Friday, January 10, 2014

Vitamins and Supplements... Yes or No??

Generally speaking, I've never been much for taking vitamins. I am of the opinion that it's better to eat a wide variety of "real food", and in doing so, you'll get what you need. Right? Um, maybe not always!

As I have posted about on many occasions, I do try hard to eat a clean, healthy diet, as least most of the time. Since I eat well, I assumed I was getting all the nutrition I needed. Additionally, several studies have shown that multivitamins are pretty useless for most people. I remember a quote I heard from a doctor many years ago, who said, "Know what multivitamins give you? Expensive pee!" So, naturally, I decided that I wasn't going to waste money on a product I didn't need.

However... after several months of feeling a bit run down and unwell, a visit to my doctor confirmed that I was actually low in both Vitamin D and Vitamin B12! Both of these nutrients are essential, but they aren't always easy to get enough of without supplements. We get Vitamin D through exposure to sunlight, or from Vitamin D-fortified foods. Since most of us live and work indoors, it's pretty hard for us to get adequate amounts of sunlight, particularly in the winter months, so supplementing Vitamin D is a good idea. As for B12, this is a nutrient that is found primarily in animal products, so unless a vegan is careful to include non-animal B12 sources in the diet, there is a good chance that B12 levels could be on the low side. (Though, interestingly, even meat-eater can be B12 deficient!) Vegan sources of B12 include nutritional yeast, fortified cereals, and fortified non-dairy milks. If you are a vegan, or a vegetarian who eats very little dairy, it's a good idea to have your B12 levels checked, to make sure you're getting enough.

The other supplement that I take now is calcium. Calcium is pretty easy to get if you eat a vegan diet, as it's found in leafy greens, broccoli, beans, seeds, fortified non-dairy milks, cereals and more. In fact, it's been well documented that plant sources of calcium are better at building strong bones than dairy sources, but the Got Milk people and the National Dairy Council don't want you to know that. So, if it's so easy to get, then why do I take a supplement? Well, I'm a Lady of A Certain Age, and my doctor has recommended I take a supplement to avoid osteoporosis as I'm getting older.

Lastly, I also choose to add probiotics to my family's diet. We don't all take them daily, but we do use them during times of tummy trouble, or when we maybe aren't eating as well as usual (hello, Holidays... ) or if someone needs to be on an antibiotic. Probiotics help to keep our intestinal flora in check, and healthy intestinal flora is essential for proper function of the digestive system. There are TONS of different probiotic supplements available... check with your health professional to see which ones might be best for your needs.

I've got Health, Nutrition and Wellness on the brain a lot these days. OK, I often have Health, Nutrition and Wellness on the brain. But, the New Year with it's New Intentions have brought it back to the forefront. Also, I am currently reading The China Study... interesting stuff! I'm only a few chapters in, and looking forward to reading more!

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