Should You Supplement? Is Your Multivitamin Stacking Up?

We have traveled down a long road in this Should You Supplement series and hopefully the articles have helped you out by thinking more about your health through nutrition and to even take some action and make some changes to make you better.  Now I am not going to lie and say I have the perfect dietary habits, I do occasionally indulge in some less than optimal food choices and I am not going to ruin a party by saying “sorry I can’t eat that.”  However, I always try to moderate less than optimal choices to a bare minimum.  I always try to keep my health in mind by choosing from a wide variety of healthy foods, making sure I consume plenty of essential fats and do some minor supplementation of nutrients that I feel are important to have in my diet.

In this final installment I am going to touch upon a supplement that many of you already take; a multivitamin.  Taking a multivitamin is a pretty good idea and numerous studies have shown that supplementing with one helps maintain optimal health by combating free radicals with anti oxidants, building a strong immune system, and even boosts your energy.   The market is saturated with different brands and even different formulas.  There are some for men, women, teens, seniors.  Even your pets have a multivitamin formula targeted for them.  With all of these different brands and formulas how do you find a good product?  The answer may be a little simpler than you think.

How does your multivitamin stack up?

First thing to understand is that like most things in life, not all multivitamins are created equal.  Inferior nutrients and inappropriate amounts can create a low quality product where the nutrients are not absorbed and used properly by the body.  The best place to start is to divide the multivitamins into two categories; synthetic and whole food vitamins.

Synthetic represent the vast majority of the multivitamins out there.  You can spot them easily by reading the label.

Now let’s compare that to a good quality whole food label

Like other processed food we have talked about in the past; big confusing words, and a long ingredient list means the product is highly processed and, in this case, synthetic.  If it does not come from a food source, you may not want to use that product.

You might be asking what’s the problem with synthetic vitamins anyway?  Synthetic vitamins are composed through a variety of individually constructed compounds referred to as isolates.  These isolates can be simply understood as something that works by itself and does not combine and complement with other vitamins to make for greater potency and utilization within the body.

Synthetic vitamins may also have serious side effects and health risks associated with them.  Wait aren’t multivitamins supposed to enhance my health?  In theory “Yes,” but sadly this is not the case for many synthetic multivitamins.  For example, when reading the synthetic vitamin labels you may come across words like “acetate”, “bitartrate”, “chloride”, “hydrochloride”, “nitrate”, and “succinate.”  These are all salt compounds used to increase the stability of the nutrient.  When doing research for this article I found this comment from the Balanced Body Wellness Centre and if it’s not enough for you to go into your cupboard and throw out your main-stream market multivitamins then I do not know what will be.

In reality, synthetic vitamins are just safer drugs. Many are made from coal tar derivatives, the same stuff
that causes throat cancer in tobacco smokers. Like drugs, synthetic vitamins suppress the Autonomic
Nervous System (ANS) and cause the symptoms you experience when the ANS is out of balance.
However, neither synthetics nor drugs address the problem’s root cause. Synthetic vitamins — like drugs —
may improve certain conditions for a short time but they can’t nourish your body…

…some supplement companies use products contaminated with pesticides, bug parts in the herbs, or foreign
materials in the vitamins. Furthermore, some companies actually use the wrong part of the herbal plant.
And legally they can still sell it.

As mentioned earlier, good whole food multivitamins have something going for them that the synthetics don’t; the ingredients do not work in isolation, instead, they complement each other and work in conjunction to have a greater health benefit to the body.  Whole food sources contain many extra co-factors and phytonutirents (compounds that effect health but are not deemed essential nutrients) that interact with each other and create a more usable nutrient with many health benefits.  To understand this point further, while I was doing my research, I learned that “Carrot Root, which can be found as one ingredient in high quality multivitamins, contains over 200 nutrients and phytonutrients.”  This is a great example of huge difference between isolates and whole food compounds.

When I first started college and got into the health and training world I was on a quest to find the most effective supplements on the market.  My friend and I scoured the internet forums, got to know some of the best sports nutritionists in the industry and asked them about certain products.  Most agree that eating a healthy and balanced diet filled with vegetables is key to health and longevity, but supplementing with a good, whole food multivitamin add some insurance in case we are deficient in some essential nutrients.

Back in college there were not as many whole food multivitamin choices around as there are today, but I still take the same one after all of these years; Catalyn by Standard Process.  Catalyn is highly recommended by many top nutritionists.  The product has been around since 1929 and is derived from 15 different whole food sources in small, usable doses.  The product is great and I can’t recommend it more.  If you want more information about the product check out the information here

As we conclude our journey through nutrition and supplementation, we can simply boil it down to this.  Make sure we get our diet in check first by eating a balanced diet consisting of plenty of whole foods choices.  We can then add a few supplements that our bodies need and are hard to accumulate during the day like Omega 3 fatty acids, Vitamin C, and a good quality whole food multivitamin.  If we are able to do all of these things we can almost guarantee a healthier, better quality of life for ourselves.