Most average Joes know that we need vitamins and minerals, but don’t know how much, whether or not we’re getting enough, and how useful purchasing supplements would be. And can you blame us? The information to help answer these questions isn’t exactly readily available.
The reason for our puzzlement is because vitamin and mineral needs are not a one-size-fits-all guide that you can look up. Each person’s needs are different depending on their diet, environment, age, gender, and other circumstances. What is common knowledge, however, is that when it comes to the functionality of your body, vitamins and minerals are pretty darn essential. They perform hundreds of roles within your day to day, including converting food into energy, repairing cellular damage, strengthening your immune system, and more. You need ‘em, but where do they come from?
How do you get vitamins and minerals?
Food is the most traditional (and many would argue the best) method of obtaining your vitamins and minerals, and many experts recommend that as long as you eat a balanced diet, you’re likely meeting your needs. However, there are circumstances that we find ourselves in which many result in a lack of this or that, and it is these kinds of scenarios that warrant the use of supplements.
A multivitamin is any supplement that contains more than one vitamin or mineral. Multivitamins are used to replenish essential vitamins and minerals that you can’t obtain from your lifestyle.
Talk to a physician before taking any sort of supplement, and follow the recommended dosage and the instructions on the package.
Multivitamin supplements are typically used by:
- Those experiencing medical issues
- Women who are pregnant, who are trying to get pregnant, or are breastfeeding
- Adults over the age of 50
- Those who restrict certain foods from their diet
- Children and adolescents
- People who are unable to follow a balanced diet
How multivitamins should be used:
As mentioned above, you want to receive your essential vitamins and minerals primarily from your diet. A multivitamin becomes necessary when you’re unable to do that, and is used to supplement nutrients in areas where you are deficient. However, don’t be the chump that thinks that you can receive energy, protein, or fibre from a multivitamin. They don’t replace healthy eating; they just aid in supplementing nutrients where you’re missing them–there’s a difference!
What to look for in a multivitamin:
High-quality supplements are derived from whole food sources, while cheaper ones are typically derived from lab-created chemicals. Multivitamins without synthetic chemicals will say so on the product.
Look for multivitamins with a NPN or DIN number on the label. These numbers indicate that the product has been assessed by Health Canada, and that they are considered safe, of high quality, and that they do what they claim (all applicable products at SPUD carry these numbers!).
Sometimes vitamin labels will include a variety of units on the packaging, which can make it hard to understand what you’re getting. Some helpful abbreviations include milligrams (mg), micrograms (abbreviated mcg or μg), and international units (IU). These units will be used to communicate the quantity of a vitamin or mineral. Amounts of vitamin A, D, and E are usually written as IU’s, whereas mg and mcg are used for other vitamins and minerals.
You can find Canada’s recommended daily intake of vitamins and minerals here.
The Bottom Line:
If you think you might be someone who could benefit from taking a multivitamin, talk to your doctor! Prioritize receiving the essential nutrients you need from your diet (as multivitamins cannot replace a healthy diet and lifestyle), but consider learning more about supplements if you think you may be deficient of an essential nutrient.
Got more questions about multivitamins? Leave your query in the comments, and we’ll reach out to Suzie Cromwell, our registered dietitian to track down the answer.
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