With the supplementation industry growing constantly, it feels like almost every day we should be buying or taking a new vitamin or mineral supplement, or other product of sorts. There is a product for practically every deficiency or disease state out there- but does it work and is it necessary? Let’s dig deeper to see when and where they may be helpful.
Vitamins and minerals are micronutrients required by our bodies to carry out a range of normal functions. With the exception of Vitamin D, they are not naturally produced in our body and are most commonly derived from food.1 More specifically vitamins are organic substances classified as either water or fat soluble. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat soluble – meaning they dissolve in fats and oils, and can accumulate in our body. Water soluble vitamins consist of vitamin C and complex B vitamins, which need water to be absorbed and can not be stored in our bodies.(1) Minerals are inorganic elements that are present in soil and water. Commonly discussed minerals include calcium, potassium and sodium. Nutrients not discussed as often – yet still equally important! – are trace minerals: include copper, iodine, and zinc.(1)
These essential nutrients provide numerous benefits in our bodies and are needed to carry out essential roles. Nutrients can help protect our bones, convert food to energy, heal wounds, strengthen our immune system and repair cellular damage.(2) Dietary reference intakes, or DRIs, are a set of reference values that assess the amount of nutrients we need in order to remain healthy.(3) These reference values are set based on our age, gender, and stages of life.(1) Some common vitamins and minerals that are not consumed enough are vitamins A,C,D and E, and calcium, potassium, fiber, and magnesium.(4) We highly recommend referring to a registered dietitian, or asking a qualified member of your healthcare team, to determine whether or not you are receiving adequate amounts of these essential nutrients. Your team can execute the necessary tests and evaluations to determine if you’re reaching your goals or if supplementation may be necessary.
The preferred method of receiving vitamins and minerals is through the food we eat, the actual food on your plate. After working towards reaching your nutritional goals through food first or if there are any altered health statuses that require it, supplementation may be needed. Additional examples include: pregnancy, age progression, certain medications that block the absorption of nutrients, and malabsorption conditions are all reasons when we need to be taking supplements.(5)
There are thousands of brands for vitamins and minerals supplements and it is important to recognize that not all supplements should be treated equally. By speaking with your healthcare team, you can ensure that you’re consuming exactly what you need in the quality and/or quantity needed. As flashy as it may seem, the most expensive brands do not guarantee you the highest quality product. The cheapest option doesn’t always mean the least quality either. When buying these nutrients remember to check the bottle for the RDA list and for the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) seal of approval. The USP seal confirms that they are being accurately advertised and safe to consume.(1) By following some of these guidelines will ensure that we are purchasing safe and reliable vitamins and minerals.
*Be sure to check out our “Supplement Savvy” episode on our podcast “Snack Thyme” for more tips and tricks: https://anchor.fm/snackthyme/episodes/Supplement-Savvy-eqc6pu*
- Boston 677 Huntington Avenue, Ma 02115 +1495‑1000. Vitamins and minerals. The Nutrition Source. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamins/. Published September 18, 2012. Accessed April 8, 2022.
- Vitamins and minerals – helpguide. Org. https://www.helpguide.org. https://www.helpguide.org/harvard/vitamins-and-minerals.htm. Accessed April 8, 2022.
- 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines | health.gov. https://health.gov/our-work/nutrition-physical-activity/dietary-guidelines/previous-dietary-guidelines/2015. Accessed April 8, 2022.
- staff family doctor org editorial. Vitamins and minerals: how to get what you need. familydoctor.org. https://familydoctor.org/vitamins-and-minerals-how-to-get-what-you-need/. Published October 1, 2007. Accessed April 8, 2022.
- Institute of Medicine. Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes: Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, and Choline. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1998.