Supplements: Do we need them?

I am asked all the time by patients, should I take a multivitamin?  Do I need a supplement?

While the science has fluctuated on these questions for years, the most recent and sound findings seem to indicate that the answer is no.

If we eat a well-balanced diet; primarily plant-based, full of color, and with a wide-range of foods, then we absolutely can get our full complement of vitamins and minerals from our diet.

With a few exceptions:

  1. Vitamin D:  If you are like I am, you wear sunscreen, or walk in the shade, or you live above the 37th parallel.  In this case, you either need to eat/drink foods that are fortified/enriched with vitamin D, or you may need to take a vitamin D3 supplement.  The best way to find out is ask your doctor to check your vit.D,25-OH level at your next visit.
  2. vitamin B12.  If you are vegan and do not eat foods fortified/supplemented with B12, you may need to take that as a supplement as well.  However, nowadays, there are a lot of foods enriched with B12, and our bodies do intrinsically make it as well (though that decreases with age).
  3. probiotics.  We’d all like to think our guts are super healthy and able to keep their own health.  But it does not hurt to take a probiotic supplement daily, preferably one with Lactobacillus rhamnosus, (unless immunocompromised – then seek medical opinion).


Now that I have cleared that air, a few myths to debunk:

  1.  Taking a multivitamin is perfectly safe:  Well, if you eat a lot of packaged foods that are supplemented/fortified/enriched with vitamins (ie. Total cereal, other cereals, frozen foods, energy drinks), then taking a multivitamin on top of that might set you up for fat-soluble vitamin excess/toxicity.  The fat-soluble vitamins are A,D,E,K, and they are stored in your fat cells.  Thus, taking too much (that do not naturally reside in the food you eat) can be bad.
  2. I don’t drink milk, therefore I need to take Calcium:  Again, this is  not true.  Many foods we eat naturally have calcium in them.  Leafy greens in particular are extremely high in calcium!  Moreover, a recent study came out indicating that calcium supplementation in high-doses, can actually be detrimental to our heart health.  See study I was interviewed about:


So, that’s pretty much it!

Eat your fruits, your veggies, your grains, your nuts, legumes, and seeds, take your probiotics, eat your fibers, eat as close to natural as possible, and add in your other favorite foods and you should be getting plenty of vitamins and minerals!

Think of all the money you will still have in your wallet!


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