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Popular Vitamin Myths and Truths - Separating One from the Other

Updated on May 20, 2016

You've probably heard many of the popular vitamin myths and truths. Knowing which is which is not always easy, even for the most health knowledgeable of individuals.

Overall, vitamin supplements should be taken if you have a deficiency or are recovering from, or fighting, an illness. As you get older the body may become deficient in certain minerals and require supplements on a regular basis. Sometimes younger adults develop the need for ongoing vitamins as well.

So there are a number of circumstances that can lead to needing vitamin supplements either temporarily or on a more permanent basis. But a lot of the talk around vitamins and what it means to taking them borders on being dangerous to your health.

Here are some myths and truths surrounding this subject to help you make the right choices and avoid some of the more damaging ones.

Myth - The More the Better:

If vitamins are good for you then the more you take the better. Right?

Wrong. The truth is that while vitamins can be beneficial if you suffer from a deficiency or have not been eating as healthy a diet as you should be, consuming too many of them can be bad for you. Everything in moderation is a good motto to live by - especially where vitamins are concerned.

Vitamins are broken down into water-soluble (vitamins C and the B-complex vitamins of which there are eight in total) and fat-soluble (vitamins A, D, E and K). It is particularly harmful to take too many fat-soluble vitamins because they do not dissolve in water as the former kind does.

Myth - Take Vitamins, Eat Less:

If a person takes vitamins regularly then they can eat less food.

Vitamins can promote better health but they cannot take the place of food. They are not a miracle solution by any means.

The truth of the matter is that vitamins need the energy that food provides them to do their work properly. The absorption of vitamins necessitates the presence of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. What this means is that food takes precedence over vitamins. Eat a wide variety of nutritious foods that can provide you with the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and essential amino acids that you need and this in turn will supply you with the energy you need to live your life.

Take a vitamin supplement if you are short on the essentials you need because you are not getting enough from your daily diet. Otherwise, just eat properly and do not worry about it.

Myth - Eat Whatever You Want:

If a person takes vitamins then they can go ahead and eat whatever their heart desires and not have to worry.

Following along with another vitamin and food misconception is this one. Taking vitamins to promote good health does not give you the permission to eat whatever foods you like, be they good or bad. Vitamins do not take the place of a nutritious and well balanced diet - ever!

Food is what provides you with all of the essential elements for being a healthy person. Vitamins are a nice little extra but are not better or more important than food. Wouldn't life be boring if all we had to do was swallow vitamins!

Get into the habit of eating healthy foods each and every day. What this means is that you need to toss out your love of fried, fatty and processed foods and begin to enjoy plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy products, lean meats and fish regularly.

Ask yourself this - what would happen if in the next 30-days I just ate fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy products, lean meats and fish?

Myth - Vitamins Render Exercise Unnecessary:

Exercise is not important if an individual takes vitamins.

Sorry folks but exercise never stops being a vital element of a healthy lifestyle. It does not matter what your age is or your level of fitness, engaging in some form of physical activity (preferably every day) is important.

Go for walks, ride your bike, swim or take a dance class. Or perhaps you wish to participate in sports or work out at the gym. Don your exercise wear and work up a sweat! Vitamins will never take the place of how important exercise is for your overall health and your longevity.

Myth - All Supplements are Safe:

Supplements are sold in stores all over the place which means that they are completely safe. Right?

Not exactly the case. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which is the organization that oversees which drugs and products make it onto the market and which do not, does not limit the percentage or concentration of nutrients that are included in any supplement on shelves today.

There is one exception to this which is folacin.There is presently no official pre-market approval required to sell any kind of vitamin, mineral or herbal supplements. For this reason, you must police yourself in terms of what you take vitamin and mineral wise.

Myth - Organic is Better than Synthetic:

If you're going to buy vitamins then organic are healthier and better than the synthetic kind.

The truth is that your body cannot tell one from the other. The only obvious advantage that organic vitamins have over synthetic ones is that the food sources they come from are abundant in fiber while the synthetic vitamins have no fiber whatsoever.

Myth - Take Vitamins on an Empty Stomach:

In order for vitamins to be fully absorbed into the system, they should be taken on an empty stomach.

This is most definitely an untruth. Vitamins actually absorb better when they are taken with food.

Be advised that it is wiser to take smaller amounts of vitamins with a meal as opposed to taking a large amount all at the same time. Fat-soluble vitamins require some fat in the digestive system to better absorb the vitamins.

Myth - Herbal Supplements are Always Natural:

Herbal supplements are completely natural.

Just because a substance is natural does not mean that it is necessarily safe. For example, fungus is a natural substance but it is harmful to the body (especially in large doses).

Just because an herbal supplement is natural does not automatically make it healthy and safe for you. Taking the correct dosage of a vitamin or an herbal supplement should be your top priority.

Myth - Everyone Needs Vitamins to be (and Remain) Healthy:

To guarantee the best of health for yourself and your family, it is vital to take vitamins.

Vitamins serve their greatest purpose if you have a deficiency or if you are recovering from an illness. The body does not have a tremendous amount of room to store vitamins and in fact vitamins tend to exit the body at a relatively swift rate, which is one of the major criticisms of the NLM supplements market where people are spending hundreds of dollars each month to flush the expensive products literally "down the toilet."

The best way to ensure health for yourself and your family is to eat a healthy diet on a regular basis and to engage in consistent physical activity and take vitamins as needed.

In Conclusion:

Knowing what separates fact from fallacy and popular vitamin myths from the truths about supplements can make it possible for you to make more informed choices about your health and the health of your family.

Use this as a guide in choosing supplements wisely. When in doubt always speak to your healthcare practitioner or primary care physician for assistance in making the right health choices. And of course you should do this anyway if you're already on medication.


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      Cathy47 8 years ago

      Vitamins are good but didn't realize there could be so much to them. I guess like all things moderation is key.