Do I need a multivitamin?
Truth be told most healthy people don’t need to be taking a daily multivitamin. If you are eating a balanced and varied diet you are likely getting what you need nutritionally. That being said, there are a few groups of otherwise healthy people that should consider taking a multivitamin.
Do you fit into any of these 5 groups?
Individuals Omitting Whole Food Groups:
Do you have a food allergy which limits your food choices? Are you following an eating plan that causes you to omit a certain food group, for whatever reason? If so, you may benefit from a multivitamin.
You may be familiar with the 4 basic food groups (fruits & veggies, meat & meat alternatives, grain products and milk & milk alternatives) as recommended by various national nutrition guidelines (i.e. Canada’s Food Guide, American MyPlate, Australian Guide to Healthy Eating). No matter your thoughts on the validity of these national nutrition guidelines, they are designed is such a way that foods are grouped into categories based on similar nutritional attributes.
If you are missing or limiting one of these groups, it could be an indicator that you are missing out of one or more valuable nutrients.
Now you may not be, of course, as there are a number of ways to meet nutritional requirements without following these guidelines to a T. However, there are a number of people who simply cut out certain foods without replacing them nutritionally. These are the people that are at risk of developing a deficiency.
If you are unsure if your food omissions are putting you at risk of developing a nutrient deficiency, check in with a Registered Dietitian (RD) who can assess your diet for adequacy.
Vegetarians and Vegans:
If you are vegetarian or vegan, intake of certain nutrients including calcium, vitamin D, B12, zinc and iron may be sub-optimal.
Following a plant-based diet doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be missing nutrients but you may have to work harder and plan out your diet more carefully in order to obtain the spectrum of nutrients your body needs.
Sometimes taking a multivitamin can ensure you have your nutritional bases covered, just in case you are unknowingly missing out on something.
Adults over 50:
Even if following a well-balanced diet, adults over the age of 50 require additional vitamin supplementation, including that of vitamin D and vitamin B12.
With age the body’s ability to process these vitamins decreases, thereby increasing risk for deficiency. Including a daily multivitamin that includes both of these nutrients can be just with the older body needs.
Pregnant and Lactating Women:
Nutrient requirements of many vitamins and minerals increase during pregnancy and lactation to support the developing fetus and baby, respectively.
Taking a prenatal multivitamin while pregnant and lactating (especially while exclusively breastfeeding in those first 6 months) can help ensure you are getting all the nutrients you need to support a healthy pregnancy and baby.
With something as important as the health of your child, taking a multivitamin is something simple that can be done to help ensure the best possible outcome...a healthy baby!
Women of Childbearing Age:
Did you know that folic acid is needed to prevent neural tube defects in developing fetuses? Wondering what this has to do with non-pregnant women of childbearing age?
Well, as these defects can occur quite early in the pregnancy (often before a pregnancy is even known), it is recommended that all women of childbearing age women take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid daily. While one could simply take a folic acid supplement, a multivitamin also provides extra iron, and vitamin D which can fall short in this age group.
If you fall into one of these groups, what multivitamin do you choose?
A walk down the vitamin aisle can be quite confusing. Do you choose a mega-dose multivitamin? A B-complex vitamin? Vitamins for stress? Vitamins for sport performance? It can be very overwhelming.
While there are guidelines for the maximum and minimum dosages of vitamins and minerals allowed in multivitamins, there are no regulations on which vitamins or minerals they should contain.
For this reason, there are many vitamin and mineral combinations to choose from. The good news? A general broad spectrum multivitamin (alongside a well-balanced diet) is all you need.
If you are over 50, choose an “over 50” formula. As we age, our nutrient needs change and a multivitamin designed for an older adult will take in account for this.
If you are of childbearing age, ensure your multivitamin has at least 400 mcg of folic acid and 9-18 mg of iron. If you are pregnant or exclusively breastfeeding, choose a pre-natal multivitamin.
There is also no need for mega dose vitamins. More is not always better and in the case of nutrients. High doses of some vitamins and minerals have been shown to be detrimental to health.
Lastly, if you are taking a multivitamin that contains calcium, zinc or iron, take at least two hours away from other medications to guarantee adequate absorption of both your supplement and your medication.
Still wondering if you should take a multivitamin? A quick visit to a Registered Dietitian can answer this for you.