You might not be getting the nutrients you think you are

October 5, 2013

Would it surprise you to learn that many of us do not get the recommended daily allowance of vitamins and minerals necessary from food, even if we’re consuming the suggested daily servings of fruits and vegetables?

Because of current farming practices, mass food production, processing and cooking habits, our foods are less nutrient-dense than they were in previous years. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says that it takes seven cups of today’s spinach to equal the nutrition that a single cup provided in 1960. Add to that that many people don’t eat the healthiest of diets.

A daily multivitamin is a good way to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients you need to be healthy. Vitamins and minerals help maintain cellular efficiency by activating enzyme systems that are essential to cellular function. Phyto-nutrients, which are found in various forms of plant life, are so important that nutritionists recommend at least five to seven servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Sadly, fewer than one in five Americans gets even half of these amounts. A multivitamin can help fill in the gaps of a poor diet, and may have added health benefits as well.

Our needs for vitamins and nutrients change as we get older. For example, women in their childbearing years can benefit from folic acid, which decreases the risk of birth defects. A pregnant woman needs a multivitamin, starting in the first trimester, to ensure that the baby receives proper nutrition. Active and older women can benefit from increased calcium, which can help prevent bone loss and fractures. Vegetarians also can benefit from taking extra calcium, iron, zinc, and vitamins B12 and D.

Vitamin and mineral supplements were traditionally recommended only in cases of deficiency or taken as a treatment for a particular condition, but are now recommended to help support our general health and well-being. Evidence is growing to show that multivitamins may be an important extension of healthy eating and helpful in achieving a level of health beyond what is possible through diet alone. Taken in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle, multivitamins can help support and promote excellent health throughout our lives.

Although some scientists still don’t agree on the importance of taking a multivitamin, the potential health benefits of taking a standard daily multivitamin seem to outweigh the potential risks for most people.

Eating right by making healthy food choices is always best, yet it’s not always practical for everyone. Many of us have busy lives that don’t leave time for proper meal planning and preparation, which can help ensure that we and our families are getting the daily nutrients to prevent disease. Plus, it’s not always easy to get your child to eat a balanced diet; as kids grow they pass through periods of fussy eating during which it can be difficult to ensure they’re getting all the nutrients they need.

Eating a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, lean meats and poultry and low-fat dairy products is the best way to get your daily dose of vitamins and nutrients to keep your body functioning properly and to ward off illnesses. But taking a multivitamin daily is a good backup plan, and an easy way to fill any gaps in your diet.

Mike DeCinti hopes that everyone adds a multivitamin to their daily routine and can be reached at 910-671-9000.