Foods With Something Extra - Added Nutrients (cont.)
When you eat fortified foods, keep in mind that too much of a good thing can sometimes pose health concerns. Excess iron can be a problem for anyone with the condition hemochromatosis (in which too much iron builds up in the body). Likewise, too much folate can mask a form of anemia.
On the other hand, calcium fortification has made it easy for people who dislike or cannot tolerate dairy to meet their requirements and ward off a whole host of diseases.
Researchers are finding more reasons why we should get plenty of calcium in our diets, from its effect on enhancing weight loss (my personal favorite) to its impact on bones, from improved blood pressure to prevention of colon cancer and other diseases.
The Bottom Line
Functional and fortified foods are an excellent way to help you make sure you're getting all the nutrients you need. But you still need to read the labels and make sure you know what is in the foods you eat. If a food was not inherently healthy before being fortified, I would probably pass on it.
By eating a variety of naturally nutrient rich and fortified foods and taking a daily vitamin/mineral supplement, you'll cover all your bases. If you feel confident with your food selections -- and if intolerances, personal preferences, or allergies do not limit your selections -- you may be able to forgo the daily supplement. (I eat a variety of foods, but I still take a daily multivitamin as nutritional insurance.)
Remember this: Fortified foods and supplements can help you meet your nutritional needs. But they should be considered additives to an already healthy diet and lifestyle.
Originally Published April 14, 2004.
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Last Editorial Review: 12/19/2007