Do Multivitamins Really Improve Your Health?
Often times we’re looking for a quick fix, or that one pill, that will solve all our health problems. You know — the latest fad diet, a meal replacement or a powerful vitamin that’ll heal you from the inside out.
We’ve heard it all. But let’s start with one simple question – do you even need a multivitamin?
What if your food, no pills or potions required, met your vitamin and mineral needs?
Yes, supplementation may be necessary at times (dietary preferences, certain medical conditions, pregnancy, breastfeeding, vitamin D in London) but a multivitamin may not be the answer for everyday life.
After reviewing 27 supplementation trials that randomly assigned more than 400,000 participants, Guallar, Stranges, Murlow, Appel, and Miller (2013) concluded, “There was no clear evidence of a beneficial effect of supplements on all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, or cancer.” Additional studies have reported similar results. Jenkins et al. (2018) agreed, stating, “In general, the data on the popular supplements (multivitamins, vitamin D, calcium, and vitamin C) show no consistent benefit for the prevention of CVD [cardiovascular disease], MI [heart attack], or stroke, nor was there a benefit for all-cause mortality to support their continued use.”
We now know you can meet your vitamin and mineral needs through the foods you eat — meaning multivitamins have essentially become nutrition insurance.
And that’s okay, if you want the insurance then go for it — most excess will be excreted from your body anyway. But try to remember it’s really not about the multivitamin. It’s about the small choices you make day in and out as you select what to put in your body. Those individual choices make up your life. And you have complete control over them.
For example …
- Preparing a grab and go breakfast vs having coffee and a pastry or nothing until noon
- Choosing a small handful of nuts and a piece of fruit over crisps or chocolate from the vending machine at 16:00
- Stocking your fridge with fresh food so you don’t have to rely on delivery Monday – Friday
It’s time to reclaim your power around food (and reap the benefits of a whole food based diet — sustained energy, improved digestion and a strong immune system)
So how do you ensure your nutrition needs are met?
Today I’ll cover 25 vitamins and minerals that are often found in popular multivitamins — all of which you can get from whole foods.
As always, speak with your individual healthcare provider if you have any health or medical conditions.
A Note for Vegetarians and Vegans
Meeting your vitamin and mineral needs with food will be a bit more challenging — especially for iron, B12, and calcium. Calcium will be especially tricky for vegans.
Take a look at the tips below to ensure you're getting all you can from your diet.
Nutritional yeast is a great way to increase your intake of B vitamins (specifically B12) and trace minerals like iron, zinc, and selenium. It has a great cheesy taste that pairs well with vegetables, beans, soup, and popcorn!
Seafood, which contains high amounts of iodine, is clearly off the menu so make sure you cook and season with iodized salt.
When consuming foods high in iron (spinach, legumes, dried fruit) make sure you also have some vitamin C (bell pepper, papaya, citrus) as it aids iron absorption. Also know that tea, eggs, milk, and cheese do not aid iron absorption.
Your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium so make sure your intake is adequate.
When possible, meet your vitamin and mineral needs with whole foods — not supplements
Gropper, S. S., Smith, J. L., and Carr, T. P. (2017). Advanced nutrition and human metabolism. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.
Guallar, E., Stranges, S., Murlow, C., Appel, L. J., and Miller, E. R. (2013). Enough is enough: stop wasting money on vitamin and mineral supplements. Annals of Internal Medicine, 159, 850-851.
Jenkins, D., Spence, J. D., Giovannucci, E. L., Kim, Y., Josse, R. Vieth, R., … Sievenpiper, J. L. (2018). Supplemental vitamins and minerals for CVD prevention and treatment. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 51, 2570-2584.