Health food stores, nutritionists, your next door neighbour, your PT… so many people recommend different supplements or specific nutrients to fix all sorts of things, from fatigue, to bloating, bad skin, or weight gain.
It can be incredibly difficult to figure out which of these you should really be taking, but getting back to basics, how about your plain old run of the mill multivitamin? What are the circumstances in which you might benefit from one?
We look at some of the reasons why it might be important that you take a multivitamin below.
Working long hours and skipping meals
You look at your watch and realize its almost 6pm again. You missed lunch and you don’t remember breakfast. It is incredibly difficult to get in all the vitamins and minerals you need when you are only eating 1-2 main meals a day. Lets look at recommended amounts of vegetables alone- 2.5 cups cooked vegetables, or 5 cups of salad vegetables. A little difficult to fit all this in at one meal.
The more you skip meals, the less high quality nutrients you are taking in, the poorer your energy levels, concentration, and mood. And what’s the result? More mistakes you stay back fixing, more stress because you can’t concentrate and your mind feels sluggish, and probably more hours spent working. Multivitamins won’t be a magic little pill, but they can assist your body to cope with long days. Remember, some actually need to be taken with food. A great reminder to eat!
Low/very low calorie diet where unable to get adequate nutrients from food alone
Of course it is possible to meet your nutritional requirements following a moderately low calorie healthy diet, there are some situations where an even more restrictive calorie intake is required. While its never good to diet in dangerous levels, sometimes for medical reasons you could be required to adapt a low calorie diet for a short period of time.
If your doctor has advised that the health benefits associated with faster weight loss outweighs the risks due to existing health conditions such as a heart condition, advanced diabetes, or dangerously high blood pressure, a multi can help support your nutritional status in addition to the foods you are eating so you don’t become deficient while you lose the weight.
History of low quality food intake
If there is already reason to believe you haven’t been getting enough vitamins though diet over time then it could well be worth investing in a few good quality supplements to help boost your body stores back up. Things like a history of inadequate fruit/veg, a lot of highly processed carbohydrates like white bread or junk food rather than whole grains, or irregular meat/meat alternatives can mean that your reserves can become depleted.
Digestive issues- frequent diarrhoea, malabsorption
If you have digestive issues that result in frequent diarrhoea, such as malabsorption disorders, Crohn’s disease, or IBS, there is a chance that even if you are eating the right foods, due to the fast and inefficient transit time through your gastrointestinal system, these nutrients may not be absorbed the way they should be.
Some supplements can aggrevate an upset stomach, so it can pay to find the right type for you- liquid forms, or slow release capsules can be better tolerated, and avoiding taking them on an empty stomach is another way to help avoid stomach upset.
Blood tests have shown up a deficiency
The most obvious reason for taking a vitamin supplement is if you have been found to be nutritionally deficient when a blood test was done. If you have seen the doc chances are your on your way to the chemist if you are lacking something. Its always important to check labels as some vitamins don’t stack up against others and may not be as strong as you need or could be taken in 1 tablet instead of many.
Although the majority of the time we can meet our nutritional requirements through food alone, life happens- we get busy, we don’t have time to prepare proper meals, we fall into poor eating habits, or our health isn’t where we would like it to be. The general consensus is that a standard multivitamin can’t do you any harm (as long as you aren’t taking megadoses) but might help top you up when your diet can’t quite keep up.