You Asked: If my diet is good, do I need a multivitamin?
You get your eight hours of sleep, don’t skimp on breakfast, fill your plate with fruits and veggies and drink plenty of water throughout the day. By all accounts, you maintain a healthy lifestyle. So do you need to be taking extra vitamins? Taylor Newhouse, registered dietitian with the Texas A&M School of Public Health, explains whether a multivitamin is necessary for you.
What constitutes as a good diet?
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) standard for a healthy diet revolves around MyPlate, which illustrates the five food groups that are necessary for a healthy diet. Half of the plate is fruit and vegetables, ¼ is grains and ¼ is lean protein with a glass of skim or low-fat milk. A healthy plate three times a day—or smaller meals of the same portions four or five times a day—will provide you with a well-rounded diet.
Although these basic guidelines can help, what works for someone may not work precisely for you, and even if you are doing most things right, you’re probably not getting all of your nutrients.
“Eating a perfect diet is almost impossible,” Newhouse said. “No one is in perfect health, so most people can probably benefit from some type of multivitamin or supplement.”
Should I get a multivitamin or specific vitamins?
Your diet should cover all of your macronutrients—carbohydrates, proteins and fats—and most of your micronutrients—such as vitamin C, vitamin D, calcium, potassium and iron. Some of your foods will be higher in nutrients than others, and it’s very difficult to specifically address your body’s needs.
“Your body needs carbohydrates and fats from food, and that’s where most of your energy comes from,” Newhouse said. “Supplements should fill the rest of your needs where there may be nutritional gaps.”
The best way to know whether you need a multivitamin or a specific trace nutrient is to get blood work done by your health care provider. This test will show what your body is lacking.
“If a person knows that their diet is lacking, then they may be prone to just take a multi-vitamin,” Newhouse said. “But until they sit down with an expert and address their specific needs, they may still be lacking in certain areas.”
What vitamins do I need?
It’s difficult to be able to know what nutrients someone is lacking without a blood work-up, but there are an increasing number of nutrients that should be taken regularly.
“It’s hard to guess for someone specifically, but we do see a lot of people deficient in vitamin D,” Newhouse said. “We’ll also see a lot of teenage and young adult women low in iron, and many people will take vitamin C when the seasons change to give their immune system a boost.”
If you’re at the store and looking to buy supplemental vitamins, there are certain things you should look for. “Look for the U.S. Pharmacopeial (USP) label or the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) label; this means that they are further tested and approved,” Newhouse added.
It’s hard to walk down vitamin aisles or shops without noticing the high costs, and although that may be discouraging, it doesn’t have to be the case.
“Don’t feel like you need to spend a lot of money,” Newhouse said. “Price doesn’t always measure quality. Do your research on products and talk to your health care provider about what you should be taking to go along with your diet.”