Concern about a lack of nutrients in supermarket foods grown in poor-quality soil may be leading the consumer to the supplement shelves for vitamins and minerals--a dangerous and unnecessary tack, according to an expert on trace minerals and vitamins.
"Supplements don't supply the fiber and carbohydrates that are found in raw vegetables and fruits," said Lucille Hurley, a Ph.D. with the University of California at Davis and with the Dairy Council of California. "And taking supplements to get the same nutrients found in produce presents the potential for overdosing on any one nutrient."
Taking pills that contain high doses of single nutrients, such as a Vitamin B-6 pill, also may hinder the absorption of other nutrients.
The food represented in today's supermarkets contains a variety of healthy foods, all grown in different geographic areas that contribute a broad range of nutrients through their diverse soils, according to Hurley.
Plant and soil specialist Albert Ulrich, a Ph.D. with University of California at Berkeley, confirms the quality of commercial produce and cites several reasons.
"If the soil is truly depleted of minerals, it simply will not produce commercially acceptable foods. In addition, plants manufacture their own vitamins, and as long as the soil can produce an acceptable fruit, vegetable, or grain, the plant will have the genes necessary to produce its own vitamins," Ulrich said.
Hurley suggested the time-tested way of getting nutrients from a balanced diet, including dairy foods, meats, vegetables and fruits, and breads and cereals.
"A balanced diet consisting of a variety of fresh foods will provide all the nutrients necessary to good health and well-being," Hurley said. "If there still is concern about getting enough vitamins and minerals, the safest choice is a multivitamin and mineral pill with no more than 100% of the recommended dietary allowance."
For optimum nutrient balance, Hurley recommended two daily servings from the milk group for men and three for women. Men and women need two daily meat-group servings and four daily servings from the vegetables/fruits and breads/cereals groups.
"Consuming your recommended servings gives you the confidence to pass up vitamin and mineral supplements because you have assured yourself of getting the right nutrients," she said.