I’ll be honest, I’ve never been great about taking vitamins. I forget, or, when I do remember, I often do well for a while, but lose momentum when the bottle runs out. I much prefer to get my nutrition from whole foods that my body knows how to assimilate, rather than depending on synthetic vitamins. But, lately I’ve been reconsidering this. No matter how well balanced your diet may be, the fact is that our soils are depleted, our produce is often shipped across the country, and with the increasing number of people with poor digestive health and food intolerances, getting all your micronutrients from food alone can be near impossible. So what do you do?
Whole Food Supplements vs. Synthetics
There are now lots of multivitamins out there that are whole food supplements. The nutrients in them come from concentrated food sources, rather than from a lab where they’ve been synthetically created. Why does this matter? Well, there’s a couple reasons. While it is true that the chemical structure of vitamins made in the lab is the same as vitamins from food, that isn’t the whole picture. There are lots of other phytonutrients and enzymes and naturally occurring substances in food that allow your body to more efficiently utilize vitamins. Have you ever wondered why some vitamins boast about having 1000% of the recommended daily intake of a nutrient? Why would you need 1000%? The answer is that Mother Nature has a lot more insight into nutrition than we will ever have. The 70 mg in an average orange is so much more effective than the same amount in a synthetic vitamin, so in order to get a similar effect, you have to boost the vitamin C content much, much higher than anything you’d find in nature.
The problem with megadoses of vitamins is that your body can only utilize so much at a time. If you’re taking high doses of water soluble vitamins, you’ll just eliminate them in your urine. No real danger to your body, but you are wasting your money on supplements that just end up in the toilet. However, if you take megadoses of fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K), you can reach toxic levels because these vitamins are stored in your fat cells.
Be careful where you store your supplements
A reader recently emailed to ask me if storing her vitamins in the fridge was a good idea. Honestly, the thought had never occurred to me, so I had to do a little research. Turns out, storing your vitamins in the fridge can actually decrease their effectiveness. The high humidity that can result from opening up the bottle every day and then replacing it in the fridge can actually cause the water soluble nutrients to dissolve in the humidity. Who knew! So if you are taking a multivitamin or supplement, don’t store it in the fridge unless specifically instructed by your physician or the manufacturer. Your bathroom probably isn’t the best place for it either. For those of us who live in Florida, it can be hard to find a place that isn’t humid! Maybe a far corner of the kitchen, a linen closet that’s not in your bathroom, or in a basket in your nightstand. Wherever you put it, make sure you remember that its there so you’ll actually take it. Leave a post it note on your mirror for a couple weeks so you’ll remember, because, at least for me, out of sight usually means out of mind.
Don’t forget about balanced nutrition
Your multivitamin really should be a way to help fill in the gaps in your nutrition. You should still be trying to eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, pastured meat and dairy products, and try to buy organic when you can (organic produce has higher levels of nutrients than conventionally grown produce.) Don’t rely on your multivitamin to meet all your needs, because it can’t! However, it is a great place to start.
Remember, health and wellness is all about doing the best that you can. You’ll never have perfect health, but you can certainly take lots of small steps to get you to a better place than where you started.
This post is part of Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways at Frugally Sustainable.