What supplements, if any, one should take are affected not only by diet, but by one’s desired health outcome. Supplements, as the name implies, are just that, a supplement to one’s diet. Achieving ideal nutrient intake from food alone is difficult in practice and is influenced by food choices, calorie intake and activity. The more active one is, the more calories they can eat, and the easier it is to get the nutrients needed for optimal health. Still, getting what one needs is a challenge.
A 1995 study in the JADA tasked 43 dieticians with meeting government recommendations using up to 2400 calories (exceeding the 2000 calorie levels on which the recommendations were based). All of the dieticians failed at the task, showing just how difficult it can be meet nutrient recommendations from food alone. The results of many nutrition surveys, including the NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey), show women falling short on calcium, iron, zinc, folate and vitamins A and D. The intake of most B vitamins are suboptimal as well.
One should always try to address nutrition through food first. Adding low-fat milk or other dairy products can increase calcium and vitamin D (in fortified milk). Orange juice can often be found fortified with these nutrients as well (the acidity increases calcium absorption). Bread, baked goods and grains/cereals have been fortified with folate in an attempt to increase its intake. Brightly colored fruits and vegetable provide a variety of nutrients, especially antioxidants. Sadly though, most Americans fall short on implementing these dietary recommendations.
Simply put, if you do not eat it, then you better find another way to get it. For many, the daily use of a properly formulated multiple vitamin and mineral formula will cover the bases and make up for common insufficient or suboptimal intakes. For exercisers who fail to get adequate fruit and vegetable intake (5-7 servings/day) the use of an antioxidant supplement may be helpful as well. Ideal diets are contained in the dotFIT program and a good MVM takes care of the rest of your nutrient needs (including the one(s) in question) without getting too much. Higher doses, if needed, should be under a doctor’s care/recommendation.