This post is a modified version of a newsletter that I wrote. Every week I share nutrition insights and tips, along with a recipe and recommendations for things to read, listen to, or try. Sign up here.
TL;DR Vitamins are essential nutrients your body needs to survive, and over 90% of us aren’t getting the recommended amount. You probably don’t have scurvy, but vitamins can help you optimize your health and below are some recommendations on how.
There are so many times where I’ve heard people say that they think vitamins are a scam. Or really, taking vitamin supplements.
“Why can’t you just get vitamins from your diet? I mean…I eat a lot of Kale.” Unfortunately, it may not be that simple.
Actually, some studies do show that your typical multivitamin may not be doing much. But, let’s not write off vitamins just yet…
What the heck are vitamins
Vitamins are one of the essential nutrients our body needs to survive. The other essential nutrients are minerals, essential amino acids (from proteins), and essential fatty acids (from fats). Expect to hear more about these in the future…
The cells in our body are working around the clock to keep us alive, and these vitamins are required to keep things going. But, not just to stay alive, to keep us functioning at our absolute best.
Vitamins have a lot of different functions in the body, for example:
- Vitamin C and E are antioxidants — AKA cancer fighters by preventing free radicals from forming. This isn’t their only job, just one of them!
- Vitamin B1 is a coenzyme which is required for helping your body convert sugar into energy. Do you like energy?
- Vitamin D helps your body break down minerals like calcium, magnesium, and phosphate. Good for your bones.
If you’re deficient in one of these vitamins it can be really bad: rickets, scurvy, etc. Most people are not that deficient, but many people are not at optimal levels, which can lead to:
- Low energy / fatigue
- Poor skin and hair
- and more
Ok, let’s move on…
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Why you’re probably not getting the vitamins you need
According to a CDC survey of over 14,000 people, lots of people are not meeting the recommended daily intake:
“Specifically, 94.3% of the US population do not meet the daily requirement for vitamin D, 88.5% for vitamin E, 52.2% for magnesium, 44.1% for calcium, 43.0% for vitamin A, and 38.9% for vitamin C”Source
They go on to mention more…
I actually tested myself recently for Vitamin D and I was just below optimal levels…I’ve been taking a supplement to remedy that.
- Food is actually less nutritious than it used to be — Let’s start with the reason that’s probably not your fault. The article above is referencing produce, but this is actually true for dairy, meat, and fish too. The fact is that factory farming, soil depletion, new GMO breeds of crops are creating foods that contain significantly fewer vitamins than before.
- Most people just aren’t eating the right stuff — more than half of the typical American diet is ultra-processed foods, and most of the energy comes from added sugars (source). This is a calorie rich diet without the nutrients you need to live well. Even if you’re not eating this way, you may be getting too much of your produce and animal-based products from the wrong sources. Or, just not eating the write mix to get the nutrients you need.
That takes us to…
How to get more vitamins in your diet
This is something that I always recommend. You know the saying…if you want to improve it, measure it. (Or something like that.)
I mentioned this app (Cronometer) last time, and that’s what I’ve been using to track my meals for the last few weeks and see where my nutrient gaps are in my diet.
You can enter in your meals and see what vitamins you’re getting (or not getting). It does take time, but I’d recommend trying it for even a couple of weeks to get a sense of where you’re at.
What I love about this is that it’s starting to help me to see the food I’m eating as a set of nutrients my body needs, helping me formulate better meals.
From the tracking end of things, I’d also recommend testing!
See if you can talk to your doctor about testing for your vitamin levels, this can be done as a part of your yearly check up.
Eat nutrient dense foods + a variety of foods
Make a habit of incorporating more vitamin rich foods into your diet. Make BIG salads for lunch! Eat wild-caught fatty fish (like Salmon), or grass-fed meats. Snack on nuts and seeds (raw or dry roasted), fresh or dried fruit. If you’re eating dairy, try to find pasture-raised dairy products. Eat organic whenever possible…and even from local farms. That will help ensure you’re eating more nutritious foods. It’s a lot to ask though, so start slow and see what small changes you can make.
Avoid the ultra-processed stuff
Eat whole foods, and avoid ultra-processed, pre-packaged foods as much as possible. The likelihood is that these foods are not filled with the vitamins you need. It may not be easy to entirely cut out these types of foods, and if it is that’s OK. Just start somewhere, replace one or two of these meals a week with some whole foods and see how it feels.
Use a high quality supplementI
’m going to do more research on supplements to share with you in the future, but the quality definitely matters. The timing of your supplement, what you take it with, and so much more is important here so leaving that for another newsletter! My main recommendation is to try and focus on supplements that are derived from whole foods. Whole food derived supplements often contain other organic compounds that can help your body metabolize the nutrients.
Today, I’m using Athletic Greens, which I’m sure many of you have heard of. I do like it and use it almost every day. I also use their D3/K2 supplement for vitamin D. It’s good to take D3 with K2 because they are complimentary.
Using this link you’ll get 5 free travel packs and a year supply of the vitamin D supplement that I’ve been taking. This is NOT sponsored, but it is a friend referral link.
Soon, I’ll be trying the precision supplements from Viome, so I’ll report back on how I like those. They are formulated specifically for your body based on your microbiome and gene expression.
A chia pudding recipe
Growing up I ate Eggo waffles for breakfast more often than I’d like to admit. I loved the cinnamon toast ones.
- 2 tbsp chia seeds
- 2 tbsp oats (optional)
- ½ cup non-dairy milk of choice
- 1 tsp honey (optional)
- ¼ tsp vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
Add toppings the next day when you’re ready to eat it. You can add: cacao nibs, fresh berries, fresh herbs, nut butters, and more. I recommend switching it up each time.
Add cinnamon for that Eggo flair.
- Read: The best way to cook salmon. A few ideas for cooking salmon in here. Give it a try and get those vitties.
- Listen: If you have any interest in the carnivore diet or paleo this is a super interesting podcast on Bulletproof Radio.
- Read: Is carbonated water as healthy as still water?
Thanks to all who read this far! I appreciate you.
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