- Vitamins are essential micronutrients that we acquire from foods however, many don’t get adequate vitamins in their diet and therefore must reach for supplements.
- Vitamins come in fat-soluble and water-soluble forms which dictate how they are best absorbed and if there are toxicity concerns.
- All vitamins have established Recommended Daily Intakes (RDIs) that met the nutrient requirements for most individuals, and many contain Upper Limit (UL) references to avoid harmful doses.
Good sources of vitamins can be found in plant foods such as fruits and vegetables, so it is encouraged to consume 1.5 to 2 cups of fruits and 2-3 cups per day. With the rise of processed foods, it’s no surprise that many of us struggle to get in adequate vitamins from diet alone. This is where supplemental vitamins come in. (Source)
Although choosing a diet plentiful in vitamin-rich foods is recommended, supplements can help fill in the gaps from what we are missing and ensure we get what our body needs to perform at its best.
Food is always recommended as the first line of nutrition however, allergies, food restrictions, preferences, and limited access to food make vitamin supplements an essential component of health for many.
Some individuals that would likely benefit from vitamin supplements are pregnant or breastfeeding women, those diagnosed with malabsorption conditions, individuals who have undergone bariatric surgery, those diagnosed with a nutrient deficiency, and those who are vegan or vegetarian.
Whether you choose a multivitamin versus an individual vitamin supplement will depend on your preference and need. Some people struggle with getting adequate amounts of specific vitamins and can therefore tailor their supplements to meet their needs. Others may prefer to have a range of vitamins to ensure they aren’t missing out on any essential nutrients.
If you are unsure of what vitamins, if any, you might need to supplement, consider speaking to a Registered Dietitian to help you identify your needs.
Always speak to your doctor or health care provider before adding a supplement to your routine, as some ingredients may interact with medications or conditions.
Taking a vitamin supplement is not always equivalent to what is reported on the bottle. Vitamins are absorbed better in their natural form. When created into pill or liquid, their absorption rate changes.
The difference in this absorption rate will depend on many factors, including the vitamin, type of pill, other ingredients, medications, diet, and the individual’s digestion. If you are taking a supplement for a deficiency, consider a liquid, as these take less time to be broken down and absorbed than pills or capsules.
Additionally, the absorption rate of some vitamins can be hindered or improved by combining them with other ingredients. For example, vitamins A, D, E, and K are best absorbed when taken with a fat, such as avocado, nuts, or olive oil, while chronic alcohol consumption inhibits the absorption of folate (vitamin B9). (Source)
Fat Soluble vs Water Soluble
There are two different categories of vitamins, water-soluble and fat-soluble. Fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K are stored in our fat following absorption while water-soluble vitamins (B vitamins and vitamin C) are dissolved in water and cannot be stored. This means any unused water-soluble vitamins will be flushed out of your system via your urine. (Source)
Water-soluble vitamins need to be replenished often since they cannot be stored. These vitamins may only stay in your system for 1-2 days, while fat-soluble vitamins can stay there for several days to months. The amount of time these vitamins stay in your system will vary. Age, diet, and other lifestyle factors all influence how long you store various vitamins. (Source)
Because any unnecessary water-soluble vitamins will be excreted, there is little chance of overdose or toxicity, however, there still is one. For example, taking extremely large doses of certain water-soluble vitamins such as vitamin B6 can cause permanent nerve damage. (Source)
Fat-soluble vitamins, however, pose a greater risk. Because they are stored in your fat cells, you can easily accumulate too much in your system. Fat-soluble vitamin toxicity is rare if you aren’t taking supplements however, it can occur easily if you use fat-soluble vitamin supplements excessively. (Source)
Vitamin A, D, and E are at higher risk for toxicity while taking supplements versus vitamin K, which currently has no known toxicity associated with high levels in supplement form. Fat-soluble vitamin toxicity symptoms vary.
Common symptoms associated with vitamin A toxicity include headache, diarrhea, nausea, and skin irritation, and can lead to liver damage, birth defects, and bone thinning. Vitamin D toxicity can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and frequent urination, leading to hypercalcemia. Vitamin E toxicity can cause weakness, fatigue, skin rash, headache, and blurred vision. (Source) (Source) (Source)
Because of the concern for vitamin toxicity, many vitamins have established Upper Limits (UL). This is the maximum dose you can take for a nutrient without it resulting in harm to the average healthy adult. (Source)
Some vitamins, such as vitamin K, don’t have an established UL. This is because there is currently no known dosage that has been found to cause harm. (Source)
To establish recommended doses of various vitamins, along with other nutrients, a Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) was created for reference. RDI is the average recommended intake to meet nutrient requirements for most individuals in various age and gender groups. RDI is referenced when creating the Daily Value (DV) of food found on food and supplement labels. (Source)
Different Vitamin Supplements
Vitamin supplements come in many forms. Some are pills or capsules, others are liquids or powders. More popular vitamin supplements contain green powders, such as Supergreen Tonik, and proprietary blends, a unique combination of ingredients formulated for a specific use.
Green powders are typically a mixture of dried, concentrated green fruits and vegetables. There are many benefits to both green powders and proprietary blends when provided by a reputable source. These often also contain good sources of vitamins with a more whole-food approach than most pills or capsules provide.
When comparing green powders versus vegetables, it’s much like taking vitamin supplements but with plants. We get most of our vitamins from plant foods, but often we have difficulty getting adequate amounts.
Green powders can help fill in the gap without the need for additional vitamin supplements for people trying to eat more fruits and vegetables. Unless you have a specific deficiency that needs to be treated.
How To Spot A Good Vitamin Supplement
Spotting a good vitamin supplement can be more challenging than you think. Supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for safety, quality, or effectiveness.
To ensure you are getting a high-quality supplement, always look for one that includes third-party testing. Third-party testing is not a requirement but is instead a voluntary option during production to provide transparency to consumers that the product is of high quality as it is claimed.
Always choose your supplements from a trusted company and pay attention to the ingredients listed on the label. Supplements that contain proprietary blends of herbs may cause interactions with certain medications. Some may also include ingredients with limited research on their safety and efficacy.
A good example of a high-quality vitamin supplement is Supergreen Tonik. This product contains an excellent nutrient profile of vitamins and minerals to cover all your nutritional needs. It comes in a green powder form along with antioxidants and a bonus adaptogen blend.
Human Tonik provides full transparency of its products so consumers can have peace of mind when purchasing their supplements.
So, if you are thinking of adding a vitamin supplement to your routine, consider if you really need one and what kind. Be mindful of doses if choosing multivitamins or fat-soluble vitamin blends to avoid potential toxicity.
Always speak to your doctor before adding any supplement to your routine. If you need additional information, consult with a Registered Dietitian.
If you choose to go the supplement route, be sure to choose from a reputable brand that includes third-party testing to ensure you are getting what you need. A green powder like Supergreen Tonik is an excellent choice if you prefer a whole-food approach.
Remember, not everyone needs a vitamin supplement. It is possible to get everything you need from food alone. However, vitamin supplements can be helpful in filling nutritional gaps, if there are any.
Meghan is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist from San Jose, California. She received her undergraduate degree from San Diego State University in 2015. Following an unexpected cross-country trip that landed her in Florida, she completed her didactic training through AdventHealth Orlando.
Meghan has extensive experience in multiple aspects of dietetics including critical care, motivational interviewing, writing, and research. She is passionate about health and wellness and has dedicated her free time to breaking down complicated nutrition topics and disseminating them to the public through the arena of writing.