Q.Those against taking vitamin tablets say that if you have a balanced diet you don't need to take them. And those in favor of vitamin tablets say we need to take them because processed food is less nutritious. Who is right?
A. For many people, a balanced diet is sufficient to meet their vitamin and mineral, and nutrient needs. A "balanced diet" means that your diet provides you with the calories and nutrients you need to perform your daily vital functions. Whether you are eating processed foods, or all fresh, healthy foods, it is possible to not have a balanced diet. For example, strawberries are healthy and contain nutrients that your body uses. However, if you eat only strawberries all day, even though they are good for you, you will not get all of the vitamins and minerals that your body needs. If you are eating processed foods, it is even more difficult to get all of the nutrients your body needs because many of them are lost during processing. Eating a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables is the best way to get the most nutrients in your diet. Under some conditions, such as during intense exercise, under great stress, or during pregnancy, you may need to add vitamin and mineral supplements to your diet. If you doubt that you are getting enough nutrients through the foods you eat, you should consult your physician and a dietitian.
Dr. Eleazar Lara-Pantin, MD, MSc.
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