Health News

Busting the Multivitamin Myth

Government surveys show that most Americans who don't take multivitamins lack vitamins A, D, and E, folate, calcium, and magnesium

It’s easy to find health articles claiming that nutrient-dense foods, instead of multivitamins, will provide all our essential nutrients. But is that realistic? Steve Mister, president and CEO of the Council for Responsible Nutrition, took a look at some popular skip-the multivitamin food tips and found that they simply aren’t practical.

“While I admire the optimism underpinning these recurring recommendations to start eating healthier instead of taking a multivitamin, a more constructive—and realistic—recommendation would be to do both,” he says. Here are some of the top food tips he found, and reasons why they can be misleading:

  • Two medium bananas provide half the daily recommended amount of vitamin B. True, but who eats two bananas every day, let alone four?
  • Collard greens are a good source of calcium. True, but it takes 32 ounces of these cooked greens to meet the daily calcium requirement.
  • Oysters are low in calories but rich in protein, various vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and minerals, making them an exceptionally nutritious food. True, but will you eat them every day? Maybe you don’t even like oysters, or can’t afford them.

Bottom line, government surveys show that most Americans who don’t take multivitamins lack vitamins A, D, and E, folate, calcium, and magnesium, but those who take the supplements fare much better.

Another problem with the food-only theory is this, says Mister: “Achieving adequate nutrient intake is a daily process, not just on the days when you feel like having kale, broccoli, and a superfood smoothie.” Cautioning that a multivitamin is not a license to subsist only on junk food, he adds, “For those of us who live in the real world, it’s an insurance policy.”

Myth: No one needs a multivitamin.

Fact: No one eats a perfect diet, 365 days a year­.