It’s no secret that the average American prioritizes convenience over healthiness when it comes to a nutritional diet. We consume foods that are packed with unhealthy preservatives and additives on a daily basis, which means our diets are high in calories, fats, sugars, and sodium and low in the vitamins and minerals that our bodies need to function properly.
Why Do We Need Vitamins?
There are 13 known vitamins that our bodies rely on – vitamins A, B, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, B12, C, D, E, and K. We also need major and trace minerals; some notable ones include calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc. These nutrients are vital to key bodily processes such as stabilizing blood sugar, making antibodies to fight and prevent disease and reducing inflammation, just to name a few. Not only that, but they are known to enhance overall health by supporting our immune, nervous, reproductive and cardiovascular systems.
With so many major health benefits, it’s no wonder that going without these vitamins and minerals can lead to serious health issues. Since our bodies cannot produce these nutrients, they must be obtained from external sources.
So, what’s the solution? Well, not surprisingly, many people have turned to the quick fix to boost their health – taking dietary supplements. In fact, 68% of the U.S. population uses dietary supplements to fill the gaps in their health.
History tells us that, usually, the quick-fix isn’t safe or healthy and it is not surprising that dietary supplements aren’t any different. Since their creation, supplements that contain vitamins, minerals, herbs and other active ingredients have skyrocketed in popularity.
Regulation of Supplements
According to the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), dietary supplements are not regulated in the same way as other products. Although manufacturers are required to meet the FDA’s health and safety guidelines, the FDA isn’t required to take action against unsafe or misbranded products until after they’re on the market and available to the public. Therefore, they are not thoroughly evaluated for safety and effectiveness before hitting the shelves of your grocery store or pharmacy.
Anyone can purchase these supplements in the same way that they can purchase over-the-counter medications, and likewise, there are side effects and proper dosing instructions.
The problem is, many people do not consult with their primary care physician before beginning a supplement regimen, which can cause many adverse side effects and unsafe drug interactions. If your doctor didn’t recommend that you take a certain supplement, chances are you’re taking it unnecessarily and it isn’t fulfilling your body’s specific needs.
Can You Take Too Many Vitamins?
The answer is yes. There is such thing as obtaining too many vitamins and minerals; not to mention that many supplements contain “active ingredients,” which can have harmful or even life-threatening side effects when taken improperly.
There has to be an easier and healthier way to fuel our bodies with important vitamins and minerals, right? Of course, there is! By filling your diet with healthy foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals, you can greatly reduce your need for supplements. Swap-out your vitamin A supplement with a sweet potato, B-6 with lentils or chickpeas and K with dark leafy greens. Get the omega three fatty acids you need by eating fresh tuna and get your Magnesium fix by adding more unrefined grains to your diet.
Supplements Are No Match For These Power Foods
Harvard University researchers identified these power foods for their high nutrient density:
- Avocados (Vitamins K, B6, E and C)
- Chard, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, spinach (Vitamins A, C, K & Iron)
- Crimini and shiitake mushrooms (Vitamins D, C & B6)
- Sweet potatoes (Vitamin A)
- Eggs (Vitamins D, B6, B12 & Zinc)
- Flax, pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower seeds (omega-3s)
- Almonds, cashews, peanuts (Vitamin E, Manganese & Biotin)
- Barley, oats, quinoa, brown rice (Iron, Copper & Thiamin)
- Salmon, halibut, cod, scallops, shrimp, tuna (omega-3s)
- Lean beef, lamb, venison (Iron, Zinc, Vitamin B12)
- Chicken, turkey (Vitamin B12)
Incorporating the right foods into your diet will enable you to rely less heavily on supplements. Eating clean is more than just a quick fix – it’s the safest and most healthy way to obtain the vitamins and minerals your body needs. Beyond that, it’s the foundation of an overall healthy lifestyle.
Resist the urge to choose convenience over healthiness. If you go the extra mile and eat nutrient-dense foods, your body will thank you in the long-run!