Do We Really Need Vitamins? A Nutritionist Tells All
Don’t you feel like you’ve been told to take your vitamins since you were a little kid? Same. Growing up, it’s one of those things you don’t question; you just do it because you think you’re supposed to. My precious mother would set my multivitamin out on the kitchen counter for me every single morning (bless her heart).
But now I am a grown adult and don’t get that special treatment anymore. In the grand scheme of our busy lives, remembering to take vitamins every day is hard. Adding that one extra thing to do our to-do list makes us question whether or not we even need vitamins. On top of that, things get a little fuzzy walking down the vitamin aisle since there are countless options. You can read a bunch of labels and still not know which vitamins you should actually take. We tapped five experts to school us on the importance of vitamins. Read on for their take on everything vitamins will do for your body.
Do we really need vitamins?
According to Golan Raz, vice president of health and nutrition at Lycored, taking vitamins isn’t even a question. “Before we answer this question we should be aware that vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients are essential for the human body,” says Raz. It is not a question of whether one should take vitamins, as the answer to this question will always be yes. It is a question of how can we get all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients we need just from our daily diet. The basic principle is to be aware that we can improve our health by adding specific vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients to our daily diet. ”
Jonny Bowden, board-certified nutrition specialist and nationally known expert on nutrition and health, feels the same. “The answer I always give to the question of do we need vitamin supplements is this: We don’t need indoor plumbing, but why on earth would we want to do without it? We need vitamins to exist and vitamin supplements are an excellent, high-tech way to deliver the nutrients our body needs to survive and thrive,” explains Bowden. “Can we live without supplements? Sure. But we’re highly likely to be missing some essential nutrients and almost certain to have less than the optimal amounts of many others.”
Wellness coach Dana Kofsky explains that vitamins are essential to take in addition to a healthy diet. “I think there's only so much we can get through food,” says Kofsky. “I do find it very helpful to take vitamins in addition to practicing a healthy diet. Oftentimes, people will take vitamins and then not get any of their nutrients with food. In order for them to be most effective, it's important to eat right first and then supplement with vitamins.”
Celebrity fitness trainer and health expert Latreal Mitchell also believes that in a world full of processed foods, supplementing nutrients with vitamins couldn’t be more important. “It is so important to take quality, science-based vitamins because in this era of fast food and convenience over quality, there is no way for people to get all the vitamins and nutrients they need through food alone,” explains Mitchell. “Most people skip meals, eat unhealthy food on the run, and skip green veggies with all the great phytonutrients that are essential for optimal health. I’m a strong believer that everyone should get a little help no matter how healthy or unhealthy they eat. There is more processed food and GMOs on the market, and all the good stuff is being pulled out of our food to make things quick and easy. Good, quality vitamins and supplements are a great source of those missing nutrients.”
Keep scrolling for a few vitamins the pros think you should consider.
“A good multivitamin is something worth exploring,” says Kofsky. “It's nice to get a little bit of everything in your vitamin, especially ones with vitamin A, C, and K. Swisse Women's Ultivite is one we love to keep on our desk.
Mitchell also believes in the power of multivitamins. “You should take multivitamins to get a bunch of nutrients at once,” explains Mitchell.
“We should match between our specific needs and the dietary supplements we take,” suggests Raz. “For example, during pregnancy it is recommended by many doctors to add a prenatal multivitamin to the daily diet.”
“I do recommend a multivitamin for people with medical problems, such as esophageal or colon cancer, that preclude them from eating certain foods and may put them at risk for deficiencies,” explains registered dietitian Maria Bella, owner of Top Balance Nutrition. “In general, a multivitamin is essential for people with severe food aversions. And, of course, pregnant women, as there is substantial evidence for the benefits of folate in preventing neural tube defects especially when taken in the first trimester."
“Fish oil is great for brain health, heart health, and boosting your overall mood and appearance,” says Mitchell.
“Fish oil is essential because none of us get enough fish for heart health,” explains Bella. “Fish oil gets tricky as consumers need to research different manufacturers to get a reliable product as some add other fats as fillers. My preference is Nordic Naturals. This brand has a great lemon-flavoured omega 3 with vitamin D ($76) already added to it.
According to Kofsky, vitamin D is at the top of her list. “Unless you’re going out in the sun without sunscreen every day for 20 minutes, it's a harder one to absorb,” she says.
“I suggest vitamin D for people working long hours and getting minimal sun exposure,” says Bella.
“While I don’t consider collagen an absolute basic, it’s a pretty smart thing to supplement with,” suggests Bowden. “It’s the reason bone broth has become so popular. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and the stuff out of which connective tissue is made. When collagen stores begin to dwindle, your skin and joints weaken. In turn, your skin looks old, tired, and wrinkly. My favorite brand for collagen is Reserveage’s Collagen Replenish ($20) for your skin and Reserveage’s Collagen Booster ($54) for your joints.”
“Having some sort of Omega 3 vitamin is good to have on hand because they help your heart and are good for your bones,” explains Kofsky.
Ed note: Be sure to consult your doctor before taking any supplements.
Up next, find out the five hair, skin, and nail vitamins that actually work.