Sunday, January 24, 2016

Vitamin and Mineral Supplements: Yes or No?

Diet fads: they’re everywhere.

It’s hard to keep healthy eating habits when there is a fast food joint on every corner and pizza is just a phone call away. We’ve all been there- too tired, no time, or just too lazy to want to cook. Two key factors to good nutrition are planning and balance. Planning what to eat throughout the week will help keep you on track while balancing food groups will ensure adequate nutrient intake. 

A new fad is supplementing the nutrients you miss in your food in order to meet the recommended daily intake. There are a lot of supplements out there, but how do you know if they’re “good for you” or actually work?

There are many different types of nutrients found in food. These can be broken down into two categories: macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients are carbohydrates, protein, and fat. When we think about food, these are what we typically think about. Most of our diets consist of these three nutrients because we need them in large amounts to survive. Micronutrients, however, are often overlooked. Vitamins and minerals are micronutrients; we only need these nutrients in small amounts. Without micronutrients, our bodies would not function properly.

If you eat a balanced diet, you typically do not need to take supplements. Not getting enough vitamins and minerals, however, can be very detrimental to your health. For example, B vitamins are essential for healthy skin, hair, and brain function. Vitamin D works to maintain calcium levels which is needed for healthy teeth and bones; calcium- a mineral- also plays a very important role in muscle contractions and nerve impulse transmissions.

If you do not get enough of these nutrients in your food, supplementing them can be very helpful. However, many nutritionists recommend getting these vital nutrients from food first because the body will more easily break them down. The body can have a harder time catabolizing supplements, specifically fat soluble vitamins which is absorbed better when eaten with a food that provides fat.

If you are curious about nutrition, supplements, or eating healthier, you should speak to your doctor or nutritionist first. Everybody is different.  A doctor or nutritionist can help you break down your eating habits, add nutrient rich foods, and possibly recommend the supplements that will work best for you. 

Remember- planning and balance are key to healthy eating habits!

Blog post by Nikki Courtney.

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