With the holiday sweets off the table and New Year’s resolutions around the corner, most of us will soon be getting back to our normal eating habits. But is that enough, or should daily vitamins be on the list of goals for ’09?
Patty Metzler, a dietitian at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, says a better New Year’s resolution would be to meet vitamin requirements through nutritious food choices rather than a daily pill.
“Your body prefers to get the nutrients it needs from whole foods such as whole grains, lean protein, legumes, nuts, fruits and vegetables, and dairy products,” says Metzler. “They all provide different vitamins and minerals and other beneficial substances still not completely understood.”
But if, despite the best intentions, your resolution goes southward, a daily multivitamin might not be such a bad choice.
“If we all consumed a balanced diet we wouldn't need a daily vitamin. Since many of us don't, health professionals often recommend a one-a-day multiple vitamin,” says Ann Chapman, coordinator of nutrition services at Kansas University’s Watkins Memorial Health Center.
Chapman stresses the importance of selecting the proper vitamin for your individual needs.
“Women in childbearing years should take a woman's one-a-day because it contains extra iron and calcium, two nutrients they often struggle to obtain with their usual diets and their monthly blood loss,” she says. “Men should take a men’s one-a-day formula because it does not contain iron, and this is important since men have more of a tendency to build up iron in their bloodstream which can predispose them to heart disease.”
Older Americans should take formulas designed for their age group as well.
“These often contain more calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B12, which studies have shown are needed in greater amounts with middle-aged and older people,” Chapman says.
As with anything, there can be too much of a good thing. Chapman warns that too much of any one vitamin may be either useless or dangerous to the body.
“Excess amounts of the B vitamins and vitamin C are excreted in the urine so are a waste of someone's money,” she says. “Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat-soluble and can be stored in the liver in excess amounts.”
But that doesn’t mean you need to cross vitamins off your grocery list just yet. The key is moderation and not doubling up on unnecessary supplements.
“If a person eats a healthy diet and takes a multivitamin providing 100 percent of RDA, that would most likely be OK for the general population,” Metzler says. “But I would suggest that they avoid eating heavily fortified foods and beverages.”