Do I need to take a multivitamin?

jaiedocere, supplements

Pixabay cup of caps

Let’s talk about Multivitamins!

Multivitamins are not standardized, but most contain approximately 100% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of many vitamins and minerals. No multivitamin contains 100% RDA of calcium, magnesium, potassium, or phosphorus as those are bulky ingredients.

There are many reference ranges that refer to appropriate daily intake (RDA is but one of these). What is optimal for one person varies from another based on size, age, gender, race and diet. Therefore it is probably best to look at actual quantity and not percentages.

While I often recommend a multivitamin for “insurance,” I do think we should rely on our food to provide sufficient vitamins and minerals.

Best Practices

  • Cook your own food & give yourself time to eat

    When you smell and see the food that you are preparing, you prime your stomach and digestive system, which allows you to absorb the nutrients much more readily. Take time to relax before and as you eat your meals. Chew your food thoroughly. Stress will decrease your ability to digest your food.

  • Eat as little processed food as possible

    Processing removes many nutrients from food and adds many compounds that are foreign for the body.

  • Minimize animal protein

    When you do chose to eat animal products, eat organic, grass-fed animals.

  • Eat complex carbohydrates instead of simple carbohydrates

    Unprocessed complex carbohydrates have fiber and minerals. They take a long time for the body to digest, leveling out blood sugar levels. This lightens the load on the pancreas, diminishing the physiological progression towards insulin sensitivity and diabetes. Simple sugars, on the other hand, are broken down quickly, thus increasing the work load on the pancreas, and increasing the incidence of blood sugar spikes.

  • Use healthy fats

    Healthy fats are important for maintaining healthy, fluid cellular membranes and regulating the inflammatory cascade. The majority of fat consumption (less than 20% of the diet) should be in the form of unsaturated fats. Good fats include butter, coconut oil, olive, sesame and peanut oils.

  • Eat a cruciferous vegetable every day

    This includes members of the Brassica family: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, rutabaga, turnip, bok choy, arugula, horseradish, radish, wasabi, watercress and maca.

  • Eat a rainbow of foods

    Flavonoids are found in the skins of fruits and vegetables and are important for cellular protection. An increase in the risk of cancer has been correlated with a decrease in flavonoid intake.

NOT THIS KIND OF RAINBOW!

Food-derived multivitamins,
are they worth it?

All vitamins and minerals used in supplements are derived from synthetic USP nutrients. The manufacturers that claim their products are food-grown, food-derived, or whole-food supplements are simply taking these synthetic USP nutrients and adding them to yeast, soy and/or probiotics and “growing” them. While there are possibly exceptions to this statement, I have not confirmed them.

What else might be in the
multivitamin?

Often manufacturers will add herbs to their multivitamins. In general, I feel that there is unlikely to be enough of any herb to have a desired positive effect. If you are interested in taking an herbal formula then take something separate that is in a more appropriate dose.

Sometimes manufacturers won’t list their exact ingredients, instead listing a proprietary formula. I ALWAYS like to know what I am taking, so I avoid any proprietary formula that doesn’t list individual ingredients.

What to look for in a
multivitamin/mineral:

  • Vitamin A: no more than 2,500IU vitamin A, and another 2,500IU beta carotene. Too much vitamin A is associated with bone fractures in older adults and with birth defects in pregnant women.
  • Iron: only menstruating women should supplement iron. Men and post-menopausal women should take a multi that is iron-free.
  • Avoid “oxide” forms of all vitamins: these aren’t well absorbed and in fact can act as laxatives.
  • Vitamin B6: the active form, Pyridoxal 5′-Phosphate (P5P) is preferred.
  • Vitamin B12: the methylcobalamin form is preferred.
  • Vitamin E: mixed tocopheryls preferred.
  • Folate: methyltetrahydrofolate (MTHF), or methylfolate form preferred.
  • Vitamin D: D3, or cholecalciferol form preferred.
  • Iodine: too much or too little iodine is associated with thyroid disease. We are probably getting enough iodine in our foods, so prudent to avoid in supplements.

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