Multivitamins: How to get the essential vitamins and minerals you need

Multivitamins: How to get the essential vitamins and minerals you need

There are essential vitamins our bodies need to function properly and stay healthy, and while our bodies are incredible, we can’t produce these vitamins on our own. It can be hard to know what vitamins you should be taking every day, but adding a regular multivitamin and mineral supplement to your wellness routine may be the answer.

13 essential vitamins
Essential vitamins are essential for a reason: they’re vital for things like growth and development, heart and blood cell function, bone health, vision, and our immune system. Multivitamins offer a convenient mix of these essential vitamins and minerals in various amounts and combinations.

Vitamin A
Why it’s important: Good for vision, skin, growth and development, and immune and reproductive systems.
How to get it: Carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli, and winter squash.

Vitamin C
Why it’s important: Supports immune system function, wound healing, and iron absorption.
How to get it: Citrus, red peppers, kiwis, strawberries, broccoli, and tomatoes.

Vitamin D
Why it’s important: Reduces inflammation and helps us absorb calcium for good bone and muscle health, which is important as we age.
How to get it: Safe sun exposure, salmon, tuna, beef liver, eggs, mushrooms, and fortified foods including soy, oat, and almond milks.

Vitamin E
Why it’s important: Supports immune system and blood vessel health.
How to get it: Nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, and leafy green vegetables (e.g., spinach).

Vitamin K
Why it’s important: Essential for blood clotting and bone health.
How to get it: Leafy green vegetables (e.g., kale and spinach), vegetable oils, meats, cheeses, eggs, and soybeans.

Thiamin (B1)
Why it’s important: Good for growth and development and cell function and helps the body turn food into energy.
How to get it: Whole grains, meat, fish, black beans, seeds, and nuts.

Riboflavin (B2)
Why it’s important: Helps with growth and cell function.
How to get it: Eggs, meats (e.g., kidney and liver), mushrooms, spinach, fortified cereals, and bread.

Niacin (B3)
Why it’s important: Transforms food into energy and helps with cell function.
How to get it: Poultry, pork, beef, fish, nuts, legumes, fortified bread, and cereals.

Pantothenic acid (B5)
Why it’s important: Helps the body make and break down fats and converts food to energy.
How to get it: Beef, poultry, eggs, milk, seafood, mushrooms, avocados, whole grains, peanuts, and chickpeas.

Why it’s important: Vital for metabolism and promotes brain and immune function in infants and the womb.
How to get it: Chickpeas, fish, beef liver, potatoes, and some fruits (except for citrus).

Biotin (B7)
Why it’s important: Helps the body convert carbohydrates, fats, and proteins from food into energy and can be good for hair, nails, and skin.
How to get it: Meat, fish, eggs, seeds, nuts, spinach, broccoli, and sweet potatoes.

Why it’s important: Essential for healthy blood and nerve cells and helps your cells make DNA.
How to get it: Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, clams, and some fortified cereals and nutritional yeasts.

Why it’s important: Needed to make genetic material and help cell division. Especially important for growth and development during pregnancy.
How to get it: Dark leafy greens, asparagus, oranges, nuts, beans, peas, and fortified bread and cereal.

Knowing all 13 essential vitamins and what food has them is a good start, but you might need a little help getting the right amounts.


7 reasons essential vitamins and minerals might be missing from your routine.
Despite our best efforts (i.e., eating a pound of spinach), there are multiple reasons we aren’t getting the vitamins and minerals we need on a daily basis.

  • Age: Getting older means our bodies don’t absorb nutrients the way they used to, especially vitamins like D and B12.
  • Diet: If your meals are largely plant-based, you might be missing out on iron, calcium, and vitamins like B12.
  • Lifestyle: Excessive drinking or eating out can make it hard to get the multiple vitamins you need every day.
  • Location: Living in a food desert means your access to affordable, nutritious food is limited.
  • Time: We don’t always have the time to go shopping and prepare balanced meals, and the convenient choices don’t usually give us the nutrition we need.
  • Digestive health: If you have celiac disease or other digestive problems, you might have issues absorbing vitamin D and iron.
  • Pregnancy: If you’re expecting, your body needs more nutrients than usual to encourage healthy fetal development.


What information should be considered when selecting a multivitamin
It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the options, but there are a few things to keep in mind when choosing a multivitamin supplement, says Barbara Kovalenko, registered dietician.

Multivitamins come in tablets (chewable and not), capsules, powders, liquids, and gummies. Gummies are popular, but they usually contain sugar (2g to 8g per serving) or sugar substitutes, have a limited shelf-life, are less potent, and may be missing some essential nutrients.

Most multivitamins have a mix of different vitamins and minerals and often provide supportive nutrients like green tea extract, lutein, and lycopene. Look for one that has 100% of the essential vitamins you need, and check the label to make sure there aren’t any artificial fillers, additives, or allergens (e.g., gluten, soy, dairy).

Your healthcare provider should be able to assess any potential risks, but make sure they’re aware if you’re on blood thinners, have ever smoked, or are pregnant, each of which could impact your vitamin needs according to the National Institutes of Health.

How to incorporate a multivitamin into your regular routine
For vitamins to be effective, you have to take them correctly and consistently. When you take your multivitamin doesn’t really matter, but taking it with food is a good idea. Try adding some fat or black pepper to your meal, both of which can be helpful for the absorption of many vitamins.

While everyone can benefit from taking vitamins, it may be especially important if you’re pregnant, over 50, vegan or vegetarian, have a darker complexion or limited sun exposure, live with digestive illness, or have gone through weight-loss surgery, each of which could contribute to vitamin deficiencies. Check with your healthcare provider about the amount of vitamins and minerals you should take and how they might interact with current medications.

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