Throughout most of this course we’ve been talking about the importance of macronutrients, like protein, fat, and carbs.
But what about the little guys, specifically micronutrients?
Micronutrients include vitamins and minerals that play an important role in overall health and wellness.
They are known as “micronutrients” because they are only needed in small quantities by the body, but that doesn’t make them any less important. Missing out of any of these essential nutrients can lead to numerous healthy problems including low energy, bone disease, and even impaired weight loss.
The roles vitamins and minerals play in our body are pretty extensive, some help build protein, others release energy from food, some monitor fluid regulation, and others effect blood circulation.
The main way to describe the difference in roles between vitamins and minerals is to think of your body as a store at the mall, let’s say Louis Vuitton.
Minerals would be the scaffolding or bricks that hold the building together, as well as the electricity that keeps the lights on and equipment running smoothly.
Vitamins would be the employees, who are hard at work to ensure the job gets done and is performed properly.
Similar to how a successful store needs both a sturdy building and solid employees, our bodies need both vitamins and minerals.
Now, the interesting thing is that while micronutrient deficiencies are harmful, scientific evidence hasn’t been able to show a clear benefit from taking multivitamins in healthy adults.
When it comes to scientific evidence, there are mixed findings and a lot of additional factors that still need to be accounted for using randomized controlled trials.
It’s generally accepted that anyone with a known vitamin or mineral deficiency, as well as women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, will benefit from taking a multivitamin.
But for the rest of us otherwise healthy, normal individuals, the decision about whether or not to take a multivitamin all depends on nutrition.
Ask yourself, “What’s my diet like?”
Both vitamins and minerals can be found in fruits, vegetables, meats, nuts, beans, and dairy products, emphasizing the importance of a well-balanced diet.
The key word here is well balanced… NOT healthy.
In some cases, such as when you are prepping for a competition or following a strict meal plan to lean out for the summer, a healthy diet isn’t always a well-balanced or versatile diet.
When the majority of your meals are made up of the same foods with little variation, you could be missing out on certain vitamins and minerals, especially if you’ve removed certain foods or food groups (like dairy or red meat) all together.
The bottom line is that you can’t expect a multivitamin to replace the benefits of whole foods.
Personally, I take M Factor Goddess Multivitamin each day because I believe there’s benefit to micronutrient supplementation, especially when following a strict meal plan.
I don’t take more than I should; I just take one serving of my multivitamin in the morning.
It’s a habit that I’ll continue to follow considering certain food groups, like dairy and whole grains, aren’t a big component of my weekly meal plan.
Autier P, Gandini S. Vitamin D supplementation and total mortality: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Arch Intern Med. 2007;167(16):1730-7.
Bjelakovic G, Nikolova D, Gluud LL, Simonetti RG, Gluud C. Antioxidant supplements for prevention of mortality in healthy participants and patients with various diseases. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008;(2):CD007176.
Brisswalter J, Louis J. Vitamin supplementation benefits in master athletes. Sports Med. 2014;44(3):311-8.
Fortmann S.P., Burda B.U., Senger C.A., Lin J.S. & Whitlock E.P. (2013). Vitamin and Mineral Supplements in the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease and Cancer: An Updated Systematic Evidence Review for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, Annals of Internal Medicine, 159 (12) 824-834.
Grodstein F., O’Brien J., Kang J.H., Dushkes R., Cook N.R., Okereke O., Manson J.E., Glynn R.J., Buring J.E. & Gaziano J.M. & (2013). Long-Term Multivitamin Supplementation and Cognitive Function in Men, Annals of Internal Medicine, 159 (12) 806-814.
Huang HY, Caballero B, Chang S, et al. The efficacy and safety of multivitamin and mineral supplement use to prevent cancer and chronic disease in adults: a systematic review for a National Institutes of Health state-of-the-science conference. Ann Intern Med. 2006;145(5):372-85.
Prentice RL. Clinical trials and observational studies to assess the chronic disease benefits and risks of multivitamin-multimineral supplements. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;85(1):308S-313S.
Troppmann L, Gray-donald K, Johns T. Supplement use: is there any nutritional benefit?. J Am Diet Assoc. 2002;102(6):818-25.
Wang L, Manson JE, Song Y, Sesso HD. Systematic review: Vitamin D and calcium supplementation in prevention of cardiovascular events. Ann Intern Med. 2010;152(5):315-23.
Wilson RD, Wilson RD, Audibert F, et al. Pre-conception Folic Acid and Multivitamin Supplementation for the Primary and Secondary Prevention of Neural Tube Defects and Other Folic Acid-Sensitive Congenital Anomalies. J Obstet Gynaecol Can. 2015;37(6):534-52.