When it comes to supplements, most people fall on one end of the spectrum: poor quality and not enough, or high quality but WAY too many! There is so much confusion about what to take, how much to take, etc. Like I said before, supplements are to be used to enhance a healthy, well-rounded diet and not in place of nutrients. However, there are some supplements that everyone should be taking because getting adequate amounts through foods is unrealistic or impossible. I’m going to start with your “multivitamin.” When I ask patients what they are taking in terms of supplements, this is the most common answer. Lots of people use this type of supplement as their safety net for inadequate amounts of fruits and vegetables in their diet. Wrong way to look at it! Everyone should be shooting for a minimum of 4 servings of vegetables and 3 servings of fruit daily…MINIMUM! Lets say someone is very successful in getting these servings in every single day, do they need to use a multivitamin? My answer is: Yes, possibly. The reason they may still need to take a multivitamin is because unless they are getting all of their fruits and vegetables from local, organic sources, the produce does not contain the amount of nutrients that it once did. Due to our agricultural methods, many of us eat produce from places that are quite far away. If you have ever grown your own strawberries (or any other fruit of veggie), you know that if you pick it when it’s ripe, it will not be long before it begins to decay. If farmers in California picked produce when it was ripe and tried to ship it to New York, it would not be in very good shape by the time it arrived. It would probably be inedible. Therefore, they pick their produce before it is ripe in order to ensure an edible product. This is a good thing in terms of getting produce that you can eat but a bad thing in terms of its nutrient content. A tree only drops its fruit when there are enough nutrients in the flesh around the seed that it could grow another plant. So, when the fruit is at its peak ripeness, it is at its most nutritious levels. Most of us do not eat everything local and vine-ripened, so we eat lots of produce that has fewer vitamins and nutrients. Therefore, a minimum of 7 servings does not even have enough nutrients to call it 7 servings worth. If you buy a juicer, you can get around this by taking your daily dose of vitamins through juicing vegetables. It is easy to get in 3-4 servings in one glass! If you don’t juice everyday or eat all local, vine-ripened produce, then you should be supplementing with a multivitamin.
The most common type that most people are taking are a synthetic one-a-day version. Let me begin with why I do not think this is the best choice. When you isolate vitamins from their whole food, you are losing the synergistic effects of the other vitamins, enzymes, bioflavanoids, phytonutrients, etc. This means that when you eat an orange for vitamin C, your body also gets a healthy dose of other vitamins and nutrients that help your body absorb the vitamin C and use it appropriately. In addition, you are getting tons of fiber and water content when you eat whole produce. Isolating that vitamin C drastically changes what occurs in the body. Also, many multivitamins with contain levels that meet the recommended daily values; however, that does not mean you will be getting the same ratios as if you got it all from food sources. Therefore, you have to worry about how much of “this” you are getting in order to absorb “that.” Nature has taken care of those ratios for you and packaged them into delicious, bright-colored packages. ;) Another thing about one-a-day versions is that most of the content is water soluable. This means that you wake up, take your vitamins for the day, your body uses what it needs……and pees the rest out. When things are water soluble, they follow water. Therefore, you took in your recommended daily amounts but didn’t use over half! It would be like saying you should get 30 minutes of exercise everyday and doing 6 hours of workout on Monday in order to meet your weekly requirement. Doesn’t work like that.
Many are probably wondering what you SHOULD be taking if a typical multivitamin is not ideal. I am a huge supporter of whole food supplements. These supplements are like multivitamins in the sense that they contain extra nutrients to supplement the produce you are getting in your diet, but they are from those food sources directly. So, on the label you will see names of produce such as wheat grass, apples, algae, broccoli, etc. instead of names of vitamins. This ensures you are getting the ratios of nutrients just like the ones you are eating from nature, and they are not isolated from the other components of the produce that help your body in utilization. Also, you will take them spread throughout the day to ensure that you are not letting all those water-soluble vitamins go down the drain. Some heat has be to added in order to process them, but the temperatures in good ones will stay low enough that some of the important enzymes from the produce are also kept intact. Overall, its the closest thing you can get to eating the actual produce or juicing it. The “store” tab on the blog as links to my preferred brands. You can find those brands at doctor’s offices, but Amazon is not allowed to sell brands anymore due to the inability to regulate potency and product getting to the patient. “Deeper Greens” is what I prefer if I am traveling and not juicing.