Most people who eat a traditional Western diet don’t get the vitamins and minerals they need to be healthy. That’s why multivitamins are so important; they provide the nutrition that people don’t get from their meals. However, it’s possible to skip the multi and still get all of the nutrients you need. The first step is to realize that it isn’t what you eat in a day; it’s what you eat over the course of an entire week that truly counts.
Overutilization of Vitamins
Ever since most people were children, they’ve been told that they need vitamins to be healthy. While this is true to an extent, it’s also true that too many vitamins can make you sick. Extensive studies have shown that folic acid might be responsible for increased rates of colorectal cancer. Another study showed that people who took vitamin A, beta carotene, and vitamin E had a higher death rate than those who did not. That’s why it’s important to try to get your vitamins from your diet rather than a bottle.
Foods that are Dense in Nutrients
First, it’s important to eat a broad variety of foods that are extra dense in nutrients. A good rule of thumb is to consume every color of the rainbow in terms of fruits and vegetables, only complex carbohydrates, and lean meats for protein. Next, remember that there are some foods that contain far more nutrients per calories than others. They include but are not limited to:
- Brussels sprouts;
- Baked potatoes (skin-on);
- Salmon, halibut, and tuna;
- Whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and barley;
- Chicken, turkey, and other lean meats;
- Seeds and legumes; and
- Shiitake and crimini mushrooms.
Getting Extra Calcium and Vitamin D
Aside from the nutrients and vitamins in fruits, vegetables, and other foods, you’ll need to make sure you’re getting plenty of calcium and vitamin D. One in three men and one in two women will eventually suffer from osteoporosis, which puts them at risk for life-changing fractures. Vitamin D helps with the absorption of calcium, so it’s critical that you get them both. The best way is with vitamin D fortified milk since it is specially designed to help you get the calcium you need. There are other products fortified with vitamin D too, and you can even get it from beef liver, egg yolks, and fatty fish.
You Still Need Iron
Iron is found in many foods, especially meats, but it’s also in seafood, beans, and dark, leafy greens. Many people don’t get the iron they need from their diets alone, but it’s absolutely possible to do so with some careful planning. Make sure that you eat your greens at least three times per week, and add things like kidney beans, dried fruit, and fortified cereals with fiber to your diet. These will help you fill in the nutritional gaps.
It can be difficult to replace your multivitamin with your diet, but it is possible with some careful shopping and planning. It all starts with fruits and vegetables, but you’ll need to add your nutrient-rich foods along with calcium, vitamin D, and iron. By doing this, you should get your protein and your carbs for a balanced diet, too.