Vitamins and Supplements: The ultimate guide

Vitamins and minerals are fundamental for our bodies to function properly. We need them in little amounts, and since we are unable to make these important molecules ourselves (differently from enzymes and hormones) we need to get them from other sources - mostly from our diet.

With this in mind, how can we figure out if it is sensible to invest in multivitamins and supplements? And more than this, how can we really understand what is worthy and reliable on the store’s shelves?

Well, these are reasonable and understandable questions, but when it comes to supplements and vitamins there is really no universal answer. What exists are different realities, lifestyles and demands to be analysed individually and carefully, so that each person can reach the conclusion that best aligns with his/her needs.

For this, today we will dive into my 3-STEP BASIC GUIDE FOR COMPLEMENTARY NUTRITION

1 - Starting from within: How are you feeling? How do you feel physically, mentally and emotionally?

For all our actions, the first question we should ask ourselves is: “How do I feel about it?”. How do you feel about your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing at the moment? Is there anything that bothers you? Why? If so, how could you work this out harmoniously?

Regarding supplementation, finding clarity about your needs is essential before resorting to external interventions. Nature is a wonderful pharmacy where you can find everything to improve your life quality from all perspectives, that is a fact. But how much of your decision to take that particular supplement is based on your needs and internal observation? And what comes from external influences and persuasive advertisements (many times disguised as ‘secret tips’ and ‘recommendations’ from your favourite instagrammer) that makes us instantly eager to run to the nearest store without thinking too much? That's a worthy reflection.

2 - Observe your routine: What are your habits, what does your routine require from you and your body?

Another factor to be analysed are your habits and your routine. Do you have dietary restrictions? How much have you been asking from your body and its functions? In this sense, adopting a nutritional strategy may help a lot improve your performance.

Whether you have excluded a certain group of foods from your diet, want to improve physical/cognitive performance, have a more intense sports routine (as a runner I love using magnesium as a nutritional and sports strategy), or if you are already in the senior group where the production of some elements tends to decrease over time, you can benefit from the infinite possibilities that nature's pharmacy has to offer.

3 - Looking around: How is the environment in which you live? Where does your food come from? How was it produced?

This one is a crucial point, and I tell you why: in theory, we would be fully able to access all nutrients we need only through a complete, balanced and diversified diet. But how our food is produced directly impacts our access to these nutrients.

An inconvenient (and silent) struggle we're facing over the last years is related to a massive soil degradation. This depletion process occurs due to several components such as intensive agriculture, monocultures, lack of proper soil management and pesticides misuse.

In a very simplistic illustration, imagine: nuts and beans are natural sources of zinc, right? But if during its development process there is no availability of this element in the soil to be absorbed (or the elements needed for this chemical transformation to occur), our beans and nuts will not produce zinc molecules out of the blue.

During my period in engineering school, I had the opportunity to carry out academic activities and internships in remote sensing focused on monitoring the soil quality in sugarcane and soy plantations, and that's when I started to ask myself about the vulnerability of our foods, as it was evident how aggressive monocultures can be and how difficult is the process of recovering soils that were depleted by intensive agriculture.

In this sense, regardless of taking or not vitamins and integrators, without soil there is no life. So, both for environmental preservation and for obtaining adequate levels of nutrients in our food, it is essential to make sure that your food is ideally organic, from biodynamic cultures and with proper soil management. Unfortunately we know that in practice this is not always easy, whether due to unavailability, unaffordable prices or the difficulty to find reliable producers.

Despite the challenges, focus on what you can do rather than what you can't. It is the small movements that make the most impactful transformations.

Observing these three basic points makes a lot easier to find clarity about the need (or not!) of using supplements and vitamins.

On a personal level, taking supplements and vitamins is part of my self-care routine, it's something I feel contributes significantly to my quality of life, performance and wellbeing. I always choose to make intercalated use, varying the elements and brands according to my mood and my needs at the moment. Nothing in nature remains static, so it is necessary to maintain balance and variety in our nutrition as well. Our needs are constantly changing in response to the dance of our internal and external flows.

the bottom line

  • Observe your habits, your demands and needs. Look around and feel your body before any intervention!

  • If supplementing is something that makes sense to you, I recommend that you search for organic certified suppliers and always seek advice from your practitioner or nutritionist.

  • If you choose not to take supplements, make sure that you are consuming quality food and maintaining a rich, diversified and balanced diet.

And finally, remember that our body is an incredible machine capable of working perfectly even in the most hostile environments. Don't let yourself be carried away by any kind of nutritional terrorism.

Want to learn more? You can find here a selection of my favourite scientific articles about nutrition and supplementation.

Sending you love and light!