14 Foods That Can Replace Your Multivitamin
How many of us start the day by taking a multivitamin? Afterall, it seems like it would be a smart move—you get all your essential vitamins in just one or two daily pills. Well, as it turns out, a lot of us have gotten into the routine of taking this easy all-in-one capsule. An estimated one-third of all adults in the United States and one-quarter of children and adolescents take a daily multivitamin. 1
What do we mean by multivitamins? Multivitamins are supplements that contain many different vitamins and minerals (often a combination containing several of the essential 13 vitamins as well as other minerals) sometimes with other nutrients added.
Given there’s no standard for what constitutes a multivitamin, their nutrient composition varies by brand and product. 1 This makes it increasingly important to read the label and follow the recommended dosage instructions since most multivitamins are typically instructed to be taken only once or twice per day. Additionally, multivitamins are available in many forms, including tablets, capsules, chewable gummies, powders, and liquids.
But with so many people taking this simple one-a-day pill, a big question becomes: Is taking a multivitamin beneficial?
Why Take a Multivitamin?
Perhaps the number one reason people use a multivitamin is to fill in nutritional holes. For most of us, though, it is possible to get the daily recommended amounts of most vitamins and minerals from the foods we eat. Of course, there are a handful of cases when a daily multivitamin can be beneficial. However, for the average healthy person, a food-first approach is the preferred method for getting the bulk of vitamins and minerals, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Yet, this is not the reason so many people take a daily multivitamin. Rather, research has found that 45% of those taking a multivitamin did so because they believed it would improve their health, and 33% did so because they thought it would maintain their health. 2
Likewise, some research has found that many multivitamins don’t seem to stave off heart disease, cancer, or age-related cognitive decline. Beyond this, some findings suggest that high doses of certain vitamins, such as vitamins A and E, may actually be harmful to your health. 3
So, how do you safely get all the vitamins, minerals, and essential nutrients you need? The answer is easy—from food! 😋
Luckily for us, whole foods are loaded with nutrients, and in general, getting your nutrients from foods is better than getting them from supplements. Even more, fruits and vegetables offer fiber, phytochemicals, and antioxidants that can’t be replicated by a handful of pills.
14 Foods That Can Replace your Multivitamin
Fish is a good source of 9 of 13 essential vitamins, including vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, D, and E. Tuna and trout provide the most vitamins when it comes to types of fish. Be sure, though, that you’re consuming a variety of different types of fish for a more complete, healthy diet. Other excellent choices, for example, are salmon, sardines, herring, and other fatty types of fish containing omega-3 fatty acids, which are extremely important for optimal functioning of your body.
2. Dark Leafy Greens
Dark Leafy Greens are a good source of 8 of 13 essential vitamins, including vitamins A, B2, B3, B6, B9, C, E, K, and beta-carotene. While all dark leafy greens provide loads of nutrition, extra nutrient-dense sources include spinach and kale. Further, kale is high in fiber, manganese, potassium, and iron.
Seeds are a good source of 6 of 13 essential vitamins. These include vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and E. Vitamin-rich choices for seeds include chia, pumpkin, sunflower, and flax seeds.
Pork is a good source of 6 of 13 essential vitamins, including vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and D. Some of the best choices (cuts) of pork include pork chops (loin) and shoulder.
Broccoli is a good source of 6 of 13 essential vitamins, including vitamins A, B9, C, E, K, and beta-carotene. Other cruciferous vegetables that provide similar nutritional benefits include cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and bok choy.
6. Beef and Lamb
Beef and lamb are good sources of 5 of 13 essential vitamins, including vitamins B2, B3, B5, B6, and B9. To reduce calories, shoot for leaner cuts of beef and lamb.
Nuts are a good source of 4 of 13 essential vitamins, including vitamins B1, B2, B6, and E. Nuts are a heart-healthy, cholesterol-lowering snack. Good choices for nuts include almonds, walnuts, and pistachios.
Mushrooms are a good source of 4 of 13 essential vitamins, including vitamins B2, B3, B5, and D. Mushrooms are loaded with nutrition, yet they’re also low in carbs and calories. Portobello, cremini (button), and shiitake mushrooms are all good, nutrient-dense choices.
Eggs are a good source of 4 of 13 essential vitamins, including vitamins B2, B5, B12, and D. Even more, eggs contain potent antioxidants, including lutein and zeaxanthin. While many people shy away from eggs and especially egg yolks due to cholesterol and fat content, they contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fats as well as the essential omega-3 fatty acid DHA.
10. Sweet Bell Peppers
Bell peppers are a good source of 4 of 13 essential vitamins, including vitamins A and C, beta-carotene, and lycopene. What’s more, bell peppers are extremely high in vitamin C. While green peppers are still flavorful and nutritious, red and yellow peppers have higher amounts of beta-carotene and lycopene.
Peas are a good source of 4 of 13 essential vitamins, including vitamins A, B1, E, and beta-carotene. Plus, green peas are a great source of protein.
Avocados are a good source of 4 of 13 essential vitamins, including vitamins B5, B6, B9, and E. Avocados also contain a high amount of monounsaturated fatty acids, which is a healthy type of fat that has been shown to promote healthy blood lipid profiles. The fat in avocados also better allows our bodies to absorb fat-soluble vitamins found in fruits and vegetables.
13. Winter Squash
Butternut squash is a good source of 4 of 13 essential vitamins, including vitamins A, B1, E, and beta-carotene. Other great winter squash choices include acorn squash, spaghetti squash, and pumpkin.
14. Dried Fruits
Dried fruits are a good source of 4 of 13 essential vitamins, including vitamins A, B6, K, and beta-carotene. Although many dried fruits get a bad reputation for being high in sugar, they’re generally nutrient-dense and will likely not impact blood sugar levels as much as other sweets, so they still make a healthy choice as long as you watch serving sizes.
If you’re eating a wide variety of healthy vegetables and fruits, quality proteins, and essential fats, you’re likely getting all of the nutrients your body needs—no multivitamin necessary. For some people, though, it can be hard to get in all of these types of foods on a daily or even weekly basis. In that case, a high-quality multivitamin becomes more of an insurance policy of sorts.