More than one-third of all North Americans take a multivitamin. But this trend could just be a force of habit — there’s some debate over whether these supplements are really necessary at all.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from 1990 to 2006, the number of Americans taking some sort of supplement increased from 40 to 53 percent. However, studies show that, with a few specific exceptions, most Americans already get an adequate amount of nutrients through fortified and whole foods.
So are supplements really necessary? For some people, they do serve an important purpose. People over the age of 50 have trouble retaining vitamin B-12 naturally through food, for instance, and for vegetarians, iron derived from spinach and other plant-based sources is not as easily absorbed by the body. Keep your individual nutrition needs in mind and consult your doctor, then, before eliminating any supplements from your diet.
If there are no medical concerns, however, you can start weaning yourself off supplements today by eating these 10 foods instead.
It might be a humble root, but the sweet potato is one of the healthiest foods on the planet. It’s a rich source of beta-carotene — a pigment that eventually converts to vitamin A within the body. There are endless sweet potato recipes out there, but here are some of the best. If pressed for time, simply cut a sweet potato in half lengthwise, poke holes in both the peel and the cut surface with a fork, and heat it in the microwave for four to five minutes. Don’t forget: The skin is full of nutrients, too!
Nature’s perfect on-the-go snack can also be your favorite way to incorporate vitamin B6 into your diet. Two medium bananas deliver 44 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin B6. They also contain potassium and fiber. Other foods rich in vitamin B6 are sunflower seeds, pistachio nuts, and turkey — it’s not just for Thanksgiving!
One cup of cooked black-eyed peas contains 89 percent of your daily value of vitamin B9 (folic acid). Folic acid is a crucial nutrient for normal brain functioning and emotional health, but excessive alcohol consumption, celiac disease, or inflammatory bowel disease can all negatively affect its absorption. Use black-eyed peas as a base for a cold salad, or cook them down low-and-slow with some stew meat.
Don’t just run them through a juicer; this fibrous citrus fruit contains even more nutrients when consumed whole. Ripping through an orange provides your daily amount of vitamin C, but it also contributes other nutrients such as folate, potassium, and vitamin B1. Eat one for a sweet snack or get a savory serving of vitamin C from some red peppers, kale, or Brussels sprouts.
Dull winter mornings might take a toll on our tans, but they can also affect our natural intake of vitamin D — which can trigger some unpleasant symptoms. Fortunately, sunlight is not the only source of vitamin D; it can also be consumed inside at the dinner table. Portobello mushroom farmers expose their crops to additional lighting, which boosts the vitamin D content by almost 3,000 percent. Grill up some portobello mushrooms and top with tomato, mozzarella, and pesto for a spin on a Caprese salad.
A small handful of sunflower seeds provide half of the daily recommended intake of vitamin E. The seeds also contain magnesium and selenium, two minerals crucial to reducing swelling and inflammation in the body. Here are some recipes that can help incorporate sunflower seeds into a meal. If sunflower seeds aren’t your thing; sweet potatoes, spinach, and almonds are also good sources of vitamin E.
Though often overlooked in favor of its trendy relative, kale, broccoli is an important vegetable that should be included in weekly dinners. One cup of cooked broccoli contains over 200 percent of your daily requirement for vitamin K, an essential nutrient for bone strength. Broccoli is delicious oven-roasted, grilled, or blended into a smooth soup.
This staple of Southern cooking is actually a superfood in disguise — and it can be a savior for anyone suffering from lactose sensitivity. A 3.5-ounce serving of cooked collard greens provides a quarter of the daily requirement of calcium and a half a day’s worth of vitamin C. Collard greens are initially tough, but become more tender after hours of slow cooking.
Chickpeas (also known as garbanzos) are inexpensive, versatile, and delicious. One cup of chickpeas covers the recommended daily intake of manganese and folate. Try throwing some canned chickpeas in a blender with sesame paste, lemon juice, and salt for a tasty alternative to manganese pills, or try one of these five life-changing hummus recipes. Chickpeas are one of the best foods to eat before a workout, too!