Should You Take A Multivitamin Supplement?
The answer is not a definitive yes or no. It really depends on your diet and you should always consult with your primary care physician. For some people, such as those with a limited diet or who have health problems, taking certain supplements (alone or in a multivitamin) may be the best way to get nutrients that are lacking through diet alone.
Supplements should not replace whole foods, as they do not have all the same health benefits. For example, fruits and vegetables carry many different nutrients to the human body that you just can’t get from taking a supplement alone.
According to the Mayo Clinic there are three main benefits to consuming whole foods vs. a multivitamin supplement:
- Nutrition – Whole foods are complex, containing a variety of the micronutrients your body needs — not just one. For example, an orange provides vitamin C plus beta carotene, calcium and other nutrients too, likely all working together for its overall benefit to the body.
- Fiber – Whole foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes provide dietary fiber. Most high-fiber foods are also packed with other essential nutrients too, not just fiber alone. Fiber, as part of a healthy diet, can help prevent certain diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, and it can also help manage constipation.
- Phytochemicals – Whole foods contain other substances important for good health. For example, fruits and vegetables contain naturally occurring substances called phytochemicals, which may help protect you against cancer, heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. Many are also good sources of antioxidants — substances that slow down oxidation, a natural process that leads to cell and tissue damage.
PIH Health Primary Care Physician, Elisabeth Brown MD tells us, “Vitamin supplements are not for everyone. For example, if you are vegan or vegetarian, it’s important to make sure you’re getting the nutrients you need. Typically, without all the food groups, a supplement may be appropriate. Certain medical conditions may also affect how nutrients are absorbed, so it’s important to check with your doctor prior to starting a multivitamin supplement.”
Dr. Brown also tells us, “Getting annual check-ups with your doctor will help to learn if you’re lacking in nutrients. You may not need a multivitamin; you may just need a little extra vitamin C or D, for example.”
To find a primary care doctor, visit PIHHealth.org/Find-A-Doctor.