How to Eat Your Vitamins
For dietitian and author Mascha Davis, MPH, RDN, synergy is the key to healthy nutrition.
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Mascha Davis grew up eating nutrient-dense “and really delicious” Russian and Ukrainian dishes that her mom cooked—“a lot of traditional foods like borscht and a lot of the different Russian salads with lots of veggies.” Now, the registered dietitian, nutritionist, and author wants you to fill your plate with vitamins and minerals too.
Davis emphasizes the importance of consuming nutrients together in whole foods in her new book, Eat Your Vitamins: Your Guide to Using Natural Foods to Get the Vitamins, Minerals, and Nutrients Your Body Needs. “Research is showing more and more that there are so many compounds in foods that work together in synergy,” she says. “They are very hard to isolate and don’t work in isolation the same way that they work when they’re all together. There are compounds that affect how vitamins and minerals are absorbed that are in that fruit or vegetable, so the absorption isn’t going to be the same if we just have that vitamin or mineral isolated in a pill. It’s going to act differently in the body.”
Davis’s user-friendly, fact- and recipe-packed book is also a nutritional primer during trying, socially isolated times. “All of the book’s recipes are kind of optimized to boost healthy immunity,” she says.
Everyone Wants to Know …
BN: What are your favorite Eat Your Vitamins recipes to boost immunity?
MD: The Perfect Probiotic Breakfast Bowl has Greek yogurt, so it’s a really good source of probiotics and lean
protein. So much of our immunity and our immune systems are linked to the gut, so we want to make sure that we’re keeping our guts healthy and eating a lot of good probiotics. And the Anti-inflammatory Nut and Seed Super Salad has lots of superfoods. It has buckwheat, which is one of my favorite gluten-free grains, and pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, and hemp seeds, which are one of my favorite sources of plant-based protein. There’s also fresh mint, fresh mixed greens, and extra virgin olive oil, so all of these foods have the minerals and vitamins—including vitamin E—that are so important for your health.
BN: What are the best sources of fat to increase bioavailability of vitamins A, D, E, and K?
MD: These are all the fat-soluble vitamins, which means that we will absorb them fast when they’re consumed with foods that contain fat. This is another reason why eating the whole package of foods is so important as opposed to nutrients just in isolation, because a lot of times these nutrients will come in the right package that already contains those elements that are important for absorption. For example, vitamin E is often found in nuts and seeds, which naturally have a lot of healthy fats. Unsaturated fats such as olive oil and nuts are the top recommendations when it comes to the kinds of foods we need for optimal absorption and availability of fat-soluble vitamins.
BN: Your Peachy Keen Coconut Smoothie has this whole package, right?
MD: Yes, and it’s a very easy recipe. It has all whole, natural ingredients. There are avocado, frozen peaches, blueberries, light coconut milk, and pumpkin seeds. It’s really balanced. It has protein, carbs, healthy fats—and it’s delicious.
BN: You also mention clams—why should they be at the top of our list?
MD: Clams are such an interesting, nutrient-dense food that are really high in a lot of different minerals and vitamins. They have zinc, iron, magnesium, and selenium. These are just awesome superfoods.
BN: Mental well-being has become another important topic recently. What are the best foods to keep in stock for mental wellness?
MD: The first thing I would say—and this sounds so simple but it’s really easy to forget—is staying really well-hydrated, because that can affect your mood. Lack of hydration can cause headaches and cravings so easily. The other kind of big thing I would say is managing blood sugar levels. This is where the complex carbs and fiber come in—eating whole grains and whole fruits and vegetables as opposed to quick, simple carbs that will make your blood sugar rise and crash, which can lead to mood swings.
A few superfoods are interlinked with mood. Sustainable fish is a really good one. Dark chocolate has flavonoids that have some potential mood-boosting effects. Bright colored berries also have compounds that some studies have shown can help to lower depression scores. Nuts and seeds are also high in really beneficial compounds that can positively impact mood.
BN: You’re also launching a sustainable seafood company. Tell us about Mini Fish.
MD: Seafood is, in my opinion, the best animal-based protein that people can eat. But the key thing is choosing the right kind of seafood because there’s the sustainability issue. Mini Fish (minifish.co) uses the cleanest, most sustainable aquaculture fish that I could get in the U.S. So the levels of mercury in environmental contaminants are nearly undetectable, it tastes incredible, and it has zero ocean impact. It is super sustainable and nutrient-dense. As a dietitian, this is the food that I wished existed, and I was looking for it because I wanted to recommend it to my clients. I couldn’t find it so I had to make it myself.
One of Davis’ favorite blended drinks is her Peachy Keen Coconut Smoothie. Click here for the recipe.