Multivitamins: Are They Really Necessary?May 29, 2022
Are you one of the many people who feels that multivitamins are an “insurance policy” for your health? After all, we know that it’s hard to get all our required nutrients in our food.
Or have you been told that they’re not worth anything, and just make “expensive pee?”
There are lots of different studies being done to determine the value in taking a multivitamin, or any supplement for that matter, and the results vary widely. One reason may be that some studies don't always pay much attention to the quality of an individual supplement, rather they may just take a popular brand of the shelf of any grocery or drug store, rather than test the higher quality brands found in specialty shops. But as we know, quality does matter!
I’m hoping that this post may help you to decide whether or not they are right for you!
BONUS: keep reading for another great recipe!
BUT FIRST: Did you miss the previous articles in the Supplement Series?
CLICK HERE for "How to Choose Supplements Wisely"
CLICK HERE for "Top 6 Supplements for Overall Health"
What are Multivitamins?
Multivitamins are exactly what they sound like: multiple vitamins (and often minerals as well). They're supplements that contain several different vitamins in each one. They can also contain several minerals and other ingredients like fatty acids. And because there are multiple ingredients, there are low doses of each ingredient.
In fact, they are one of the most commonly used supplements in the world!
Why might you need them?
There are 13 vitamins and at least 16 minerals that are essential to health. You need certain amounts of all of these nutrients for optimal health. In fact, nutrient deficiencies are known to impact reproduction, growth, regulation of bodily processes, and overall health of your mind and body.
Lots of people say that if you follow a "balanced diet," you'll get enough vitamins and minerals. I personally would love to believe it … but it's just not true. Many people are eating way too much processed food that is devoid of nutrition. And if you buy "conventional" produce ( i.e. non-organic), there's a chance that it has been grown in soil that has been stripped of the topsoil, which includes the healthy soil microbiome with all the critters who help nourish the plant as it grows. There's a lot of research that shows many people don't get enough vitamins and minerals. Period.
How do you know which vitamins and minerals are in your multivitamin? Read the label, and don’t be afraid to ask questions!
Do multivitamins work?
Multivitamins have been studied a lot. However the quality of the multivitamins studied has not been consistent. Some studies consider any supplements with at least three vitamins to be a "multivitamin." Most of the time, the multivitamins studied are ones that are very popular and are available everywhere.
So, what exactly do we know about the health benefits of multivitamins?
Here’s a quick summary of the science:
- Multivitamin use is linked with improved moods. Interestingly, if someone has nutrient deficiencies, they may have mood imbalances. So, if the multivitamin addresses an underlying deficiency, this makes sense.
- In terms of memory and cognitive performance (ability to think), there seems to be an improvement in people who regularly take multivitamins.
- In terms of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, there seems to be a slight improvement.
- In terms of heart disease, the results are mixed. There may be an increase, or a decrease, or no effect on risk of heart attacks.
- In terms of cancer, there is a slightly reduced risk of certain cancers in men.
- In terms of mortality (death), there doesn't seem to be a clear increase or decrease in mortality rates for people who take multivitamins.
All in all, multivitamins aren’t magical “health pills.” They’re not guaranteed to improve your mental or physical health, or help you live longer; but, they do have some health benefits.
Are multivitamins safe?
Just about every study that looked to see if multivitamins were health-promoting, also looked at side effects. They have consistently shown that multivitamins are very safe.
Now, I’m not talking about high-dose supplements. High doses of many nutrients can be risky. But specifically for multivitamins where there are several nutrients included, all of which are in low doses. Those are safe.
Unless you have a knowledgeable practitioner who advises otherwise, you want to stick to the dose on the label. That dose should be safe for most people.
However, there are many times when supplements (not just multivitamins) have been tested and found to contain different ingredients than what's on the label; this may be different quantities of vitamins or minerals. Sometimes they contain ingredients that are not supposed to be in them at all (like toxins or prescription medicines).
This is why choosing supplements that are licensed, if applicable (like in Canada), and from reputable companies is so important.
And it means you are best to shop at a health food store that specializes in carrying the best quality supplements, and ensuring that their staff are well trained to be able to advise you.
Multivitamins are not a way to optimal health. There is limited evidence that they improve health for most people. But there are some benefits.
Since they contain low doses of many different nutrients, they're also safe (as long as you have a quality product). Of course, taking a multivitamin is not a way to improve a poor diet. I always recommend eating a balanced diet of whole foods. There is plenty of evidence that eating a diet of whole, unprocessed Real Food prevents many diseases.
And try out my superfood salad - It’s like a multivitamin with benefits!
Recipe ~ Grilled Shrimp Salad
- 4 handfuls of mixed greens (e.g. kale, spinach, arugula, etc.)
- ½ cucumber, chopped
- 1 avocado, chopped
- ½ cup radishes, sliced
- 1 carrot, grated
- 2 handfuls grape tomatoes
- 2 handfuls fresh blueberries
- 4 skewers of grilled shrimp
- ¼ cup hemp seeds
- 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 2 tsp honey or maple syrup (optional)
- 1 dash sea salt
- 2 dashes black pepper
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Grab two large bowls and put two handfuls of greens in each.
- Divide the rest of the fruits and vegetables, placing half in each bowl.
- Make the dressing by whisking together the vinegar, mustard, honey/maple syrup, salt, and pepper. Slowly drizzle in olive oil while whisking to emulsify. Pour over salad before serving.
- Top with shrimps and hemp seeds.
- Serve & enjoy!
- You can use salmon instead of the shrimp, or any other protein of your choice.
- Vary your veggies and fruits to suit your tastes or whatever is fresh from the market!
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