Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Vitamins and Minerals Added to Food, Does it Really Matter?

Once in a blue moon I like ice cream. But, I’m certainly not walking up and down my local grocery store searching for the ice cream with added calcium and vitamin D. I’m ISO (in search of) whatever mint chocolate chip looks closest to the stuff I’d get from Candy Kitchen on the boardwalk. I choose ice cream based on taste, not on it’s nutrient content. But, there are times when you should pick up a fortified food and others, like when you get a chocolate hankering, where it makes little sense to. (Unless of course you know about Vita Muffins which taste so good you won’t know they are healthy).

Food fortification has been in place over 90 years and was one brilliant public health intervention that has helped curb or eradicate several diseases due to nutrient deficiencies including goiter, rickets, beriberi and pellagra. Early on, iodine was added to salt, milk was fortified with vitamin D and flour was enriched. The purpose behind fortification is simple – people are going to eat. And, why not put a vitamin or mineral most people aren’t consuming enough of in popular food items to ensure they get it? Pure brilliance.

Now, close to 2011, fortification has reached a whole new level. Yet we are still lacking in key nutrients across the globe. From iron to vitamin D, there are plenty of us who don’t get enough the nutrients we need for good health. So when should you choose a fortified food? When you don’t eat a widely varied diet of at least 2,000 calories daily (the more food you eat, the greater the chance that you’ll consume the nutrients you need every day). In addition, if you don’t take a multivitamin mineral supplement but you avoid certain foods or food groups rich in vitamins or minerals, it may be time to make some simple switches so you are adding foods rich in the nutrients you are missing. Take a look at these fact sheets on vitamins and minerals and see what you may be missing.

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