Diet vs Supplements – Which is best for vitamins?
Should you get vitamins from diet or supplements? If you’re heading into your fitness journey, it can be tempting to start purchasing every supplement recommended online. But first things first, it is essential that you get your diet in check. Most of the vitamins and minerals the body needs can be found in the food and drink we eat, whether that be through animal products or fruit and vegetables.
That being said, sometimes it can be appropriate, or even necessary to incorporate supplements into your daily routine as a means to getting a sufficient number of vitamins. There can be a variety of reasons for supplementing, one of the biggest reasons at the moment is people choosing a more plant-based lifestyle. Although this comes with many benefits, a lack of animal based products may leave you without some of the key nutrients necessary.
In this article, we will be giving you an insight into the key vitamins that play a role in the body’s day to day functioning, and whether it’s better that these vitamins come from diet or supplements.
What are supplements?
First of all, let’s tackle things from the beginning and tell you exactly what supplements are. The key definition of a supplement is something that can be added to complete or enhance something else. In terms of nutrition, this can be a product in the form of a pill, liquid or capsule that provides extra vitamins and nutrients to the body.
Some of the most popular supplements include:
One of the most important things to be aware of when it comes to using supplements is that they are not meal replacements. A supplement does exactly what it says it should, ‘supplements’ your diet, therefore you should still maintain a healthy, balanced diet. Food contains several other things such as macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats and protein) and calories that are key for survival that supplements will not give you.
Furthermore, in-order to ensure that supplements are safe, they have to be FDA (Food & Drug Administration) approved. All food, drink and drugs have to go through thorough checks in certain countries to make sure they are in no way harmful and this goes for supplements too.
Key vitamins provided in diet
Like we said earlier, you should be able to get the majority of your key vitamins and nutrients by eating a well-balanced diet. Eating a variety of different foods can give your body all of the necessary nutrients to work properly. Some foods offer more nutrients than others and should be included in your diet:
Meat & Animal products
This is a non-exhaustive list of the nutrients provided in certain foods, but the list is pretty much endless of the number of wholefoods that can provide vitamins for the body. When it comes to getting the right amount, the key is to be varied in your diet. As you can see from above, different types of foods offer various nutrients, therefore in-order to keep your body healthy it is essential to eat a range of different types of food.
Vitamins in supplements
If you decide to take supplement to fulfil your daily intake of vitamins, it is highly advisable that you consult a doctor first to ensure that you need to increase your intake and the best way to do so is via supplements. People often have to supplement their diet with extra vitamins because of a deficiency. This can come about for a variety of reasons, one of the due to a lack of variation in diet that can come from choosing to eat a specific diet or excluding certain foods.
People that choose to eat a plant-based or vegan diet may find it harder to get enough Heme iron and vitamin B12 as these are both nutrients that come from animal based foods. Iron that is found in plant-based foods is known as non-heme and is not as easily absorbed and heme iron. Likewise, vitamin B12 is only found in meat, especially red meat and therefore it is extremely difficult to replace with other foods.
On top of this, other nutrients such as calcium which helps to build bones and zinc that boost the immune system are also primarily found in animal products. You may begin to notice differences in your body if you are lacking vital vitamins and minerals. If so, it may be that your doctor prescribes supplements as a way to enhance your diet.
Can vitamins be harmful?
Many of us often believe that you can never have too many vitamins, but this isn’t true. In-fact, although rare, it is possible to overdose on certain vitamins that can prove harmful to the body in large amounts.
Too much vitamin C can cause symptoms such as nausea, diarrhoea and stomach cramps. On overload of vitamin D can lead to serious heart problems and it can also be fatal to have too much iron in the body, especially for children. It is reasons like these that you should consult a medical expert before choosing to supplement your diet with vitamins. Even though cases such as these are rare, it is still true that too much of a certain vitamin can prove harmful.
So, what have we learnt? Should you get vitamins from diet or supplements? When it comes to getting your recommended in-take of vitamins, the best choice it to eat a balanced diet with a mixture of foods. By doing so we are getting a variety of vitamins, and it is much harder to have too much of one when they are being consumed through food.
However, that doesn’t mean that supplements can’t be useful. If we are deficient in something, taking a vitamin supplement is a great way to increase our nutrient intake if doing so through a food source isn’t possible.