Should you be taking multivitamins?

Multivitamin and mineral formulations are one of the biggest categories for supplementation in Australia, and also the least understood. I am often asked by clients if they should be taking a multivitamin or not. My initial answer is: “what do you believe you need it for?” Preferably we are eating nutrient dense food and adequately absorbing all our nutrients, but sometimes that doesn’t happen.

Do you need a multi?

Living and working in our fast paced society often sees many individuals as “overfed but undernourished”. Food is quick, easy, lacks variety and is low is nutrients. Suboptimal intake of vitamins has been identified as a risk factor for fatigue, poor immune function, reduced ability to cope with stress and an increased risk of chronic illness such as osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. At greatest risk of inadequate intake are the elderly, vegans, heavy drinkers, smokers, highly stressed, intense exercisers and people with bowel disorders. If you have a health condition, or want specific sport supplements there are other options than a “coverall” multi. In saying that, a multivitamin may act as a safe-guard for a not so flash diet, or for when you just can’t get all your nutrients in.

Benefits of multi’s include:

  • Folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects
  • Multivitamin supplementation reduces C-reactive protein levels, a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease
  • B6 and B12 help support energy production and stress management, along with reducing symptoms of PMS
  • Vitamin D can lower the risk of colon and other cancers
  • Antioxidants, including vitamins C, A, E and selenium can help prevent damage to DNA reducing the risk of cellular damage
  • Multivitamins may help reduce infection and increase natural immunity

What to look for in a multi?

Nutrients should be in the form best utilised by the body. Alpha-lipoic acid should be in the form the body can use – R-alpha-lipoic acid. Vitamin E should be natural as opposed to synthetic.

Organic salts such as citrates, chelates, phosphates and gluconates provide better absorption and higher bioavailability. Inorganic salts, including oxides, chlorides and sulphates may limit uptake of the nutrient into systemic tissues and cause undesirable gastro-intestinal side effects.

Use of nutrient forms that do not degrade other nutrients (ascorbic acid tends to degrade other vitamins due to its acidic properties compared to calcium ascorbate which is neutral (both forms of vitamin C).

Instead of a tablet, eat this:

Nutrient dense foods – aim for dark green and brightly coloured vegetables, nuts, wholefoods and limit processed foods

Make this: Nutrient Packed Super Shake

  • 3 kale leaves
  • 1 cup coconut water
  • ½ punnet blueberries
  • 1small banana
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp greens (like vital greens or chlorella)

Put all into a blender, whiz and enjoy!

Bonus = very high in omega 3, iron, magnesium and electrolytes, so perfect post training drink!

Ali Dear is Centennial Health Club's resident nutritionist and is available for individual consultations. Simply ask reception to find out more. 

(This article first appeared in Cyclist Magazine - www.cyclist.com.au)