The Skinny on Supplements

So many supplements, so little time, and so much money to waste. What should I take? Do I need more calcium? Should I take CoQ10 and why? What about fish oil? What vitamins will help me with PMS? Should I take a multivitamin? The questions are often complex, but thankfully, the answers can be relatively simple.

First and foremost it is important to examine what you eat. If your diet is a thrice-daily feed on filet-o-fish sandwiches and diet coke, chances are you are probably nutrient deficient. But how do you find out what nutrients, if any, you are generally lacking in your diet? Luckily, there is a convenient and easy way to find out what nutrients you are deficient in by tracking your diet for three days using the Super Tracker feature on http://www.choosemyplate.gov .

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It is important to pick a time when you are not overly-stressed or relatively idle. You want to get accurate baseline data regarding your diet. Make sure you track your diet for three days total, two weekdays and one weekend day, that way you can get a good record of what you normally eat. We tend to indulge a bit more on the weekends so make sure you track accurately. Remember, no one will see this but you, so report truthfully. Super tracker provides an easy way to track what you eat; just enter the food item into the search bar, record the amount you ate and when you ate it.

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After you track your diet, go into My Reports and click on Nutrients:

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Once you are on that page create a report for the days you tracked your diet:

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Your report will contain all of your nutrient intake amounts compared with a target amount of what you need based on your vital statistics. The section on vitamins looks like this:

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As you can see, I was under the target levels for Vitamin D, Vitamin E, and Choline. So what vitamins do I need to take in my diet? Just those three. What about taking a multivitamin? What about extra supplements of fish oil, calcium, Co-Q10? Well, if your report shows that you are getting the right amount of each nutrient in your diet, guess what? You don’t need a supplement. In fact you may be doing more harm to your body than good if you ingest too much of a particular supplement. You must be especially careful with fat-soluble vitamins like Vitamin A, D, E, and K because excess amounts do not flush away in the urine like your B vitamins.

So if you want to know what you should take, you need to track your diet. Beware of the snake oil salesman who tells you need to take this or that supplement or horrible nasty things will happen to you and you will die a disease-ridden death. Chances are, if you try to eat a healthy, balanced diet, you are getting most of what you need from the best source of vitamins and minerals of all: your food. And isn’t eating nutritious, healthy food way more fun and enjoyable than popping a bunch of pills you probably don’t need and are wasting your money buying? I think so.

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