You already know you should eat a wide array of fruits and vegetables, topping them off with a moderate amount of healthy oils, whole grains, lean meats and dairy.
But even if you're eating a perfect diet, you may still be coming up short in two essential nutrients: vitamin B12 and vitamin D3. And you may want to consider supplements.
Now, it's true that most vitamin supplements fail to deliver a measurable benefit. “When you take things out of the food matrix and you put a single ingredient into a pill, it doesn't have the same effect,” says Katherine Tucker, director of the Center for Population Health at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says there isn't enough evidence to support even a daily multivitamin to prevent cancer and heart disease. That's why it's better to think plants, not pills.
But B12 and D3 are different, for two reasons. First, you can't really get them from plants. And second, as we get older, we begin to develop difficulty absorbing them in their natural form.
This vitamin plays an essential role in nerve function; a shortfall of B12 is associated with depression, dementia and decreased cognitive function, as well as anemia.
Unless you're a vegan, getting enough dietary B12 isn't a problem, because burgers, steaks, chicken, eggs, dairy and other animal products are rich in it. But as we get older, our ability to absorb B12 is hindered by changes in our digestive systems, as our stomachs naturally begin to produce less stomach acid. Antacids and diabetes medications can exacerbate the problem. Digestive issues such as celiac disease also can hinder our ability to access B12. The general term for these issues is “malabsorption.”