Should I take a vitamin or mineral supplement?

joannepunJoanne Pun, Registered Dietitian at NTO Wellness and Rehab provides her professional advice on whether to take a vitamin or mineral supplement.

When you take a walk down the supplement aisle at your local pharmacy, you may wonder whether you are getting the nutrients you need after seeing rows of supplements available. The simple answer is: if you are eating a well-balanced diet that includes all four food groups (vegetables & fruit, whole grains, milk & alternatives, meat & alternatives), you probably do not need any additional supplementation.

However, there are a few groups of people that may benefit from taking a supplement. Vegetarians may need to consider an iron or vitamin B12 supplement if their diet is not well-planned. Older adults may also benefit from including a calcium, iron or vitamin B12 supplement as the absorption of some of these vitamins and minerals decreases as we age. It is also recommended by Health Canada that anyone over the age of 50 include a vitamin D supplement of 400IU (international units) daily as vitamin D is needed for optimal bone health and is not commonly found in food. People that are very picky eaters and avoid many different foods, may benefit from a daily multivitamin Also, if your family doctor has done blood work on you and determined you are deficient in a certain vitamin or mineral, it may be recommended for you to consider taking certain supplements.

Many people who exercise consider taking protein supplementation such as protein powder. Our body has a maximum limit on how much protein we absorb. Any extra protein supplementation is filtered through the kidney and passed in urine. Excessive protein can also cause strain and damage on the kidneys. Most people have enough protein in their diet already therefore it is much healthier and safer to include food sources of protein such as a cup of milk or yogurt after a workout instead of relying on protein powder.

Bottom line: Vitamin/mineral supplements are usually not needed for most people. Excess supplementation can actually cause harm on our body such as damage to the kidneys or increase the risks of some cancers. A diet that includes all food groups and various colourful vegetables and fruits everyday ensures adequate vitamins and minerals.

If you are concerned your diet is lacking in certain vitamins and minerals, book an appointment to speak to our Registered Dietitian on your next visit to NTO Wellness and Rehab.