth and development, good health and to prevent disease. They’re also called micronutrients or supplements. Your body only needs small amounts but it doesn’t produce any, and so they must come from the food you eat.

When the body lacks micronutrients such as vitamin A, folic acid, iron, zinc, and iodine, for example, there are damaging consequences on the brain, spinal cord, blood, eyes, and immune system.

Estimates are that half of all children worldwide between 6 months and 5 years old suffer from at least one micronutrient deficiency, and more than 2 billion people around the world are affected.

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How do you get Micronutrients?

The best way to get essential vitamins and other micronutrients is through your food.

Supplements that you can buy from a pharmacy or online are not intended to replace food sources. For many reasons, micronutrients you get from eating whole food are vastly superior to supplements you buy. The three most important are:

  • Better nutrition. Whole foods contain more of the variety of micronutrients your body needs.
  • Essential fiber. In addition to providing micronutrients whole food such as grains, fruits, vegetables, and beans, contain dietary fiber. Fiber can help prevent certain conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, and constipation.
  • Protective substances. Many whole foods are excellent sources of natural elements crucial for good health such as phytochemicals and antioxidants. They’re substances that slow down cell and tissue damage and can protect you from cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

Research doesn’t show clearly that supplements of any kind provide the same benefits as those found in whole food. Furthermore, some high-dose supplements have been linked to health risks.

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Who needs to take Vitamins, Minerals and other Micronutrients?

Dietary Guidelines in the United States and the United Kingdom recommend that your nutritional needs, including essential micronutrients, should be met primarily through your diet. However, certain people need supplements including pregnant women, the elderly and children 5 years and under. You may also need supplements if:

  • You have an illness that limits how your body absorbs or uses nutrients
  • You don’t eat well or eat less than 1,600 calories a day
  • You are a vegan or a vegetarian who eats a limited variety of food
  • You don’t eat two to three servings of fish a week.
  • You have heavy bleeding during your menstrual period.
  • You’ve had surgery on your digestive tract and are unable to digest and absorb nutrients

Spend your money wisely. Don’t run out to buy every multivitamin supplement that’s touted to have “magical” properties. Instead, expand your food choices and purchase a wide variety of fresh, healthy foods, which will provide all the vitamins, minerals, and protective substances you need – and in a tasty way too! Daily exercise added to healthy eating will make the all the difference you need.

 

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