Our human body is a lot smarter and more advanced than we give it credit. When we eat foods, they are broken down into nutrients within our stomach and small intestine. These nutrients can be both the macro nutrients (fat, protein, carbohydrates) along with the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).
Once absorbed, these nutrients are distributed as needed throughout our bodies. Amazingly our bodies can regulate certain micronutrients by excreting some vitamins/minerals we do not need, and also relocating minerals from different human tissues when blood levels are low.
It’s no surprise that the sales of vitamins and minerals is a multi-billion industry. If you’re having problems with sleep, energy levels, immunity, whatever the issue, there is a certain vitamin and mineral that is marketed for that specific condition. In fact, you can visit a pharmacy and find hundreds of different vitamins and minerals either sold individually, or in some sort of a combination marketed with a health claim right on the bottle.
Don’t get me wrong, vitamins and minerals are absolutely amazing and are required for so many crucial bodily functions. In fact, we need them to live and function within our daily lives.
However, what is less known is that for the most part we can actually get everything we need from the food we eat. In addition, just like how low levels of any nutrients can pose a problem, so can high levels of the same nutrients.
Eating a diet that contains variety and is balanced provides you with all of the vitamins and minerals you need.
Did you know that one medium orange provides us with over 100% of our vitamin C needs? Or that a 3oz portion of beef sirloin provides up with one third of our daily needs of both vitamin B6 and vitamin B12? Lastly, one cup of spinach provides us with over 100% of our vitamin A needs?
Throughout a full day if we consume a variety of different foods from all four food groups in Canada’s Food Guide we will likely meet 100% or more for all nutrients.
There are certain instances where we may require additional nutrient supplementation. For example, all Canadians over the age of 50 years old should consume 400 IU daily of vitamin D, on top of food sources. In addition, during the cold winter months Canadians may need extra supplementation of vitamin D if their diet is inadequate. Females should consume 400mg of folic acid if within childbearing years, and pregnant females should consume a daily prenatal supplement.
In addition, if certain dietary restrictions are in place due too medical, cultural, or personal beliefs, deficiencies in certain nutrients could exist and supplementation may be necessary.
Too much of something is not always a good thing.
A fact that isn’t commonly realized is that many vitamins and minerals interact with each other. For example, high levels of folate supplementation can actually mask a vitamin B12 deficiency. Vitamin C increases Iron absorption, whereas high levels of magnesium can actually decrease calcium absorption.
There are also toxicities at high levels of many nutrients. High levels of beta carotene through supplement form, which is a form of vitamin A, may act as a pro-oxidant causing cell division. High levels of copper can cause liver damage, and over supplementation of potassium can cause muscle weakness and vomiting. In addition, over supplementation of many nutrients can cause GI distress including magnesium and iron.Too much of something is not always a good thing #FoodFirst before #SupplementsClick To Tweet
I used CRON-O-Meter to track my daily intake for all of the foods and drink I consumed throughout one day. My nutrient needs were determined based on the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for my age and gender.
For breakfast I consumed two eggs, 1 slice tomato, 2 tbsp cheddar cheese, 1 cup spinach, butter, and two slices of whole wheat bread. My morning snack was a banana and a 250mL glass of milk.
At Lunch I consumed one portion of my Pumpkin Chili. My afternoon snack consisted of 10 almonds and an apple.
For supper I ate one portion of Madras Chicken Curry, and 250mL milk. Before bed I snacked on 3/4 cup of oatmeal with 1 tbsp ground flax. My daily calorie consumption was 2130 kcal, and I additionally consumed 2.5 litres of water.
As you can see for yourself, I am well over my DRI’s for most nutrients. With my daily vitamin D supplement of 400 IU in addition to my diet, I also do meet my needs for this nutrient.
Food is the best source for your vitamin and mineral needs. You can save yourself a lot of money and decrease your toxicity risk by instead eating a well-balanced diet full of variety. Extra doses of any nutrient does not equate to extra benefit, in fact it could actually result in harm.
AlWAYS follow the advice of your physician and/or dietitian if a nutritional supplement is individually recommended for you.
If you are worried you may be deficient, or in contrast consume excess amounts of a certain vitamin or mineral, contact myself or your local dietitian today for a thorough nutrient analysis.