Ramon Antonio Matta

Freelance Journalist, Content Creator, Copywriter, Author and Founder of Content Done Write.

Apr 5, 2022
Published on: Ramon on Authory
3 min read
Image from Adobe Stock
Image from Adobe Stock

In today’s age, it’s hard to know which vitamins and supplements are the right ones for your individual nutritional needs and requirements. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, your dietary needs should be met by managing your food. Not that vitamins and supplements aren’t reasonable or necessary. It means they shouldn’t substitute healthy foods.

Food and Mood?

New research reveals a food-mood connection, much like the longtime recognition of the mind-body connection. Certain foods, such as cabbage, cinnamon, and ginger, have been shown in studies to help alleviate depression and other medical problems. In the continuing battle against mental health issues, having various foods available may help individuals cope with changes in their body, mind, and emotions. 

Whole foods are a better method to obtain the vitamins you need to enhance your mood. Individuals who cannot consume enough whole foods to meet their nutritional needs may require supplements. Whole foods provide more nutrients, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other essential nutrients than different kinds of food. Various studies have investigated the benefits of consuming whole foods on mood, mental function, weight, and inflammation. There are, however, studies that reveal no significant results. 

It is no secret that the contemporary food industry is a plethora of low-cost, processed meals with little nutritional value. The problem with a lack of healthy foods is that many people with mental health disorders or those attempting to improve their mental health do not take the time to eat and drink whole, natural substances. Not eating enough foods like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables can lead to possible mood swings and mental health issues such as depression. 

Supplements or a well-balanced diet? There is some disagreement regarding which of these two approaches is more successful in promoting mental health. Although supplements have been shown to improve mental health, consuming whole foods has been shown to assist with sadness and anxiety. 

According to CNN, individuals suffering from mental illnesses may benefit from these techniques. Supplements include vitamins, minerals, and unusual substances that have all been demonstrated to enhance mental health. Much research on the human brain has been conducted, and it is thought that a balanced diet of natural, chemical-free foods can decrease sadness and anxiety. 

There is no indication that one approach is more beneficial than the other in mood improvement. It is up to you to decide whether eating whole foods or pills will provide you with the best mood boost.

Whole Foods vs. Nutritional Supplements

If you are primarily healthy and consume many whole foods, you probably don’t need supplements. While dietary supplements can be helpful, you still want to make sure you are eating plenty of whole grains, fruits, low-fat dairy products, fish, vegetables, and lean meats. 

There are three fundamental advantages to eating whole foods over taking vitamins and supplements:

  • They contain substances that protect the body. There are a lot of whole foods that are excellent sources of antioxidants. These substances cause a natural process in the body that slows down tissue and cell damage. You can't be sure that antioxidant supplements work the same way antioxidants are found in food.
  • They provide essential dietary fiber. Legumes, whole grains, vegetables, and fruits are high in fiber, which, as part of a wholesome diet, can impede specific diseases, like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Fiber also helps control constipation.
  • They offer better nutrition than supplements. Whole foods contain a mixture of micronutrients necessary for proper body function and maintenance.

The benefits listed show how the vitamins you get from food are better than those you can get from a pill. Although manufacturers synthesize the vitamins in supplements to the same chemical composition as naturally obtained vitamins, supplements don’t seem to have equivalent efficacy.

Food is an intricate provider of plant chemicals, phytochemicals, minerals, and vitamins that all work well together. On the other hand, supplements are apt to work in isolation. 

Studies show how a component of food that affects the body in a specific way does not always have the same effect when taken as a supplement. This metabolic difference could be because the active ingredient does not merely influence vitamins and minerals in food but other various components. 

Phytochemicals are a unique substance in food research that has been shown to reduce cancer and heart disease, but you can’t get the same benefits from supplements.

Taking Vitamin Supplementation for Common Ails

Ensuring your diet has the vitamins and minerals it needs to be healthy is essential. They can help with some common health concerns. It’s not always easy to get the correct amounts of vitamins required each day with food alone, and supplements can help with various conditions like skin problems, fatigue, and headaches. 

Below are a few common ailments and the recommended vitamins and minerals that can help with them:

  • Calcium can relieve common digestive problems like acid indigestion and diarrhea from gastrointestinal inflammation.
  • Vitamin C helps with colds and offers protection from more severe infections like pneumonia.
  • Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to higher percentages of body fat, particularly visceral fat, which increases the chances of developing diabetes or heart disease. So, supplementing with vitamin D can help with weight loss.
  • Magnesium gets reduced in the body with high levels of alcohol consumption. Supplementation can improve how a person feels when experiencing a hangover by soothing headaches and muscle cramps.
  • Zinc helps treat acne and reduces the duration of cold sore infections, which is common in many skincare products.

Do Vitamins Prevent Heart Disease and Cancer?

A recent update to a report given by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force reveals shocking evidence about the efficacy of multivitamins in preventing cancer and cardiovascular disease. 

People take vitamin supplements to provide their bodies with nutrients that they may not get from their diet alone. However, many people take supplements, hoping they will be a magic elixir to prevent chronic conditions. 

According to the report from the USPSTF, there is insufficient evidence that shows real benefit or harm from taking vitamin supplements, such as vitamin A, C, or D, calcium, folic acid, or selenium. 

So, does this mean there’s no point in taking supplements? By no means, Taking vitamin supplements is an excellent way to make up for when nutrients are lacking from the diet. However, not all the research is conclusive on whether supplements prevent cancer or heart disease. 

  • Some studies show benefits in preventing cardiovascular disease by taking antioxidant vitamin combinations, such as vitamin E, vitamin C, and beta-carotene. 
  • Folic acid has been proven to decrease the risk of colon cancer significantly. 
  • Some dietitians may recommend vitamin E to prevent prostate cancer or beta-carotene supplements that could also help, especially for men who have low amounts of beta-carotene in their bodies.
  • Fish has unsaturated fatty acids, which may lower your cholesterol. Fatty fish have a beneficial nutrient called omega-3 fatty acids. If you can’t eat at least one to two servings of fish a week, supplementing with omega-3 or fish oil supplements could help lower blood pressure. It can also slightly reduce irregular heartbeats, decrease heart failure and stroke risks, reduce blood clotting and decrease triglycerides. Yes, omega-3 packs a powerful punch if you have heart concerns. 

Nutritional Statistics

The National Institutes of Health reports nearly one-third of Americans to take a multivitamin. According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 40% of Americans do not meet the EAR, or estimated average requirement, for many essential micronutrients.

That’s disheartening news. 

The report also reveals how most Americans do not fulfill the EAR for potassium, vitamin D, and calcium, including children. Also, vitamin B12 is usually inadequate for adults over 50 years of age, and iron is lacking in pregnant women and younger children.

Malnutrition is shared among the U.S. elderly. Low-calorie diets, alcohol, and smoking are the things that make it hard for us to get and use nutrients.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, Americans suffer from the following deficiencies:

  • Magnesium has a 55% deficiency.
  • vitamin A content of 45%
  • Vitamin D content is 93%.
  • Vitamin C content: 37%
  • 49% calcium

Multivitamins Have Health Benefits for You

Many people take multivitamins as an insurance policy; they get their daily nutritional needs based on their sex and age. If you aren’t sure which vitamins to start with or which ones you’re not getting enough of, start with a multivitamin.

A health professional might prescribe a multivitamin when people have specific health risks. These are some situations in which a doctor might suggest that you get more vitamins and minerals:

  • Breastfed babies should get 400 IU of vitamin D per day.
  • Calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin A for postmenopausal women to counter bone breakage or loss.
  • 400 mg of folic acid is required to prevent neural tube congenital disabilities.
  • Use Vitamin B6 to lessen depression and boost serotonin during menopause.
  • Vitamin B12 helps with B12 deficiency in people over 50 years old.
  • Preeclampsia is a risk during pregnancy that is lowered by vitamin C, L-arginine, beta-carotene, and vitamin E.
  • Zinc, vitamin C, zeaxanthin, vitamin E, lutein, and beta-carotene prevent macular degeneration caused by aging.

Aside from the popular nutrients like potassium, vitamin C, magnesium, and iron, the following is a list of other nutrients to look for in a good multivitamin: 

  • Niacin, riboflavin, thiamin
  • B6, B12
  • Biotin, pantothenic acid, and folic acid
  • Zinc, calcium, selenium, magnesium, zinc
  • Molybdenum, borate, iodine
  • Beta-carotene
  • A, D2, D3, E, and K are all vitamins.

Toxicity of Vitamin Supplementation in High Doses

Some people think that taking extra doses will only increase the effects because supplements provide nutrients. Unfortunately, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Having more of a vitamin than necessary can cause serious health problems.

Because vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble, meaning they get stored in the body, taking high doses of them can be toxic. Some other water-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin B6, can also be dangerous when taken in high doses. Paying attention to the RDI, or recommended dietary intake, is vital. 

Minerals in excessive amounts pose a problem as well. Take these common problems as examples:

  • Vitamin A in high doses can cause skin, nervous system, bone, and liver disorders.
  • Too much iron can cause iron toxicity, leading to nausea, gastrointestinal upset, and, in severe cases, coma or death.
  • Large amounts of vitamin B6 may cause nerve damage.
  • High doses of fish oil can cause blood clots.
  • Excessive intake of fluoride could stain or weaken teeth.
  • Too much vitamin C may give you diarrhea.

When taking supplements, attempt to remain close to the RDI as possible. Only when prescribed by a medical professional, should you take high doses of supplements.

How Much is Enough?

While you don’t want to overdo it with supplements, you want to ensure you get adequate nutrients. Too much cannot be said about implementing a healthy diet rich in various foods. Vitamin supplements cannot be used in place of food and cannot provide the same health benefits.

You want to make sure nutrients get absorbed. A drink like coffee can inhibit calcium and iron absorption. That's just one example, but you should try to take supplements with a meal to get the most out of them.

The quality of the supplements you take is just as important as the food you eat. A high-quality supplement is not synthetic but rather food-based. A few brands to consider include:

  • Solgar
  • Bluebonnet
  • New Chapter

Another thing to consider regarding the absorption of vitamins is the supplement’s form. Experts recommend that you take multivitamins in capsule form because they get absorbed quickly if you take them in capsule form. Even though some people might find liquid supplements easier to swallow, most lack the enzymes that help absorb vitamins.

Interactions Between Supplements and Medications

Nearly 72 million people in the U.S. take a dietary supplement together with prescription medication. 

According to an FDA medical officer, some supplements can increase the effect of medicine while others can decrease it. The reason is that some vitamin and mineral supplements alter the metabolism, absorption, or excretion of a specific medication, which affects how well the medicine works in the body. As a result, you could get too little or too much of a drug.

Lifestyle and Supplements

Some people wonder if vitamins work better at keeping you healthy than exercise. Others wonder if you need more of one than the other. It’s worth repeating that supplements are not substitutes. A healthy lifestyle incorporates moderate activity and a balanced diet. 

D (diet) and E (exercise) are unofficial "vitamins" that Harvard Medical School says people should get to stay healthy and prevent illnesses. They work together to make the "vitamins" D and E.

FDA-Approved Versus Other Seals of Approval and Certification

The Food and Drug Administration does not routinely conduct testing for efficacy and safety on supplements as they do on drugs. Seeing a seal of approval from the U.S. Pharmacopeia, ConsumerLab.com, NSF International, or UL, which began certifying supplements in 2016, does not guarantee that a supplement is safe or has therapeutic value. These labels show that the product has the ingredients it has and doesn't have dangerous substances like lead or arsenic.

Talk to your doctor first.

You'll want to include your doctor in your decision-making process when considering supplements. A physician might not recommend them at all or might diagnose deficiencies, in which case they may prescribe increased doses of a particular nutrient. 

Doctors consider your health issues, risks, current diet, and age when recommending or prescribing vitamin and mineral supplements. If your doctor doesn’t know much about the supplement you are considering, consult a dietitian who’ll work with you and your physician.