Do You Need A Vitamin Supplement?

Photo Credit: Ragesoss CC-BY-SA-3.0 2008

Most people will get all the nutrition they need from the foods they eat every day. Fruits, vegetables, meat or vegetable proteins, dairy and fish can provide complete nutrition for most people. Some people may not be able to get all the nutrients and vitamins they need from diet alone. Those with food allergies, such as lactose intolerance or nut allergies, may not get enough calcium or protein in their diet. People who neglect their food intake due to busy lifestyles may also require a vitamin and mineral supplement. It is always best to adjust your eating  habits to include foods that provide you with complete nutrition. However, if it is not possible to make dietary changes, a vitamin and mineral supplement may help fill in the nutrition gaps. 
It is important to remember that vitamin and mineral supplements are not a substitute for eating food. Supplements are often composed of different molecular combinations than those found in foods and may not be as easily absorbed by the body. Also be aware that vitamin and mineral dietary supplement tablets may not contain all the trace elements your body needs that are typically found in natural foods like beans, rice, oranges and whole wheat. For example, oranges are loaded with Vitamin C, but fresh oranges also contain calcium, fiber, potassium and other trace elements that your body needs to maintain a healthy immune system. Dietary supplements are not designed to replace nutritious foods, but merely to provide additional nutrition that may be lacking in your diet. 
People who are healthy and incorporate a variety of foods in their daily diet including protein, fiber, carbohydrates, and fats usually do not need a vitamin or mineral supplement. Another way to avoid the necessity of taking a dietary supplement is to eat foods that are fortified with extra nutrition. Vitamin D fortified milk and dairy products, juices with extra Vitamin C and enriched grains are usually sufficient to meet all your nutritional needs. Your doctor can help you decide if you need a vitamin supplement. If you decide to supplement your nutrition with an over-the-counter vitamin, read the label carefully and heed any warnings. Avoid over-dosing by taking more than is recommended. People who may need a vitamin supplement include pregnant women (be sure to follow your doctor’s advice if you are pregnant) vegans and vegetarians who do not eat enough plant proteins, people with food allergies and those who eat less than 1600 calories every day. Check the expiration date on the label and discard all dietary supplement pills that have exceeded the expiration date. 

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