We reported that a National Institutes of Health panel of experts released a statement about multivitamins on May 17, 2006. The experts concluded that there was insufficient evidence to support a recommendation either for or against taking multivitamins, leaving many of us puzzled.
Do I need a multivitamin if I eat Healthy?
For most healthy adults under the age of 50, it is possible to acquire all required nutrients through eating food alone if you follow the 2005 Dietary Guidelines and avoid foods with empty calories.
2005 Dietary Guidelines (based on a 2000-kcal diet)
- Fruits: at least 2 cups
- Vegetables: at least 2 1/2 cups
- Calcium-rich foods: 3 servings
- Grains: at least 3 servings of Whole Grains
Different people face different challenges in reaching optimum nutrition by food alone. We offer some quick and easy solutions to help tackle these challenges.
Challenge 1: Inadequate Fruits and Vegetables
- Eat a serving of fresh fruit at lunch and dinner as dessert
- Include a variety of vegetables for lunch and dinner. Choose dark green, leafy vegetables (such as broccoli, spinach, Chinese bok choy and kale) as well as bright-colored vegetables (such as bell peppers, tomato, avocado, sweet potato and carrot)
- Use fruits as snacks. Bring to work fruits that are easy to prepare (such as grapes, apple, banana, berries or cut-up melons).
Challenge 2: Inadequate Calcium
- Instead of snacking on cookies, choose low-fat yogurt or low-fat cheese with fruits as snacks throughout the day
- If you are not a cow’s milk fan, try other calcium-rich beverages such as calcium-fortified orange juice, calcium-fortified soy or rice milk, or goat’s milk
- Try other calcium-rich foods such as tofu and canned fish with bones
Challenge 3: Inadequate Whole Grains
- Choose whole grain bread when making sandwiches
- Have a serving of whole grain breakfast cereal or a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast
- Snack on popcorn instead of chips on movie nights
- Toss in brown rice, wild rice or barley in your soup
The Bottom Line
Taking a multivitamin daily is important to ensure optimum nutritional status for a certain population – particularly among pregnant and lactating women, as well as those with specific chronic diseases. For people older than 50 (men and women), a multivitamin or calcium/D supplement may be warranted as foods alone may be not able to deliver adequate calcium and Vitamin D to meet the increased needs. Always speak to your doctor or dietitian before starting a new supplement.
As fortified-foods are widely available, the expert panel recommended choosing a multivitamin with ingredients less than 100 percent of the daily value (% DV) to avoid toxicity.
Gloria Tsang is the author of 5 books and the founder of HealthCastle.com, the largest online nutrition network run by registered dietitians. Her work has appeared in major national publications, and she is a regularly featured nutrition expert for media outlets across the country. The Huffington Post named her one of its Top 20 Nutrition Experts on Twitter. Gloria’s articles have appeared on various media such as Reuters, NBC & ABC affiliates, The Chicago Sun-Times, Reader’s Digest Canada, iVillage and USA Today.