Is a Multivitamin Really Necessary? Our Expert Explains All
There is a big debate out there whether or not you need to be taking multivitamins. Many people believe that if you follow a healthy diet, you will get all of the micronutrients that are essential. Of course, food is the best source of nutrition for our body, but can we really get enough out of what we eat? This article is going to break down the reasons why you may actually need a multivitamin while living in our modern-day world.
The Importance of Micronutrients
Micronutrients (aka vitamins and minerals) are critical for healthy development and disease prevention. In addition, for high energy levels, healthy hormones, resilience to stress, clear skin, and overall well-being. Other than vitamin D, our body does not produce micronutrients which means we need to consume them through our diet. Although in North America true vitamin and mineral deficiencies are rare, micronutrient inadequacies are very common and can still lead to symptoms. Some common symptoms of micronutrient inadequacies include general fatigue, reduced immune function, more colds and flues, and impaired cognition and mood. These inadequacies can also contribute to a number of major illnesses, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and osteoporosis.
Some of the most common micronutrients inadequacies in the developed world include vitamin D, vitamin E, magnesium, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, choline, and vitamin K. There are several reasons that may help explain why the prevalence of micronutrient insufficiencies exist.
Our Standard American Diet
Sadly, most people, children included, are not eating enough healthy food. In Canada, vegetable and fruit consumption is consistently low. The majority of Canadians do not meet the national recommendations (our recommendations tend to be on the low end, to begin with). Furthermore, unhealthy foods have a higher rate every year and almost half of the food was from Canadian consumers. These foods had made with industrial ingredients (hello, vegetable oil). Additives contain very little whole foods, like packaged snack food, fast food, frozen meals, soft drinks, etc. Eating fewer fruits and vegetables, and eating more unhealthy foods cause poor overall health. This is at least somewhat due to the underconsumption of important vitamins and minerals.
Now, for those health-conscious individuals consuming loads of whole foods, highly nutritious fruits, and vegetables, is it still necessary to take a multi? Well, we know that those who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet are commonly low in nutrients like B12, iron, and vitamin D. Others who follow restrictive diets may also have some gaps when it comes to micronutrient intake. Eventually, even for those who consume a well-balanced diet, it can be challenging to get all of the nutrients they need from food alone.
Our Food Today
Research shows that fruits and vegetables grown decades ago had much higher levels of micronutrients than the varieties most of us are consuming today. This is mainly due to modern agricultural practices along with climate change which both contributes to nutrient depletion of our soil.
A meta-analysis done in 2018 found the following declines in a variety of crops:
- Magnesium concentrations decreased by 9.2%
- Zinc concentrations declined by 18.1% in both fruit and root vegetables and 10.7% in stem vegetables
- Iron concentrations had decreased by 31% in leafy greens, 19.2% in fruits and 8.2% in root vegetables
A Kushi Institute analysis of nutrient data from 1975 to 1997 analyzed 12 fresh vegetables for nutrient levels. They found:
- Calcium declined by 27%
- Iron declined by 37%
- Vitamin A declined by 21% and
- Vitamin C declined by 30%
So, it’s clear that our food, even the healthiest of options, is not providing the level of nutrition needed. It once did and this may lead to gaps in micronutrient intake, even in those people who follow a healthy diet.
The Demands of Living in the 21st Century
The day-to-day demands on our bodies are greater than ever. Unfortunately, our biology has not caught up with our modern lifestyle. This means our body may need more support to perform at the same level as years ago. It is clear that high levels of stress, sleep deprivation, and intense physical exercise can lead to deficiencies of certain micronutrients. Meaning we must ensure optimal or above optimal consumption.
Research shows, these stressors will associate with an increased demand for magnesium, zinc, calcium, iron, and niacin. However, there are likely other nutrients were affecting that have yet to be studied specifically. For example, vitamin C is involved in adrenal function and is released at high levels during stress. If stress is chronic, vitamin C can be depleted. That said, our body may require a higher intake of a broad spectrum of micronutrients to support the impacts of stress, sleep deprivation, or physical exercise.
Our bodies need more micronutrient support, but our food provides less nutrient density than ever before. On top of that, many North Americans are consuming foods that have little to no nutritional value, to begin with! It seems pretty clear that micronutrient supplementation may be necessary for most individuals.
How to Add a Multivitamin to your Routine
It is important to note that not all supplements are made equally. That’s why we love Flora’s Daily Multi Essentials+. It is a liquid formula that is easy to take and provides micronutrients as well as key minerals calcium and magnesium. Formulated for optimal digestion and absorption, this formula can be used by the whole family (ages 4+). It supports overall health and vitality and ensures any nutrient gaps in our diet are filled. This comprehensive vitamin & mineral formula comes in a tasty fruit juice and whole food base that’s easy to drink straight or mix into smoothies or juice. And unlike capsules, liquid formulas don’t need to be broken down, allowing for easy absorption. Drink up!