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Supplements…are they necessary?

12 Dec

If you were to walk down the aisle of your local pharmacy or supermarket you’d more than likely see dozen and dozens of not only brands but types of vitamins and supplements.  Multivitamins, mineral & vitamin supplements, powders and concoctions you can drink to achieve optimal wellness.  It can all be very overwhelming.  It leads me to ask the question is it all worth it?

The supplement industry is a $26B a year industry.  Yes you did read that right, I said BILLION!  A reported 71% of all Americans use or have used a supplement in the past year. 53% of adults (20 & over) take supplements on a daily basis.  Surprisingly, consistent use is more common among women than men.  Interesting huh?! But just what are supplements. Well supplements are a broad term for anything other than food/drink used to supplement your diet.  Some examples are vitamins, minerals, herbal remedies, nutritional powders (that are typically mixed with water and often contain vitamins, minerals, etc).  Before we talk about whether or not you need to supplement your diet let’s deep dive into the basics of vitamins and minerals. Ready? Let’s go!


You’ve probably heard of vitamins in one way or another. Broadly there are 13 vitamins that humans need.  These are divided into 2 categories: fat-soluble and water-soluble. Water-soluble are not stored in the body and are excreted daily in your urine. Because of this, they need to consumed daily to maintain proper levels.  Fat-soluble vitamins are absorbed in the intestinal tract and are stored in your fat cells.  Below is a list of the vitamins that you need on a daily basis.

Vitamin Solubility RDA Uses Food Sources
Vitamin A Fat 900 µg Supports Visual Function Orange vegetables carrots, pumpkin, squash, spinach
Vitamin B1 Water 1.2 mg All B Vitamins: Metabolism; Healthy skin, hair, nails; Enhance immune system; Promote cell growth (including red blood cells); Helps nervous system function Oatmeal, rice, vegetables, kale, cauliflower, potatoes, liver, eggs
Vitamin B2 Water 1.3 mg Dairy products, bananas, popcorn, green beans, asparagus
Vitamin B3 Water 16.0 mg Meat, fish, eggs, many vegetables, mushrooms, tree nuts
Vitamin B5 Water 5.0 mg Meat, broccoli, avocados
Vitamin B6 Water 1.3-1.7 mg Meat, vegetables, tree nuts, bananas
Vitamin B7 Water 30.0 µg Raw egg yolk, liver, peanuts, certain vegetables
Vitamin B9 (aka Folic Acid) Water 400 µg Leafy vegetables, pasta, bread, cereal, liver
Vitamin B12 Water 2.4 µg Meat and other animal products
Vitamin C Water 90.0 mg Slows down sign of aging, boosts immune system Many fruits and vegetables, liver
Vitamin D Fat 5.0 µg–10 µg Assists in the absorption of calcium; helps fight depression Fish, eggs, liver, mushrooms
Vitamin E Fat 15.0 mg Treats burns; reduces signs of aging; assists in formation of red blood cells Many fruits and vegetables
Vitamin K Fat 120 µg Blood Clotting Lots of leafy greens

As you can see they help your body in huge ways!  And you will also notice that you can obtain a lot of these vitamins through natural sources. Those who might struggle with obtaining all these naturally would be vegans and some vegetarians.


Now minerals are just as important to you body as vitamins and it’s important that you get the right ones as well. There are a lot of minerals that your body uses, but below is the list of some of the minerals that your body needs!

Mineral RDA Uses Food Sources
Calcium 800-1,200 mg Builds bones and teeth; promotes blood clotting, contraction of muscles and nerve impulses. Primarily in milk and dairy products; also dark-green vegetables, legumes, shellfish, fish with edible bones and tofu; also calcium-fortified orange juice.
Chromium None; 50 – 200 µg suggested An essential nutrient required for normal sugar and fat metabolism; may also help prevent high cholesterol and atherosclerosis. Whole wheat and other whole grains and molasses.
Copper None; 2-3 mg suggested Builds bones, red blood cells and hemoglobin; metabolizes iron, maintains connective tissue and blood vessels; may play a role in cancer prevention. Organ meats, shellfish, whole-grain products, legumes and dried fruits.
Fluoride None Promotes bone and tooth formation; prevents tooth decay. Seafood, tea, coffee and soybeans; sodium fluoride is often added to the water supply to prevent tooth decay.
Iodine 150 µg Helps produce thyroid hormones; adequate iodine intake during pregnancy is crucial to normal fetal development. Saltwater fish, shellfish, sea kelp and iodized salt.
Iron Women: 15 mg; Men: 10 mg Helps produce hemoglobin and red blood cells; delivers oxygen to muscles and other body tissues; protects against effects of stress Iron is poorly absorbed from food. The richest sources are red meat and organ meats; other sources include whole-wheat products, shellfish, nuts and dried fruit. Many breads and cereals are enriched with iron. Vitamin C aids absorption of iron and is often added to iron supplements.
Magnesium Women: 280 mg; Men: 350 mg Builds bones and teeth; involved in functioning of muscular and nervous systems and hear and circulatory system. Legumes, whole-grain cereals, nuts and dark-green vegetables; also meat, seafood and dairy products.
Manganese 2-5 mg Involved in reproductive processes, sex hormone formation; essential for normal brain function and bone development. Tea, green vegetables, legumes, oats and rice.
Potassium None; 3.5 g suggested Helps nerves and muscles function; regulates heart’s rhythm; regulates bodily fluids. Potatoes, dried fruits, bananas, legumes, raw vegetables, avocados and mushrooms; also lean meat, milk and fish.
Selenium Women 55 µg; Men: 70 µg An antioxidant, helps protect cells and tissues from damage by free radicals; may also protect against some cancers. Whole-grain cereals, fish and shellfish, meat and dairy products.
Sodium 2, 400 mg Maintains body’s fluid balance; important for nerve function and muscle contraction; controls heart’s rhythm. Naturally in many foods and is added to many prepared foods.
Zinc Women: 12 mg; Men: 15 mg Involved in growth, skin health and wound healing, development of the reproductive organs, protein metabolism and energy production. Shellfish (particularly oysters), organ meats and lean red meat, yeast, whole-grain cereals, and legumes.

Food Sources vs. Supplement Debate

So now that you’re oh so well versed in the types of vitamins and minerals that are needed by your body to survive, let’s talk about the raging debate in the supplement world. Some people swear by supplements, while others say they do no good and may even pose some harm to your health.  Some experts argue that your body absorbs the synthetic versions exactly like their natural counterparts. On the other hand, other experts say that a large dose all at once is not properly absorbed by the body and therefore you’re simply flushing away your money.

My opinion? It comes down to personal preference and cost. I take a multi every  night before I go to bed (otherwise it does upset my stomach) and it’s more of an insurance policy. Even though I eat healthy and try to get everything I need naturally, I know there’s always a chance that I missed something.  I drink Shakeology as one meal a day and that gives me a lot of what I need (and it’s delicious!). After a tough work out I will also have a whey protein drink/smoothie to recover and restore my muscles.

What’s the Bottom Line?

The key here ladies and gentlemen is to eat a clean diet with lots of fruits and veggies and you should be good to go. However if you’re neurotic like me, you can take a multivitamin as insurance.  Before taking any supplements though, I would really check with your doctor FIRST, especially if you’re on medications.

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