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Jul. 1, 2009
To Supplement or Not to Supplement?
Today I received this question from a friend, “Do vitamin supplements work?"

The quick answer is “yes, vitamin supplements do work.” The long answer is that they work at preventing deficiencies in people who may be lacking in certain nutrients. Depending on your age and the way you’re currently eating, you may or may not, benefit from a supplement.

Most people, even those who follow the best diets with lots of variety, fruits, vegetables and whole grains, dairy or dairy alternatives, meat or meat alternatives, have a difficult time meeting their daily dietary needs. This is where supplements and fortified foods come in handy.

I find that most people's eating habits do not provide sufficient amounts of omega 3s. Because of this, I often recommend that people take an omega-3 fatty acid supplement.

Women in their reproductive years, vegans, young children, and individuals over 65 often benefit the most from supplementing certain nutrients. Supplements prevent against particular deficiencies to which these groups are prone.

When deciding what supplements to take, first, you need to really analyze your own diet (or pay someone to analyze it for you). An analysis will help you determine what you may not be getting enough of at the end of each day. For example, I know my diet lacks in iron because as a women under 50 and as a distance runner, my needs are higher than say, a woman over 50 or someone who doesn’t run. I eat a lot of greens that contain iron and couple them with a vitamin C source like mandarins to increase absorption. I eat some meat from my beloved Prather Ranch Community Supported Agriculture meat box (I am from Montana, after all).

There’s been a lot of ongoing research into whether or not supplementing beyond the Recommended Daily Allowance of nutrients containing antioxidant properties (vitamins A, C, & E) will help prevent certain diseases. While new research is always emerging, today the literature seems to tell us that the risk of disease is not lowered when one consumes more than the RDA of these nutrients.

So what should you take away from all of this?

Always try to eat a healthy diet with lots of fresh, wholesome foods. Make sure to take a good (and honest) look at what you eat and your lifestyle and supplement with nutrients that you may be falling short of during different times of your life.
Posted by:
Tara, the RD
Food Matters

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We like getting our heart rates up, taking a big breath of fresh air, savoring delicious food. But we also love telling stories and here's where we type 'em up. (BTW, it works both ways; leave a comment—please and thank you.)

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