When people ask whether I take a multivitamin, they’re often surprised when I quickly and bluntly blurt out “no.” Studies linking vitamin use to a lower risk of chronic disease have been largely disappointing, meaning that at best, only a weak or modest relationship has been established. Some studies have even shown a potential risk from taking supplements.
Real food, on the other hand, has a tsunami of scientific data establishing perks, like lowering the likelihood of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, to name a few. If you’re eating a plant-forward diet that includes a lot of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grain carbohydrates, you’re getting these benefits, and more. It’s worth mentioning that you’ll reap these rewards whether or not your food is organic or non-GMO. Science says so.
If your diet is less than stellar (as in, you wonder if the lettuce on your burger counts as a serving of vegetables), you may be thinking a multi is good insurance. However, a multivitamin is never going to replace what’s missing from your menu. Better to explore the farmer’s market, salad bar, or even Pinterest to find the spiralized veggie recipe that might inspire you to boost your produce intake. And, of course, Luvo meals promise at least a serving of fruits and veggies.
Despite my food first approach, there are some notable exceptions. If you’re pregnant or nursing, you do need a supplement. If you aren’t eating enough calcium-rich foods, you may need a pill to cover your needs. Adults over 50 don’t absorb all of the vitamin B12 from food, so it makes sense to get this nutrient from the drugstore. Vegans may need extra B12 as well. And most of us could benefit from additional vitamin D—an important nutrient that’s hard to get from food alone. For any supplement, check with your doctor or dietitian to make sure you’re only getting as much as you need. When it comes to vitamins and minerals, more isn’t better.
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