Sheryl Lozicki is a Registered Dietitian at Mercy Health Saint Mary's and the Director of Nutrition and Wellness. Today's "In Your Cart" segment answers the question "Should I take a multi-vitamin?" The answer depends on the quality of your diet and your health history.

Vitamins are substances that our body needs to grow, develop and function normally. In general, I recommend that people meet their nutritional needs through a healthy diet with real food. This means fresh fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, unprocessed grains and minimally processed meats. Research shows two main reasons why people take multi-vitamins:
1. To improve their overall health
2. To fill in nutritional gaps

Dietary supplements are a multibillion-dollar industry, and multivitamins account for almost half of all vitamin sales, according to the U.S. Office of Dietary Supplements. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 40% of adults take a multi-vitamin supplement regularly.
Some people do need extra vitamins because they either choose to, or are unable to eat the correct types and amounts of foods to meet their daily vitamin requirements. There are also times when the body requires more vitamins than usual, such as during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Certain habits and medical conditions may also increase our needs. Examples of these include:
• Strict Dieters
• Picky eaters
• Vegetarians or vegans
• Older adults
• Smokers
• Certain medical conditions such as malabsorption disorders, osteoporosis
• Alcoholics
• Endurance athletes

According to the United States Department of Health and Human Resources, poor diet choices create nutrient gaps of more than 40% for fiber, calcium, potassium, magnesium and vitamin E in adults and children and Vitamin A and C in adults only.

How to Choose a Multi-vitamin
• Ask the store pharmacist to assist you and let them know of all other vitamin, minerals, herbals and medications you are taking.
• Check the label to make sure that the multi-vitamin provides 100% of the Daily Value (DV) for most vitamins and minerals in that supplement. Some nutrients such as calcium and magnesium won't be at 100% because they would make the pill too large to swallow.
• Consider gender and age specific versions, such as those for women only, for men only, children's chewables and those created just for seniors.
• Don't overdo it by exceeding the DV as fat soluble ones can build up and cause damage, while water soluble ones just wind up down the toilet.
Beyond these examples, research does not support taking a daily multivitamin for those who already get the recommended amount of nutrients through a well-balanced diet. It will not reduce your risk for heart disease, prevent memory loss or help you live longer. A vitamin is not the silver bullet for good health. Eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, adequate rest, managing your stress, limiting alcohol and avoiding nicotine will.
Finally, store multi-vitamins safely, out of children's reach.

Courtesy: Sheryl Lozicki