The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) that’s listed on processed food is a government guideline that will prevent a deficiency disease for that nutrient. That basically means that the RDA for vitamin C will prevent scurvy and the RDA for vitamin D will prevent rickets, not provide optimal health for all individuals. A certain amount of vitamin D will prevent rickets (not a great fear for people in the developed world), but another level of vitamin D is likely to improve immunity and may even prevent cancer in later years. The latter represents a figure that relates to optimum nutrition, rather than just achieving the norm.
Of course, you can try to increase your dosage of foods containing the desired vitamin or mineral, but few people have a perfect diet of the vast variety of foods required to obtain excellent health. Keep in mind that you should only supplement with what your body requires. The best way to find this out is to have blood tests to determine where you’re at with various vitamins and minerals. Although some supplements can be taken with low risk of harm, it’s better to be safe and get your current levels tested before supplementing.
Just because you eat the food, doesn’t mean that you’ll absorb all the nutrients. Low stomach acid levels (very common!) can prevent the absorption of vitamins and minerals from food. Even in perfect digestive health, not all nutrients are absorbed because of the complex chemistry of the foods and the way your body extracts nutrients. That’s assuming that the food you’re eating was already of excellent quality – fresh/frozen, organic, grass-fed meat, wild-caught fish – and you didn’t eat or drink anything detrimental to the absorption of nutrients at the same time. The method of cooking (boiling, baking, microwaving, grilling, etc.) also affects the absorption of nutrients.
ENHANCE, DON’T REPLACE
Vitamin and mineral supplements are a useful adjunct to a healthy diet, but they won’t replace eating quality whole foods consistently. If you’re committed to your Chinese food takeouts, beer, and pizza then adding supplements won’t make you healthy, but it may help you cover some gaps in your diet. Just don’t expect any miracles!
THE ABSENCE OF DISEASE
Optimal health is more than just the absence of disease. Following the government’s guidelines for dietary intake of vitamins and minerals may prevent deficiency diseases, but it will never get you to the optimal levels of these supplements that will let you live an active, energetic lifestyle. Supplementation is an essential part of health and fitness…without supplements you’ll never feel as great as you could. You may be doing feeling fine without supplements, but why let your good get in the way of your exceptional?