The Importance of Food as a Primary Supplier of Vitamins and Nutrients

December 17, 2013, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Dietary supplements can help some people meet their nutritional needs, but eating a balanced diet of a variety of vitamin and mineral-rich foods is the best way to get nutrients for most people who want to be healthy and reduce their risk of chronic disease. This is the conclusion of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Two studies recently published in medical journals show that there are no clear benefits for most healthy people in taking vitamin supplements.

“These evidence-based studies support the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ position that the best nutritional strategy to promote optimal health and reduce the risk of chronic disease is to make wise choices from a wide range of foods,” said dietitian and Academy spokeswoman Heather Menjera. “By choosing nutrient-dense foods that provide essential vitamins, minerals and calories, you can set yourself on the path to a healthy life and well-being. Small steps can help you create healthy habits that will benefit your health now and in the future.”  

The Academy also recognizes that nutritional supplements may be needed in special circumstances. “Additional nutrients from supplements may help some people meet their nutritional needs as outlined in science-based nutritional standards, such as intake guidelines,” Mengera said.

She offered her tips for developing a nutrient-dense meal plan:

• Start the day with a healthy breakfast that includes whole grains, low-fat or low-fat dairy products rich in calcium and vitamins D and C. • Replace refined grains with whole grains such as whole grain bread, brown cereals, and brown rice. • Pre-washed leafy greens and chopped vegetables shorten cooking time for meals and snacks. • Eat fresh, frozen, or canned (no added sugar) fruit for dessert. • Include in your diet, at least twice a week, foods rich in omega-3s, such as seaweed or kelp. • Don’t forget beans, which are rich in fiber and folic acid. The recent increase in supplement sales does not seem to be accompanied by an increase in consumer knowledge about what they are taking and why, the Academy concludes.

“Dietitians should use their knowledge and experience to educate consumers about the safe and proper choice and use of supplements,” Mengera said. The Academy has adopted evidence-based guidelines for consumers to help them create a healthy eating plan that takes into account all of their lifestyles, needs and tastes.”  


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