Lining the shelves of convenience and health food stores are a plethora of vitamins and minerals that we are recommended to add to our daily diet.
While the list of nutrients cover each letter of the alphabet or element of the periodic table, it’s time that we begin to ask ourselves if vitamins are necessary to maintain optimal health.
Whether it’s consuming a fully packed multi-vitamin or nutrient-specific pills, how many vitamins is too many? Here at Aaptiv, we’ll talk with both nutritionists and medical professionals to discuss when (and how often) vitamins should be consumed.
Hint: You may be getting all your essential vitamins and minerals without consuming a single pill if you don’t want to.
Read on to learn if you’re making the best decisions for your body and consuming vital and essentials nutrients (the right way).
Food is a Natural Source of Vitamins
“Vitamins are meant to be a supplement to your diet,” says Registered Dietitian Emily Incledon RD, MS.
“Meaning, they can’t make up for a poor quality diet, but instead can enhance deficiencies in your diet. Your body prefers when vitamins come from real food because your body recognizes them more. When you pick a vitamin off [of] a shelf, you run the risk of choosing something that is synthetically manufactured. For generally healthy people [who eat] a balanced diet, there isn’t a need to take a multivitamin, nor be on a lengthy list of other supplements (as your diet is already providing you with most nutrients you need). If you are concerned [that] you may be deficient in a particular vitamin, such as vitamin D, then you can work with your doctor or dietitian to determine if you truly are deficient and what dosage you should take to correct that deficiency.”
When You Should Be Adding Extra Nutrients (and Potential Vitamins)
Ideally, you should ingest nutrients in the form of raw fruits and vegetables, as well as grass-fed and quality meat and fish. However, there are some additional cases when you may need to take more select vitamins, according to Registered Dietitian Brianna Harris RD, CNSC.
“As you age, your vitamin and mineral intake recommendations change,” says Harris. “The daily vitamin D recommendation increases to 800 IU per day for ages over seventy. You can get vitamin D from fatty fish, fortified milk, fortified cereals, or this great source. The calcium recommendation increases to 1,200 mg per day for women over 51 and men over seventy one. Food high in calcium includes: dairy products, dark leafy vegetables, soy, salmon, and almonds.”
If you do not eat food high in vitamin D or calcium, Harris recommends taking a supplement.
In addition, Harris claims that vitamin B12 recommendations do not increase with age. However, your body’s ability to absorb it may decrease. “If you have trouble absorbing vitamin B12 you should take a supplement like this one. The vitamin in supplement form is a ‘free form’ that can be easily absorbed.”
The option to consume supplements is out there. However, always try relying on the natural sources of nutrients first, if you can, before adding pills into your diet.
“Nutrition during pregnancy is extremely important because it helps the fetus to grow and develop properly,” says Harris.
“Some vitamin recommendations increase during pregnancy. One example, is the folate recommendation, which increases to 600 mcg per day. The best food sources of folate (great source) are lentils, spinach, broccoli, and fortified grains. During pregnancy, iron recommendations also increase to 27mg per day. You can get iron in beef products, liver, lamb, tofu, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, black beans, and green leafy vegetables. Make sure [that] you follow up with a healthcare practitioner to go over all the other vitamin and mineral recommendations during pregnancy that are specific to you.”
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If You Have a Deficiency
“If you are diagnosed with a deficiency in a certain vitamin, it is important to take the recommended dosage provided by your doctor,” says Harris. “Your doctor will recommend a specific dosage based on your deficiency level.”
When Vitamins Can Cause More Harm Than Good
You know that you should always try to get your vitamins from food first. Plus, taking too many vitamins can actually cause more harm than good by leading to serious health complications.
Dr. Albana Greca has seen an issue arise with her patients who have consumed too many vitamins. “A problem I have faced with my patients is when they decided to take vitamin D and calcium supplements, although in low dosage. This has altered their metabolism, and especially kidney function, leading to stones or precipitating a kidney colic. I personally evaluate the foods or drinks the patient does consume, plus a complete blood levels of vitamins and minerals. Then, [I] decide to start vitamin supplements (if needed).”
Multivitamins for Kids
“Gummy vitamins may seem like a delicious, easy way for kids to take their vitamins, but they have as much as seven times [the] sugar as pill or powder vitamin options,” says Dentist Dr. Rachel Rosen, DDS. It’s not just about the sugar, she claims. “They also stick to your teeth! Foods (or vitamins) that are sticky are harder to rinse off of teeth with saliva and water. They can become the breeding grounds for cavity-producing bacteria.”
Taking Too Many
“Surprisingly, there can be too much of a good thing when it comes to vitamins and supplements,” says Dr. Samantha Morrison. “Not all vitamins are created equal. On one hand, there are those water-soluble nutrients, such as vitamins B and C, which are easily absorbed and depleted. As a result, it’s considerably rare for these vitamins to ever reach toxic levels. On the other hand, fat-soluble vitamins, such as A and E, are usually obtained through the diet and stored in the body’s fat deposits. Consequently, it takes a significant amount of time for the body to recycle these nutrients. Therefore, it’s important to monitor your intake of these vitamins as an imbalance can have serious health consequences.”
Dr. Glenn H Englander from GastroGroup can attest to the dangers a large amount of synthetic vitamin A can have on the body. Thirty years ago (when he was a young gastroenterologist in New York) a patient passed from liver disease caused by excess vitamin A. “I still remember her saying how the she thought she was doing the right thing by taking additional (and seemingly healthy) nutrients. But, unfortunately, anyone can make and sell a vitamin.”
While not all cases are going to go be that extreme, it is always beneficial to check in with your healthcare provider before adding any vitamins or supplements to your diet. Remember, when possible, it’s always better to get your nutrients from whole foods!
The perfect pair to your healthy intake of vitamins is a great workout routine. Check out Aaptiv’s workouts today.