Is there any harm in going to town with vitamin and mineral supplements?
The long of the short is yes. Before you waste money and potentially harm yourself, it would be prudent to ask yourself the following questions:
1.) Do I need to be taking this supplement?
2.) How much should I take?
3.) Is it possible for me to avoid a supplementation and get what I want through food?
So, do you need to be taking a supplement? I will throw that question back at you. Why are you interested in supplementation? Sure, there are some great vitamins and minerals that are useful to take daily for prevention of illness. For example, Vitamin C and Zinc in the winter are excellent at supporting the immune system. Omega-3 Fish Oil is helpful for those who want to work on supporting cognitive function, healthy skin and nails, and even low mood.
But then we get to all kinds of weird supplements that people are taking because of segments viewed on the Dr. Oz Show. Raspberry Ketones, Blueberry Supplements, and Forskolin for example. You may want to do some research on what exactly these supplements are indicated for and re-evaluate accordingly. I’m a big fan of finding scholarly journals to see if the research backs the use of supplementing with a specific nutrient. Dr. Oz Dr. said Forskolin “explodes” fat right out of fat cells and assists with weight loss” but I have never heard of a supplement that is better for weight loss than activity. You get the gist.
This leads me to Multivitamins. I’m not a huge fan for a few reasons. First off, why take a slew of vitamins and minerals that you may or may not need in doses that may or may not be enough for what you? Secondly, while many nutrients work synergistically, others compete thereby reducing the overall effectiveness of certain compounds. Thirdly, I believe that many people will make less of an effort to prepare and eat healthy whole foods when they have a multivitamin crutch in their back pocket.
Okay, so now we have narrowed down our list of supplements to those we really need. The Canadian Government has a handy little chart available online that details how much of each nutrient you should be consuming each day. You will notice that each nutrient has three columns; EAR, RDA/AI, and UL.
EAR is the amount that would satisfy the needs of 50% of the population. Don’t pay too much attention to this number.
RDA/AI is the Recommended Daily Allowance and is the number you should be aiming for.
UL just means Upper Limit. Don’t go above this number without consulting with a health care practitioner.
I remember not feeling well once upon a time after taking a bunch of Vitamin B Complex…my fingers and arms felt like there were electrical currents running through them and it was not pleasant. It’s best to stay below the UL if you want to avoid potential dangerous side effects.
Pay special attention to Vitamins A, D, E, and K as these are fat soluble and can be stored in your body. Taking too much of any particular fat soluble vitamin can be toxic. To find out how much of a specific supplement you should be taking for prevention or therapeutic treatment of a condition, check with your Naturopathic Doctor or Nutritionist.
Can you get the nutrients required for optimal health through your food? I would argue it is definitely more advantageous to try through food first but perhaps this is not realistic for certain populations and some conditions where nutrients are being taken therapeutically. For example, most vegetarian (women) need iron, folate, and B12 supplementation. People who work with kids and thereby require a super strong immune system might want to consider Vitamin C and Zinc supplementation but that’s not to say you can’t get it from food. You certainly can.
Here is a challenge for you. Check out how much calcium you should be consuming each day and see if you can get to your RDA before the end of the day (here is the clincher) without the use of dairy. Email me if you achieve this totally doable goal and let me know how you did it: firstname.lastname@example.org
THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)
““My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven now, and we don’t know where the heck she is.”
– Ellen DeGeneres
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