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I'm 23 and if I am honest with myself about my diet, I don't think I am eating the recommended daily doses of vitamins and minerals. Could you provide some insight on the benefits and downsides of a daily multi-vitamin, or is it more beneficial to eat my vitamins in whole foods? Should a multi-vitamin include calcium and other women-focused nutrients, but I'd really appreciate your healthy opinion!
Needing a Vitamin
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Taking a trip down the vitamin aisle at the drug store is overwhelming, and if you read the advertisements you might feel like you are missing out on all sorts of important vitamins and minerals. The truth is that true vitamin deficiency is very rare in the modern world, even for those with strict dietary restrictions. Most of us have the good fortune of access to a wide variety of foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy which provide all of the vital nutrients. Many of the foods we eat are also artificially fortified with nutrients. For example, table salt contains iodine, bread contains folate, milk commonly has vitamins A and D, and cereals often contain many different vitamins and minerals. There is some evidence that there is such a thing as “too much of a good thing” when it comes to certain vitamins. For example, too much vitamin A during pregnancy can be toxic to the growing fetus. In many cases it is also unclear how supra-normal doses of certain vitamins and minerals affect our bodies.
A well rounded diet is far and away the best method of obtaining the important vitamins and minerals that your body needs. The main exception to this concept is in regards to calcium and vitamin D supplementation for the prevention of osteoporosis. If your dietary intake of calcium is not around 1000mg it is important to supplement with calcium to promote bone growth and prevent osteoporosis. There are other studies that suggest fish oil can improve HDL cholesterol levels, which can possibly prevent heart disease. Multivitamins are also generally recommended for those with severe dietary restrictions, the elderly, or other illnesses that can affect the absorption of nutrients. Other than these few exceptions, dietary supplements can never replace the importance of a well rounded, balanced diet. NutritionData.com is a great resource that can be used to determine if your diet is providing the nutrients you need.
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