Why Taking Vitamins and Supplements Is Essential for Optimal Health
Supplements help offset the effects of our environment and lifestyle
Folks, this is simply not true. The answer to “Should I be taking vitamins?” is an emphatic yes. Even if you do everything right—eat right, exercise, get adequate sleep, and keep stress levels down—supplements and vitamins are still necessary. Here are four reasons why this is true:
Poor Food Choices
We have greater access to affordable food than at any time in human history, and we’re eating more than ever. Yet the quality of that food is, to say the least, lacking. According to the most recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the foods that contribute the most calories in the American diet are, in descending order:
- Grain-based desserts
With a diet like this, it’s no wonder that only a third of the people in this country get enough calcium or vitamin D, and nearly half have an inadequate intake of magnesium (including more than two-thirds of teenagers and adults over age 70).
Taking vitamins and supplements should never be thought of as a substitute for a healthy diet. But it is extremely difficult to get optimal levels of key nutrients from diet alone.
Food Production and Preparation
Even if you try to eat good food, it’s likely been stripped of many beneficial nutrients. Here are some of the contributing factors:
- Soil quality. The nutritional profile of any plant food is linked to the quality of the soil in which it is grown. According to the Nutrition Security Institute, the agricultural soils in the United States have been depleted of 85 percent of their minerals in the last century. Fertilizers may add back minerals such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, but trace minerals are not necessarily replaced. This has led to a consistent decline in food quality.
- Processing and storage. No matter how fresh it may look, the truth is that supermarket produce may be months old. Nutrient losses begin as soon as fruits and vegetables are picked and continue through processing and storage. Freezing allows produce to retain the most nutritional punch, but temperature fluctuations during storage also can affect nutritional quality.
- Cooking. Nutrient losses are extremely common during food preparation, and the most vulnerable are heat-sensitive and water-soluble vitamins. The majority of vitamin C, for example, is lost during boiling, and even steaming wastes nutrients. Unless you’re a raw foods enthusiast, count on some nutrient deterioration during cooking.
Bottom line, don’t make the mistake of assuming that you’re getting all the vitamins and minerals you need from the food you eat. Taking vitamins and supplements is the best way to make up for any shortfalls.
Age and Lifestyle
As you get older, your nutritional needs increase and your ability to absorb crucial nutrients decreases, which makes taking vitamins and supplements—particularly a high-quality multivitamin—more important than ever.
Let’s take vitamin B12, for example. No matter how good their diets may be, older people are likely to be deficient in this nutrient. Why? This vitamin’s absorption depends on hydrochloric acid, pepsin (an enzyme that breaks the bonds that bind B12 to protein), and intrinsic factor (a substance also required for B12 absorption). Production of all three declines dramatically with age.
The problem isn’t limited to vitamin B12, either. Studies have found well-fed, independent older people to be deficient in all B-complex vitamins, calcium, zinc, coenzyme Q10, and vitamins A, D, and E.
WATCH: Dr. Whitaker Talks About Studies That Show How Taking Vitamins Promotes Healthy Aging
Prescription drugs also increase your risk of nutritional deficiency. For example, ACE inhibitors—which are commonly prescribed for cardiovascular disease—deplete the body of zinc and sodium. Diabetes drugs, such as Glucophage and Avandia, reduce levels of vitamins B12 and B6, folic acid, coenzyme Q10, sodium, zinc, magnesium, potassium.
Find out if your medication is depleting your body of nutrients. If so, begin taking vitamins and supplements accordingly.
More Dr. Whitaker Advice on Nutritional Support
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Meet Dr. Whitaker
For more than 30 years, Dr. Julian Whitaker has helped people regain their health with a combination of therapeutic lifestyle changes, targeted nutritional support, and other cutting-edge natural therapies. He is widely known for treating diabetes, but also routinely treats heart disease and other degenerative diseases. More About Dr. Whitaker
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