Should I be taking a multi-vitamin or supplements?

Should I be taking a multi-vitamin or other supplements?

I get asked this question a lot from clients, friends and family. My usual answer is no, you are better off getting you nutrients from a healthy, balanced diet where possible. You can’t supplement your way out of eating badly, but they do have their place. 

Getting nutrients from food rather than supplements is generally considered better for several reasons:

  1. Nutrient Synergy: Whole foods contain a complex matrix of vitamins, minerals, fibre, and other compounds that work together synergistically. This synergy helps the absorption and effectiveness of the nutrients. For instance, Vitamin K works in conjunction with calcium to help maintain bone density and blood clotting. Leafy green vegetables like kale and spinach are excellent sources of vitamin K, and are both calcium-rich foods. Nature know what is doing by putting them together.

  2. Better Absorption: Nutrients in whole foods are often better absorbed by the body, with the help of other compounds in that food.  For example, the fat in nuts and seeds helps in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin E and K, which might not be absorbed as efficiently from a supplement​. Also iron needs vitamin C  and both will be found in a piece of broccoli.

  3. Reduced Risk of Overconsumption: Supplements can lead to excessive intake of certain nutrients, which can be harmful. People think because they are natural they will be safe  but, high doses of vitamin A and vitamin E from supplements have been linked to negative health outcomes. It’s harder to reach such toxic levels from food alone, as whole foods provide a balanced nutrient profile that limits the risk of overconsumption​. 

  4. Additional Health Benefits: Whole foods provide dietary fibre, which is essential for digestive health and has been linked to a lower risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers. 

  5. Reduced Additives and Fillers: Many supplements contain additives, fillers, and other synthetic ingredients that may not be beneficial for health. Whole foods, on the other hand, provide nutrients in their natural form without these potentially harmful substances​.

  6. Cost-Effectiveness:  Eating a healthy diet is often cheaper than people think. Buying  multiple supplements can soon add up, and buying cheap is usually false economy as they normally contain an inferior version of the nutrient that are not very well absorbed.

  7. Taste and Enjoyment: Eating a varied diet of whole foods is not only nutritious but also enjoyable. The flavours, textures, and recipe possibilities that come with whole foods make them more satisfying therefore a better long-term approach to health.

In summary, generally supplements are not needed unless you have a certain deficiency. If you are vegan, you may benefit from taking a quality vegan supplement to make sure you are getting your B12. Also, supplementing with Vitamin D is necessary for most of us, according to many studies as we don’t get enough sunlight in this country. It is difficult to obtain high enough levels from food alone.

If you do decide to supplement, do your homework and buy from a reputable company.