Why I (now) take a multivitamin

January 4, 2010

Ill stick with one a day, for now.... Photo by bopuc

I'll stick with one a day, for now.... Photo by bopuc

As part of “2010 will be different” I’ve finally started taking a multivitiamin regularly.

For years I’ve resisted, and here are some of the reasons why, beyond my seeming inability to get into the habit:

I didn’t think I needed one. My diet has gaps, sure, but I eat a variety of foods, and overall I feel pretty good. I’ve had my B12 levels checked, and they were fine, so yay for me, I don’t need that “crutch,” right?

More and more foods have built in multivitamins. Say what you will about processed foods, but an incredible number of them have vitamins added to them already. It seems like the veg stuff is even more susceptable to this (fortified soy milk, etc) but take a look at breads and cereals the next time you’re in the grocery store. Plus I already take Vega semi-regularly, which has nutrients up the whazoo.

But those were just excuses, really. The main reason I’ve resisted so long wasn’t too hard to figure out:

It was like an admission of guilt. If I was taking a multivitamin, that was saying to the world that it was impossible to achieve a full range of nutrients on a plant based diet.

There were other reasons too, but this time, instead of brainstorming all my points of resistance I decided to think of a reason why I should take a vitamin pill that overpowered all the made up reasons not to:

I want to take full advantage of this incredible time we’re living in.

Think about this: I can take a simple, easily affordable pill that all but ensures I’m getting a full range of vitamins into my body every day. How cool is that? Plus, I’m not approaching this as an insurance policy, but rather as a bonus.

This isn’t an excuse to eat a crappy diet, which is another reason I resisted for so long. If anything, it’s made me more aware of the role nutrition plays in my diet. I like to take a look at the bottle when I take a pill and pick out a vitamin I’m not familiar with, like K2, and then I can find out what it does (acts as a blood coagulant and appears to help fight cancer) and what natural sources exist (leafy greens for the win!)

Part of this change in thinking came from some work I was doing last year to track my protein/carb/fat ratios on Daily Burn (a habit I’ve slipped on,) which led me to look into new sources of protein. At first I was disappointed because a lot of these sources were processed in the forms of powders, mock meats, etc., but then I realized something:

It’s more than possible to achieve an adequate level of nutrition on a whole-foods, plant-based diet, but supplementation of an existing healthy diet could lead to an exceptional level of health. Our ancestors might have survived on simple plants, but we’ve got the chance to be astounding.

Since I want 2010 to be an exceptional, and not merely adequate year, I’m giving multivitamins a try. In time I might try some other supplements, but as I’ve said in the newsletter, it’s best to change one thing at a time, so this is phase one.

As should be obvious, I’m not a nutritionist, dietitian, or anyone you should listen to at all when it comes to matters that people go to school for a very long time to understand. Do your own research, consult your own people, yadda yadda yadda, but hopefully the explanation of my change in thinking has helped you to examine some of your own limiting beliefs and maybe stirred you to come up with new reasons that overpower them.

And if you take any supplements, what are they and why? Let us know in the comments so others can learn!

(Photo by bopuc)

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

kevin January 4, 2010 at 3:35 pm

Which brand of vegan pill did you end up going with?

I'm currently going with the VeganLife w/ Iron, but I switch around from time to time based on price / availability / laziness.

misovegan January 4, 2010 at 5:31 pm

You have inspired me to make the same NY resolution. I've always been a believer in supplements for the reasons you give – I want to be *better* than average! But I get lazy and tired of swallowing pills. When I remember to take my supplements, and now I'll try to remember more often, I take VPure, Vit D, B12, and a daily multi (currently DEVA brand). Here's why:
VPure is the only omega-3 supplement that contains EPA. In almost no way do vegans get EPA from food. It's in trace amounts in some seaweed, so even if you're eating a lot of seaweed you're not getting much. EPA is a type of EFA – the E in EFA stands for Essential, and in nutrition-speak, “essential” means that the human body cannot produce it, it must get the nutrient from the diet. EPA is a type of omega-3 that helps regulate the endocrine system, and that includes mood (depression) and hormones. VPure also has DHA, which isn't so special since DHA is widely available as a supplement (less widely available in food), but DHA is used in *every* function of the human body. Every single one. Including disease prevention (so, you may not feel any different when you take it, but you may be buying yourself some years, fingers crossed).
Vit D – unless you live in the tropics, you are probably going to be deficient in Vit D. Mild deficiency makes you tired. Severe deficiency makes you bone-tired, and by that I mean, not only will you be so tired it feels like even your bones are exhausted (I'm well acquainted with this symptom, unfortunately), but your bones will be too “tired” to produce new bone material. Also: depression. Even omnivores are usually deficient in D if they live outside the tropics.
And no, if you live in northern latitudes you will not make enough from sun exposure in the warmer months.
B12 – because it's cheap and easy, and because most vegans are deficient. Rather than struggle to include fortified foods in my diet and constantly worry about getting enough from food, I take a supplement.
But one thought on the daily multivitamins: you probably cannot get enough b12 or D from a multi. The stomach cannot absorb B12, and the D is probably too low.
Sorry for the long post! Nutrition is my hobby.

Sami January 4, 2010 at 6:19 pm

I've similar thoughts as you for a while (I eat a decent diet, but if I take the pill I know I'm getting everything – and I don't eat a good diet for the health, its a handy by-product of an interesting and varying selection of foods).

But I also resisted for the same reasons as you mentioned – and because when someone's criticizing veganism and say “I bet you have to take pills though” I like to say “No, I just eat well”.

You're point about being exceptional is what sold me. Why survive when you can thrive =) I also liked the idea of picking out one of the zillion Latin words on the side of the bottle to see what it does and means as way of learning them.

All that said, I'll probably take my pill (Solgar VM-2000 for those interested) in a similarly irregular way that I do currently – only with greater frequency.

jasondoucette January 4, 2010 at 8:51 pm

Right now I'm using SISU, which is a Canadian company that I chose because they were under the sink 🙂 I think Ange picked them out for me a year or so ago but the habit never took, for the reasons I listed. Still time before the expiry date though!

jasondoucette January 4, 2010 at 8:54 pm

Misovegan, no problems at all with long posts, we're all here to learn! I think EFAs are the next thing I'm going to get into – I get some indirectly but in a week or two (after the multi's effects have normalized) I'll run a few tests with some kind of alphabetical substance and see how I react.

jasondoucette January 4, 2010 at 8:59 pm

Thanks Sami! I think my new substitute for the “no, I just eat well” response is going to be “duh, why wouldn't I?” – the desire to stop taking a vitamin pill probably isn't a huge driving factor towards veganism anyway, so there's not much harm and supplementation ties nicely with eating amazing nutritious meals anyway, under my new way of thinking.

To help with the frequency, I've been having mine right before I go to bed – there's a glass in the bathroom to remind me, and then I don't have to worry about any nausea from taking vitamins on an empty stomach, which has hit me once or twice. That said, I'm only at about 80% consistency so far…

dagdasamildanc January 6, 2010 at 10:45 pm

I take a multi too just to be safe, but what I usually do is try to use nutritiondata.com to see how my food is stocking up day by day, and how certain things impact my nutrition for the day. i've made several changes to what i eat based on this (for example, less bread and more leafy greens), and i've felt a lot better.

dagdasamildanc February 1, 2010 at 5:38 am


pjakesmith February 9, 2010 at 9:09 am

Thanks a lot for the post; I really love to read articles which are about farming especially about hydroponics. These articles keeps my updated about different topics and products that are related to planting and gardening. I hope to read more from you! Thanks a lot and Kudos!

Bluebonnet Vitamins

James May 4, 2010 at 3:04 pm

A 500mcg
C 300mg
E 100mg
& selenium 1000mcg
Co-enzyme q10 100mg
Flax seed oil 3000mg (1500mg ala)
DHA 200mg made from algae!
lecithin 500mg
as well as the fortified soya milk, marge ect…
that’s a day…

PS I give blood and according to the national transfusion service ‘my blood rocks’, that may not be a direct translation!!!

Cathy December 3, 2010 at 1:39 pm

I’m not at all ashamed of taking vitamins
I have a pretty hectic lifestyle (school, work, gym, etc) and sometimes can’t get all the nutrients I need in a single
On top of which – many atheletes take a lot of supplements as well – does that mean their atheletic lifestyle are unsustanable as well?
I just want to be sure and safe that I’m getting all that I need

Im taking a multivitamin and a B12 – but im definately going to get some Vegan supplements – fo shizzle…

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