Should I Take Vitamin and Mineral Supplements? Print

Global CalgaryThe grocery stores, pharmacies and supplement stores are full of more supplements than ever before.  But the question is do we need more vitamins and minerals and if so, which ones?

What are vitamins and minerals?

Vitamins and minerals are micronutrients, which means that we need them in small amounts because they cannot be made in our bodies. Vitamins are organic or carbon-containing micronutrients that are made by living cells. Vitamins are further characterized as either fat-soluble or water-soluble vitaminsFat-soluble vitamins can build up in body fat stores where as water-soluble vitamins are easily excreted by the body and do not build up in tissues. Minerals are inorganic elements that do not come from living sources, but from the earth’s crust, soil and water in which foods are grown.

Do vitamins and minerals provide energy?

Vitamins and minerals do not provide you with energy. However, they are still essential as they each have important functions within the body to keep all body systems functioning properly. You can think of vitamins and minerals like spark plugs for your car whereas carbohydrates, protein and fat are like the gasoline for your car. If you are feeling low in energy chances are the first thing you need to do is look at your every day food choices instead of popping extra vitamin supplements.

How do I know if I am getting enough?

fruits veggies pillsThe best way to get enough vitamins and minerals is to make sure you eat a balanced diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, veggies, calcium rich choices (such as milk, yogurt, cheese or calcium fortified beverages), protein and iron rich choices such as meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, legumes or nuts/seeds and healthy fats. The key is to ensure you eat a diet full of variety. Don’t eat the same thing each day. For example, mix up the types of fruits and veggies you buy and alternate your food choices throughout your week.

Is a blood test the best way to know if you are getting enough?

You can’t assess if you are getting enough of ALL your vitamins and minerals by blood tests.  This is because vitamins and minerals are used and stored in the body in different ways.  For example vitamin D and iron can be assessed through a blood test, while calcium is better examined by looking at your diet since most is found in the bones.   In most cases the next best way to assess if your intake of vitamins and minerals is sufficient is to have a dietitian input your typical food intake into a computer analysis software program.  Your dietitian can show you a comparison of your intake versus an ideal based on your age, height, gender and activity levels and then work with you on customized advice on how to adjust your intakes of food and/or supplements.

What about supplements?

Supplements are just that, they are a “supplement” to a healthy diet. Taking vitamin and mineral supplements will never make up for a poor diet or restrictive diet that doesn’t include good variety.   Be wary of so-called “experts” that are both selling and recommending supplements, as this is indeed a conflict of interest.

While current research shows that a multivitamin may not protect against chronic disease, I believe an age appropriate daily multivitamin is a good idea for most people to “top up” what your food is providing.

From my personal experience as a dietitian that has reviewed hundreds of food records and computer analysis reports of our clients, I can tell you it is rare to find a client that eats 100% of the daily ideal intakes recommended for health (especially with seasonal variations in our intake).  Women of childbearing age are advised to take a folic acid supplement (which will be included in a multivitamin) to prevent neural tube defects in a developing fetus. I also believe an extra vitamin D supplement for adults is important for bone health and considering so few foods supply enough vitamin D for health.

Individual supplements may be advised for certain medical conditions or for individuals that follow diets that eliminate foods for personal reasons or when certain food allergies or intolerances are present.

Be aware more is not always better. For example, if you take in too much calcium it can interfere with getting enough iron in your diet or lead to constipation.  If you take too much iron it can increase the risk of heart disease.

If you have bottles of supplements that you are taking without much significant knowledge about why and how much is safe and effective, book an appointment with a Registered Dietitian that specializes in computer analysis and vitamin and mineral supplement education to help you get the facts.

 

About Andrea Holwegner

CEO, Registered Dietitian, Counseling Practice Director & Professional Speaker

Andrea the «Chocoholic Nutritionist» is founder and CEO of Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc. since 2000. She is an online nutrition course creator, professional speaker and regular guest in the media. Andrea is the recipient of an award by the Dietitians of Canada: The Speaking of Food & Healthy Living Award for Excellence in Consumer Education....Read more

Success stories

"I am a psychologist in private practice and it is very important to me that my clients have the best care with other health care professionals. For that reason Health Stand Nutrition is my only source for exceptional Dietitians. Andrea and her team provide highly knowledgeable, compassionate, and real world support to my clients who require assistance with food lifestyle. I trust my clients to them and you would be in excellent hands making them part of your health care team."
Adele Fox, Psychologist
“This is the first time I feel satisfied; my cravings have diminished dramatically and I have a whole new relationship with food. I am eating guilt-free for the first time in my life. My energy has also dramatically increased and I feel great!
Rhonda Jenkins, Nutrition Counseling Client
“The Dieticians at Health Stand Nutrition help you to take action on the science behind eating well by making it practical, understandable, and fun. Their office is cozy and not at all clinical or intimidating. I felt like I was sitting down with a really smart, caring friend who wanted to help me make the best choices for my lifestyle and food preferences. Andrea and her team really are the best in the business.”
Marty Avery, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I have come to think of the program as a one stop shopping excursion for everything one needs to know about creating a joyous relationship with food and our bodies. In a single word, the course has gifted me with freedom from the punishing rigidity of disordered eating, old stories that never were true, and body dysmorphia that did nothing but make me lose sight of a body that has done everything I've asked, despite my careless dismissal of her needs. Now when I look in the mirror I find myself shifting from harsh criticism to gentle gratitude.”
Lynn Haley, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“I spent 3 hours when first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I learned more from my Dietitian about food in those 3 hours than I had learned in all the years of my life. I also love the newsletter, there is always something to learn.”
Peter Whitehead, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I didn’t realize how strong my “diet mentality” was, and all the rules I had in my head about food. I was in a cycle of reward/punish/binge/cringe. I booked with your business very reluctantly, on the repeated advice of my doctor, to get my slowly rising cholesterol levels in check. I thought I knew everything about food, and my behaviour with food, but I was definitely re-schooled. My weight is creeping down, I feel good about my diet, exercise, body image, and lifestyle.”
Amy Floyd, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Thanks Andrea for an amazing presentation, I have heard all positive remarks from attendees and the evaluations show the same sentiment. It is really gratifying when a speaker does their “homework” and weaves in our profession’s day to day challenges within their content, you did an awesome job of this! You truly took the “die” out of Dietician! Your information on healthy eating and simplifying how we can work towards this as we are all so busy really hit the mark. Andrea connects very well with her audience; she is energetic, funny, and very approachable.”
Carole Ann LaGrange, Transfusion Medicine Safety Officer

Event Planner for Laboratory Diagnostic Imaging Annual Event

I am a family physician who sees patients with a myriad of eating concerns – from wanting to know how to plan healthy meals for active families, to weight loss, to eating disorders, and so on. I cannot recommend the Health Stand team highly enough. I have worked with (and been to!) other Dieticians in the past and too often find that they just ask for food logs and make suggestions that are easily obtained online or in books. The Dieticians at Health Stand offer much more than just telling clients what they “should be eating.” In contrast, the team really does more of a counselling practice, and they work hard to help their clients learn more about why their eating habits may be off track and not optimal for them, as well as helping people to effect change at a deep level that, most importantly, is sustainable for lifetime health.”
Dr. Deb Putnam, Family Physician

Nutrition Counseling Client & Referring Physician

“I am a busy mom, with kids in high level sports, working full-time downtown, and running our home acreage outside the City. I now have the knowledge and tools I need to plan for and manage the chaos of meal planning.”
Gillian Gray, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“As a construction company, we select speakers who can relate to our industry and its employees. Andrea’s message was delivered with humor and empathy. She makes people feel as though they can make changes without leaving behind every favorite food. Andrea focused her presentation on healthy eating as a way to keep energy high throughout the day. This message and the way it was delivered resonated with our predominantly male, blue collar culture. I would highly recommend Andrea as a speaker for groups such as ours. She will get your message across without alienating anyone in your audience – which is a huge hurdle when trying to introduce a wellness program in the workplace!”
Stephanie Wood, HR and Safety Manager

Fisher Construction Group, Burlington, WA

I found my Dietitian warm, funny, and skilled at teaching nutrition concepts without the overwhelm. The general approach of each session was to mix science with emotion, which was exceedingly effective in helping me shift my perspective on food from one of anxiety to one of joy and curiosity.”
Erin Kronstedt, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Excellent presentation! What a refreshing change to have a speaker inspire rather than “lecture” about nutrition. Your captivating stories, tips and overall approach to healthy eating uplifts and puts people at ease. It was great to hear we don’t need to strive to be perfect eaters, and that small changes really can make a difference in how we feel and in our health. Thanks to Andrea, we have solutions to our everyday nutrition challenges that can actually work in real life!”
Tina Tamagi, Human Resources

ARC Resources Ltd.

“Had I not joined this course I would have struggled with no focus, low energy, and mindless eating. Andrea is an excellent teacher and motivator. This is not just a course, it is a nutrition club with mentorship, support, and connections with other people with similar situations.”
Lorri Lawrence, Pursuit of Healthiness online course participant

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