Vitamins and Minerals with Stacy Holl, DO

Vitamins and minerals are important because our bodies need them for their normal processes. All kinds of different things happen in our bodies and they require nutrients of different sources in order to make those processes happen. Some of the nutrients we're able to make in our body and some of them we have to get from outside sources such as foods or supplements. Then we can use them in the same processes in our body. For women, as we age, we do tend to lose bone density and some of the nutrients that we need such as calcium and Vitamin D. Additionally magnesium and phosphorus play important roles in bone density and bone health.

In general, younger women who are having regular menstrual periods need to supplement with iron. That can be done with diet but sometimes requires a supplement. In addition, pregnant women tend to need some additional supplementation particularly with folic acid. From there it's really pretty just dependent on age and absorption ability and of course that can affect both men and women. The foods that have the most vitamins and minerals in them tend to be foods that we already know are healthy, including things like fruits and vegetables, particularly those that are brighter in color. Leafy green vegetables are a great way to get a lot of your regular nutrients. Some of the nutrients and particularly the minerals we get from foods that grow under the ground, where they pick up a lot of the stuff that's in the soil, such as carrots, rutabaga and potatoes. It's important to have animal products, everything from dairy products, eggs, and meats. In general with meats, I would recommend leaner meats and leaner proteins such as chicken and lean beef. Avoiding too much red meat is important and limiting it typically to about two servings a week or less is good.

The safety of dietary supplements is variable and in general the supplement industry is not regulated. There is no one who can step in and say this is safer or this is not safe. A couple of the ways that you can verify whether your supplements are safe or not are to use some of the organizations that do look at these supplements. One of those is the U.S. Pharmacopoeia. It's labeled with USP so if you've ever seen USP on a bottle of supplements or minerals that means that it's certified by them and they have certified that it has what it says it's going to have in it and ideally not other things. Another one is consumerlab.com. They function as a sort of consumer reports, but for supplements. My recommendation would be that if you're going to take supplements that you verify through one of these organizations. A lot of them do say right on the bottle that they participate in these studies.

Ensuring that you're getting the right amount is difficult. There are some tests that your doctor can do, such as checking for your iron level or checking for your Vitamin B12 level. Most of the time, people who eat a varied diet with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy products and animal products will be getting enough vitamins and nutrients. Most people do not need to worry about taking supplements if they're getting a well-rounded diet.

There are some people who I would recommend talking to a physician or provider about needing some additional supplementation. In general, a lot of people in northern Minnesota tend to need Vitamin D and again women as we age tend to need some supplementation to maintain bone health. Other than that, it's really very individual whether you actually need to take supplements or not, and I wouldn't necessarily recommend just taking them without a conversation with your provider.