Take them or not? That’s the question many Americans face when trying to decide whether to add an assortment of vitamins to their daily diet. The answer, as typical in these type of situations is, “It depends.”
Gaining all the recommended nutrients through a healthy diet is not necessarily impossible, but it can be challenging. Even the most disciplined people can find it difficult to receive the optimal levels of nutrients, like Vitamin D, which is not found in most foods Americans commonly eat. Unlike most nutrients, Vitamin D is most commonly obtained from skin exposure to the sun.
“It is difficult to get sufficient vitamin D from diet,” Virginia Mossige, a registered dietitian at Parkview Medical Center, said in an article for Pueblo Chieftain. “Skin exposure to sunshine helps your body make vitamin D.” However, she pointed out, even in the most sun-filled areas, it can be difficult to achieve the right levels during the winter when the days are shorter and people are spending most of their time covered up or indoors.
When determining whether or not to supplement, consult with a physician. Be prepared to analyze your current diet, calculating how many fruits and vegetables you consume on average each day. It’s also important to assess the need for certain supplements based on age, gender, pregnancy, family history of disease, and other relevant factors.
While supplements can be convenient, it’s better to get nutrition from food, Mossige said. “If you eat a balanced diet, you probably don’t need to take vitamins,” she said. Since most people don’t eat an ideally balanced diet each day, supplements such as multivitamins, Vitamin C, and zinc, which are often used by hospitals to fight infection, can be helpful.
Also, multivitamins may be recommended for senior citizens who don’t eat as much and may have problems absorbing nutrients as efficiently, Mossige said. Other supplements to consider include calcium if you don’t consume enough dairy, if you’re pregnant or nursing, or eat as a strict vegetarian or vegan.