Victoria BC Dietitian (Dietician Nutritionist) Kristen Yarker, MSc, RD Shares Key Information You Need to Make Sure That You and Your Child Are Taking the Right Vitamins (and Other Supplements).Read More
I write this blog to be of service to you. So I love it when readers write in with topic ideas. What’s on your mind that I can answer? I want to thank the community member who asked me to address: should I take a multivitamin. Here’s what I think about multivitamins.
First I need to tell you that when it comes to nutrition, one size doesn’t fit all. We each have different nutrition needs – based on our sex, age, physical activity, health concerns, etc. And, our eating habits vary widely. That’s why for my 40 Days to a Happy, Healthy You weight loss program, the first thing I do is a nutrition assessment of you. It’s from the results of my nutrition assessment that I create your individual action plan. So, without doing an individual nutrition assessment, I can’t really answer whether you, specifically as an individual you, should take a multivitamin.
However, I can share my thoughts on multivitamins for adults in general for you to consider.
I do recommend a daily multivitamin if you’re a woman of childbearing age.
Who is that? Girls and women from first period to last period. The reason is that it’s estimated that 50% of pregnancies are unplanned. Also, the risk of spina bifida is greatly reduced (although not 100% preventable) when women take 400 micrograms of folic acid (also called folate) in those first few days of pregnancy (i.e. before most women know that they’re pregnant). An unplanned pregnancy can be stressful enough. An unplanned pregnancy with a child who has a significant medical condition that could have been prevented – significantly more stressful. Even if you don’t ever get pregnant, folate is a B-vitamin that’s good for our own health too.
Sure, you could take folate on it’s own. But multivitamins designed for women under 50 will have 400 micrograms of folic acid in them. Getting some extra vitamins and minerals (e.g. iron, calcium) along with your folic acid is probably a good thing.
I do recommend a daily multivitamin for women and men 50 and up.
Why? For the vitamin B12. At first, low B12 causes you to feel tired, lethargic, dragging. Often people think that they may be feeling this way because they have low iron. But it’s rare for men to have low iron. And, it’s rare for women who aren’t menstruating to have low iron. If your vitamin B12 levels get even lower, it causes permanent cognitive impairment. Let me repeat and clarify that. If your B12 levels get too low, you get memory loss that doesn’t return even if you raise your B12 levels back up again. Yikes! Why the concern after 50 years old? After 50, many of us have a decreased ability to absorb the vitamin B12 that we get through food. This is particularly true if you take medications for acid reflux (heart burn), and is a side-effect of a number of other medications. Getting vitamin B12 in the form of a supplement doesn’t require the same stomach function as vitamin B12 through food. We don’t have recommendations on how much you should get in a supplement. It’s somewhere around 2.4 micrograms daily.
Sure, you could take vitamin B12 on it’s own. Some people choose to get vitamin B12 shots (injections). But multivitamins designed for adults 50+ have vitamin B12 in them. Getting some extra vitamins and minerals (e.g. calcium) along with your vitamin B12 is probably a good thing.
What if I’m not in those two groups?
Then I don’t have strong feelings either way about whether you should take a multivitamin.
Want to know more about what vitamins you, as an individual, should take? Check out my Individual Nutritional Assessment Service (including individual action plan) today.
Do you want to get more vitamins, minerals and other nutrients from the food that you eat? Want to reduce bloating and poor digestion? Want to experience more enjoyment from your food? How about feeling more full from eating less food? What if there was one really easy way for better nutrition and digestion?
Well then I’ve got good news for you.
There is one easy way:
Chew your food.
Yes, chew your food.
Okay, I’m being a bit sensationalistic. But I have good reason to be. It seems too obvious. And, too good to be true. But it really isn’t. And yet so many of us don’t do a good job of this.
We wolf down our food without really bothering to chew it.
We mindlessly eat while working at our computers, or scrolling through our iPhones, or while zoning out and watching TV.
Chewing is the first step of digestion. In chewing you break down food into smaller pieces so that your digestive enzymes can have lots of surface area to work on to digest the food, and then absorb it. There’s also digestive enzymes in your saliva that starts breaking food down.
With less chewing there’s less surface area for your enzymes to work on. Which leads to less vitamins, minerals and other nutrients being freed to be absorbed by your body.
With less chewing there’s more undigested food moving through your intestines. The result is that your gut bacteria has more food to ferment, creating gas.
Because we don’t take the time to chew your food, we eat more food before our bodies can register the sensation of being satisfied. As a result we over-eat.
Because we don’t take the time to chew our food we eat an entire bag of potato chips, or an entire tub of ice cream without even noticing. Our “treat” provided us with almost no pleasure.
I encourage you to actually take the time to chew your food. It’s so simple and the benefits are huge.