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Confession 5: I don’t love supplements.

Okay, okay. I do have vitamin tablets and other supplements in it my cabinet right now. I always keep fish oil, choline, and multivitamins as a backup when I know we’re missing those nutrients, and vitamin D3 because we live in the Pacific Northwest.

I also STRONGLY recommend high-quality prenatal vitamins to pregnant women and women who might get pregnant, and to clients who need them for various other reasons.

Otherwise, I don’t love supplements.

Why?

I have my reservations for three main reasons:

First: We were made to get nutrients from food. Research shows that in most cases, our bodies don’t absorb the nutrients from supplements as well as we do from food. I’m always concerned that people use supplements as a crutch, or sort an excuse not to eat whole, healthy foods.

The truth is that we don’t know everything about the makeup of the broccoli that’s wilting in your refrigerator right now. The study of vitamins and phytochemicals in food is in its infancy, and we’re just starting to learn about how all of the nutrients packed into whole foods work their metabolism magic. Your supplement label may say it contains vitamin K and C, but it certainly doesn’t contain ALL of the goodness in broccoli. Those missing components are sometimes what make the vitamin K and C perform their best. 

Second: Vitamins aren’t well regulated. We like to think that we’re protected from questionable ingredients when we buy anything in the U.S. When it comes to supplements, this is not the case. The FDA can only regulate supplements after they’re on the shelves, if a problem is reported. Because of this, when I choose to buy supplements, I try to find one that’s been tested for content by an independent third party like USP.

Third: They’re making a lot of money from people who could have just eaten a peanut butter sandwich. We all have to earn a living, but the marketing on some of the powders and potions out there is seductive. Marketing causes people to feel like they NEED this product to build muscle, or your toddler MUST HAVE that product to grow well. Supplements should be treated as a medicine when truly required, not as a replacement for healthy food.

I’m not out to bash the industry or turn anyone away from a product that is working for them. I am grateful for and know I feel better and healthier because of the capsules I take. It’s just important to do our research and not expect easy-fix miracles in a bottle.

Here’s an interesting book on the history of supplements: Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized the Way We Think About Food by Catherine Price

What are your thoughts on supplements?

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