7 Vitamin Mistakes You Probably Don’t Realize You’re Making
From nootropics to multivitamins and everything in between, people are taking more vitamins than ever before, according to an annual report from the Council for Responsible Nutrition. Whether or not you're one of the 75 percent of U.S. adults who take vitamins and supplements on the regular, you've likely bought into one or more vitamin myths and mistakes that it's time to stop believing ASAP. For example, perhaps you don't take vitamins at all because you think you're getting everything you need from your organic greens, nuts, and twigs diet. Surprise! You're not. Even if you eat super healthy, you can still be nutrient deficient, especially if you eat a restricted diet or a lot of processed food.
According to Dr. James Lee, who co-founded nootropic vitamin company Liveli to support his cognitive health after being diagnosed with a brain tumor, modern diets usually lack some of what your body needs to stay healthy. "We’ve evolved from a diverse diet to food that is primarily a result of mass production. Now, we only get certain nutrients and need to supplement what we’re missing," Dr. Lee explained on the Liveli blog. If you want to get the most of out a vitamin regimen, here are some other vitamin myths you can stop believing.
1. You Only Need To Take Vitamins When You're Sick
Even if they don't take daily vitamins, a lot of people flood their system with vitamins when they feel a cold coming on. However, Dr. Jeffrey Gladd, personalized vitamin company Care/of’s Scientific Advisory Board’s Integrative Physician, tells Bustle that this isn't the best way to get the most from vitamins. By taking them regularly, you can prevent illness instead of trying to fight it off once it already sets in.
"Vitamin C, zinc, elderberry, and garlic are a few examples of vitamins and supplements that have been researched for their immunity-boosting properties," he tells Bustle. "That said, the strongest research on these suggests that they may help support a strong immune system, while their effect on the severity or duration of colds is less clear. For this reason, a better strategy is to consider vitamins for their ability to help us cover our bases (especially when we’re not getting all the nutrients we need from our diets) rather than acute illness treatment."
2. You Don't Need To Take Vitamins At All
According to Dr. Lee, in order for your body and brain to work best, you need the following: "Vitamin A for its neuronal support qualities, vitamin C for its ability to help support neurotransmitters, and vitamin D for its calcium processing qualities." Your body also needs vitamin E to fight free radicals, Vitamin K for support in getting oxygen and nutrients to your brain, and all forms of vitamin B for healthy cell growth and production of neurotransmitters.
If you want to specifically address what your body lacks, you can talk to your doctor about testing for potential deficiencies, or take an at-home test to deliver just what your body needs. "If, like most people, your diet doesn't include every essential nutrient, taking vitamins based on your needs can serve as an effective insurance policy for long-term health," Dr. Gladd said on Care/of's website. Not needing vitamins at all is just one of the persistent myths surrounding vitamins and supplements.
3. The Vitamin Industry Is Unregulated
Because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn't approve dietary supplements, you might think vitamins and supplements aren't regulated at all. That's not completely true, says Dr. Gladd. "The term 'FDA-approved' is not a legally valid standard for vitamins and supplements. That said, the FDA does regulate both dietary supplements and dietary ingredients," he explains.
"In 2007, the FDA established a set of regulations called the 'current Good Manufacturing Practice' (cGMP), which require that manufacturers evaluate their products through testing identity, purity, strength, and composition. The FDA regularly audits manufacturing facilities for FDA compliance and cGMP practices, but the industry is rife with poorly and even wrongly produced products. Any supplement decision should also include a study of a company’s manufacturing practices."
4. You Can't Take Vitamins On An Empty Stomach
If you've ever gotten an upset stomach from downing a handful of vitamins before breakfast, you're not alone. Dr. Gladd says that while some vitamins can make you nauseous, others are totally fine to take without food. "The requirements for optimal absorption vary between vitamins. While it’s true that some fat-soluble supplements (like fish oil) are best taken with a meal, others (like vitamin C) can be taken with or without food, and certain vitamins (like iron) are even best absorbed on an empty stomach," he tells Bustle.
"When choosing vitamins, you should also look on the label to determine whether they’re whole food supplements or isolated nutrients (also called isolates). Whole food supplements combine different ingredients that optimize absorption while vitamin isolates often provide highly concentrated nutrients that our bodies may have a harder time processing."
5. All Vitamins Are The Same
If you're new to vitamins, you might be under the misapprehension that all vitamins are the same. Aside from different categories like multivitamins, nootropics, adaptogens and more, vitamins can be derived from natural nutrients or synthetic nutrients, according to Healthline. While natural nutrients come from whole food sources, synthetic nutrients are made artificially.
"The production process of synthetic nutrients is very different to the way plants and animals create them. So despite having a similar structure, your body may react differently to synthetic nutrients," Healthline explained. "Additionally, it's unclear how well synthetic nutrients are absorbed and used in the body. Some may be more easily absorbed, not others." When in doubt, read the label before you start taking a particular vitamin.
6. You Don't Need Vitamins If You Eat A Lot Of Veggies
If you're a vegetarian or vegan, you might think you're getting all of the nutrients you need from your diet. However, women's vitamin company Ritual reported on its blog that vegans and vegetarians are often deficient in vitamin B12. This can lead to "Tiredness, fatigue, weakness, constipation, numbness or tingling hands and feet, balance issues, forgetfulness, confusion, and sad/grouchy mood."
In fact, B12 is one of the most important vitamins for your body. "From our blood cells to our nerves to our very DNA, Vitamin B12 is a critical vitamin for our bodies. It’s so important, in fact, that our stomachs have developed special receptors for it. But there’s a lot of confusion about this important nutrient. For example, B12 deficiency is not obvious, and some of its symptoms are irreversible (nerve damage for example)," Ritual explained.
7. Everyone Needs The Same Vitamins
While taking vitamins is an individual choice, if you're feeling blah, it's definitely worth investigating whether or not vitamins can help. Personally, I have noticed a difference since I started a vitamin regimen.
Because everyone is different, everyone needs different things to feel their best. While a multivitamin can help give you a daily boost, you could be deficient in things like vitamin D or B12, even if you take a multivitamin. At the end of the day, taking vitamins is an individual choice, but it's best to be informed about making it.