Americans aren’t eating as many fruits and vegetables as we should be. In fact, Americans nationwide are significantly below the fruit and vegetable consumption guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the USDA.
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Enter supplements. As people seek alternative sources of crucial vitamins and minerals, supplement intake has skyrocketed. Supplements can be helpful, but getting nutrients from a pill rather than food is not always the best way to improve your health. In some cases, it can even hurt. In fact, some studies show that food is the best route of vitamins and minerals in almost all cases.
Registered dietitian Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD, shares five vitamins and minerals you may be overdoing if you pop them as pills.
Iron and copper
Iron plays a key role in younger women’s diets for menstrual cycles and pregnancy, but the recommendations for iron after menopause significantly decrease. Despite the lower guidelines (8 mg per day after age 50) many postmenopausal women still take supplements that contain iron and copper.
One study linked excess iron and copper to increased incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease.
Your best bet: If you’re over 50, ditch the multivitamins with iron and copper unless a doctor instructs you to take them. You can also consider a nutrigenomics test to determine how you metabolize iron.
Beta-carotene and vitamin A — which is formed by beta-carotene — is easy to consume. If you have a bowl of cereal for breakfast, anything orange (carrots, sweet potatoes) for lunch and then a multivitamin or supplement for eye health, you’ve probably consumed over the recommended amount of beta-carotene. Too much has been associated with increased risk for lung cancer and overall increased risk of death.
Your best bet: Skip the supplement and stick to food sources such as sweet potatoes, watermelon, cantaloupe, red bell peppers, carrots and spinach.
When most people think of vitamin C, they think of oranges. But if your first thought is a vitamin C pill, you may be overdoing it. One study found that men who took vitamin C pills had a higher risk for developing kidney stones.
Your best bet: Enjoy the culinary delights of vitamin-C rich foods such as papaya, strawberries, Brussels sprouts and kale. But don’t take extra unless a doctor advises you to.
In America, vitamin D deficiency is prevalent due to lack of UV ray exposure. Since the best source of vitamin D is the sun, and excess exposure can increase your risk for melanoma, a supplemental route might be needed.
Your best bet: Consider having your D levels checked by your doctor before determining the right dose. When you do start your regimen, take your vitamin D with fat. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, meaning it’s best absorbed in the presence of dietary fat.