The Multivitamin vs Diet Debate

These days, the supplement market is a crowded space. Nearly every month, a new option is heralded as the go-to solution to fix what’s ailing most people. While opting for a multivitamin can be a great way to round out dietary needs, the truth is that most people will benefit far more from investing in a healthy diet. Still not convinced? Consider the following factors.

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The murky world of supplements

Many people assume that because a product is sold in a store, significant oversight has occurred before the product’s arrival. The reality can be different. Unlike prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications, supplements don’t receive the same level of oversight as pharmaceutical products. As a result, a supplement could contain irrelevant or dangerous ingredients. In many cases, multivitamins can contain excessive nutrient quantities.

The case for diet over supplements

Taking a daily supplement is generally easy. As long as no side effects are expected and the pill or gummy doesn’t create a gross aftertaste, multivitamins are convenient. Research consistently shows that the body more easily absorbs and utilizes nutrients from food than from supplements. In particular, results show a person experiences more tangible health benefits from a nutrient-rich diet instead of relying on a multivitamin shortcut.

When supplementation makes sense

Although opting for a nutritious diet is usually the recommended course, some scenarios exist where taking a multivitamin or individual supplement is the best option. Some conditions, like anemia, can be linked to a nutrient deficiency. Meanwhile, some pervasive diseases like celiac disease can lead to nutritional deficiencies because of how the autoimmune disease attacks the small intestinal lining. Until the condition is brought to a level considered well-managed, a person may need to take a supplement to replace lost nutrients. Vegans or people with restricted diets may also need to supplement to get all the necessary nutrients.

Picking the right supplement

Knowing how to select a good supplement is critical for the best health outcomes. When shopping for a multivitamin, consider brands that bear seals from organizations like United States Pharmacopeia (USP) or National Science Foundation (NSF) when possible. These organizations provide oversight and third-party testing for ingredient accuracy and potency.

Creating a healthy diet

The initial weeks can be a challenging transitional period for individuals just beginning to understand how to create healthy dietary choices. Working with a physician or registered dietician (RD) to develop healthy meal plans is a great start. Although a healthy diet is sufficient for most, in some cases, a multivitamin may benefit overall health.


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