Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi

Do I Need a Multivitamin?

Brittany Simmons R.D.

What do you picture when you think of someone who is malnourished? I used to automatically think it was limited to those in third world countries who lacked food and looked severely underweight. That’s not always true.

Today, nearly two thirds of Americans are overweight or obese. At the same time, 50 million Americans order fast food each day, generating $110 billion dollars each year. The price you pay for fast and convenient processed foods is your health. Fast food is processed, removing many of the nutrients. Processed food is dehydrated, preserved with chemicals, dyed or colored, concentrated, precooked, pickled, pasteurized, canned or packaged. Let’s examine what you are sacrificing between two vegetables and two breads:

Medium French Fry- $1.79 (Processed) Turnip greens- $1.00 per pound (Unprocessed)
400 calories 50 calories
21g fat 3g fat
16mg Calcium 198mg Calcium
0 micrograms Vitamin A 586 micrograms Vitamin A
3mg Vitamin C 39mg Vitamin C
13 micrograms Vitamin K 531 micrograms Vitamin K
37 micrograms Folate 168 micrograms Folate

White bread- $1.25 Whole wheat bread- $1.99
69 calories 69 calories
1g fiber 3g fiber
2g protein 4g protein
26mg potassium 69mg potassium
6mg magnesium 23mg magnesium
177mg sodium 132mg sodium
26mg phosphorus 57mg phosphorus

We are gaining weight as we are becoming less nourished. Now the big question… Should you take a multivitamin? You can see the more natural and unprocessed foods have many more vitamins and minerals. Of course eating healthy foods and exercising are the best ways to stay healthy and nourished; however, there are pros and cons to taking a multivitamin.

Before purchasing a multivitamin you need to know that no supplements are tested by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). Therefore, their potency is unknown and is up to the manufacturer to disclose. Also, vitamins lose their potency if they get too warm, such as during transportation to a large store in an 18-wheeler, or if they are sitting on a shelf near the windows getting sunlight.

Here are some common indicators that your body could be missing some nutrients:

  1. You are dealing with an illness
  2. You feel tired all the time
  3. You experience thinning hair and brittle nails
  4. You are on a restrictive diet
  5. You don’t eat many fruits, vegetables or whole grains
  6. You have digestive issues
  7. You are listening to your body, and your body tells you it is lacking something important. You know your body best!

Before you spend the money on a multivitamin, try eating healthier. If you are examining your diet right now and think you have a long way to go, think smaller. Switch a few processed foods for whole foods. For example, try grilled chicken breast rather than chicken nuggets. When eating fast food, choose the apple slices instead of fries. You might even realize you feel more energetic instead of tired and sluggish after you eat! If you still feel you need an extra boost of nutrients, get a good quality multivitamin!

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