Multivitamin Horse Pills – Do You NEED them?

Oh, F***.  It’s time to swallow my horse pills.  *Hopefully* I don’t choke like I did last week!

Several gulps of water later (hopefully not requiring a self-induced Heimlich maneuver), the pills are down.

vitamin pic

“I hope I can get this all down in one gulp!”

Does this sound familiar?  Chances are, if you’re into your health at all, you’ve probably taken or are taking a daily multivitamin of some sort.  But…do you really need to?

In seeking out the answer for myself, I decided to take a look at my diet.  While I don’t follow strict meal plans (I have calorie and macronutrient goals that I hit each day instead), what I’ve outlined below is the closest thing I have to my average/normal daily food intake.  Check it out:

Food Amount (g/oz.) Protein (g) Carbs (g) Fiber (g) Fats (g) Vitamin A (% RDV) Vitamin C (% RDV) Vitamin D (% RDV) Vitamin E (% RDV) Vitamin K (% RDV) Thiamin (% RDV) Riboflavin (% RDV) Niacin (% RDV) Vitamin B6 (% RDV) Folate (% RDV) Vitamin B12 (% RDV) Pantothenic Acid (% RDV) Calcium (% RDV) Iron (% RDV) Magnesium (% RDV) Phosphorus (% RDV) Potassium (% RDV) Sodium (% RDV) Zinc (% RDV) Copper (% RDV) Manganese (% RDV) Selenium (% RDV)
Spinach 12 oz. 8 12 8 0 792 36        – 48 1,560 24 48 12 24 120 0 0 48 36 60 12 36 12 12 24 120 24
Kale 12 oz. 8 12 8 0 420 216        – 20        – 12 24 12 12 12 0 0 48 12 12 12 36 0 0 12 72 0
Green Beans 12 oz. 4 20 8 0 36 72        – 12 192 24 12 12 12 12 0 0 12 12 24 12 12 0 0 12 60 0
Onions 12 oz. 0 24 4 0 0 36        – 0 0 12 0 0 2 12 0 0 12 0 12 12 12 0 0 12 24 0
Brussels sprouts 8 oz. 8 16 8 0 24 280        –          –        – 16 16 8 24 72 0 8 8 8 8 16 24 0 8 0 36 8
Broccoli 8 oz. 8 12 8 0 48 208        – 16 228 8 16 8 16 40 0 8 16 8 8 8 16 0 8 8 32 8
Sweet Potato 24 oz. 10 120 21 0 1,896 24        – 0 24 24 24 24 72 24 0 24 24 24 48 24 72 24 24 48 96 0
Basmati Rice 185 g 12 132 4 0 0 0        – 1 0 71 5 39 15 107 0 19 5 44 12 21 6 0 13 20 101 40
4 Whole Eggs 224 g 28 0 0 20 20 0 20 12 0 12 64 0 16 28 48 32 12 24 8 44 8 12 16 12 4 100
Whole Milk 28 oz. 28 42 0 28 28 0 84 0 0 28 84 0 28 0 56 28 84 0 28 84 28 28 28 28 28 28
Chicken Thighs 40 oz. 220 0 0 60 0 0         – 0 40 40 120 360 200 40 80 120 0 80 80 200 80 40 160 40 0 200
Coconut Oil 14 g 0 0 0 14
Skinny Cow 3 (sandwiches) 12 90 9 6 24 0 60 6
346 480 78 128 3288 872 104 109 2,044 271 413 475 421 467 184 239 329 254 300 445 330 116 269 216 573 408
Totals 134 w/ Fish Oil
Calories: 4,510
(inc. 6 g Fish Oil)
Targets:
Calories: 4,506
Protein 345 g
Carbs 480 g
Fats 134 g

Calorie-wise, this is what I’ve been eating the past several weeks, so it’s a good barometer for what a “typical” day of food is for me at the moment.  I took what I ate today, put it into Excel, and then looked up the nutrient profile for each food and put the % RDVs for all of the vitamins and minerals that have % RDVs in the table.  These are the vitamins and minerals you’d typically find in any multivitamin.  Then, I ran the sum function to add everything up.

As you can see, I was basically spot on with my target goals, with the exception of protein being 346 g instead of 345 g.  But the macro totals don’t matter – those are tailored to my specific goals and training demands. What’s very interesting is what the table shows about my vitamin and mineral profile for the day’s food.

Looking at the vitamin and mineral % RDV totals, I’ve eaten well above the RDVs for every single one of them.  In fact, all but three of them (Vitamin D, Vitamin E, and Vitamin B12) are well above 200% RDV (so if you literally halved the proportions of my food for today, I would’ve exceed the % RDVs for everything except for those three vitamins).  

Special Note: You’ll see that my sodium value is 116%, but I don’t include this mineral in the ‘below 200’ category because through my preparation of the foods above, the amount of salt I add takes that 116% total to about 300%.

That’s all fine and dandy, but what’s really interesting in viewing this data is seeing where the vitamins and minerals come from.

The vegetables certainly carry the day with regards to their contribution to my daily vitamin and mineral count.  Even for Vitamin E, they helped me get up to 96% of the 109% RDV I ended up with.   However, in the other two areas I was weakest in on this particular day (Vitamin D and Vitamin B12), they gave no contribution.

If you look at where I got my Vitamin D and Vitamin B12 from, it was exclusively from meat and dairy products.

Even though you might not be eating anything like me, this data has pertinent insights for everyone.  If you’re a vegan or vegetarian, chances are that regardless of how much of the “good stuff” you’re chowing down on (i.e. veggies and fruits), you’re probably deficient in Vitamin D and Vitamin B12 – and this is especially true for vegans, as vegetarians can still get decent amounts of Vitamin D and Vitamin B12 through their consumption of dairy and egg products.

What can you do?  Don’t worry, there’s plenty you can do!

For one, get out in the sun.  Just 20-30 minutes of solid sun exposure each day can correct Vitamin D deficiencies.  Also, if you’re vegan, you should seek out foods fortified with Vitamin B12, as it’s a vitamin that’s generally found in most animal products.  

Certain brands of kombucha will claim that their kombucha has Vitamin B12 in it (which is possible since it’s made by a symbiosis between bacteria and yeast), but there aren’t any scientific studies that demonstrate whether or not this purported Vitamin B12 in kombucha is biologically active (read: useful) B12.

Conversely, if you’re a meat-eating fiend and you shun vegetables at the table, chances are you’re missing out on getting a whole bunch of nutrition from those delicious veggies (not to mention fiber).  Although I didn’t list it in the table, I do have a fiber goal: I make sure that I eat at least 1.5 g of fiber per 100 calories consumed (so in the case of a 4,500 calorie day, my fiber goal would be 67.5 g).

The one staple I have in my diet every single day is 4 lbs. of vegetables (the spinach, kale, green beans, onions, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli), and I’ve recently been having lots of sweet potatoes as well, so that total the past three weeks has been up to 5.5 lbs. of vegetables per day (on this particular day, I did – in fact – eat the 5.5 lbs. that I’ve recently been hitting).  

By making sure that I always get tons of vegetables in, I virtually guarantee that I’m getting most of my vitamin and mineral % RDVs from whole foods.

Anything that’s not covered by the veggies is always covered by whatever else I’m eating, as the 4 lbs. of vegetables I always eat only totals 528 calories, and the 1.5 lbs. of sweet potatoes I’ve also been eating recently is only another 530 calories.

At a combined 1,058 calories, I have almost 3,500 calories left to hit the rest of my vitamins and minerals, and that’s never a problem.  With meat, dairy, and eggs, the Vitamin D and Vitamin B12 get to the levels they need to be at.  As you can see, I even fit in some junk, dirty, unclean, garbage treat foods into my diet with relative ease.

The one negative thing about consuming processed, packaged, and/or foods that aren’t entirely “whole” foods (such as the ice cream sandwiches) is that it’s virtually impossible to get a complete picture of the total nutrition of the item(s) in question.

I scoured Skinny Cow’s site for more detailed vitamin and mineral info, but all I found was the same stuff that was provided on the packaging. So even though no Vitamin D is listed on the packaging, odds are that there’s probably some in each of those sandwiches, as they’re predominantly made from dairy products.

Oh, one more thing…you’ll see that I also had 6 g of fish oil pills today.  I always make sure to get in 6 g of fish oil daily if I’m not eating a decent amount of a fatty fish (such as salmon) that day.  Fish oil is something I’d highly recommend supplementing with, and the benefits are so innumerable that if I were to write them in this post, it would be great just make this post way too long.

The bottom line is this:  If you’re eating a ton of vegetables – as you should be – you’re probably getting most of the vitamins and minerals you need from your diet.  However, there are certain vitamins that may be problem areas for you.  If that’s the case, then supplementing your diet with a multivitamin isn’t such a bad idea.

"Getting some quality sunshine each day isn't a bad idea, either!"

“Getting some quality sunshine each day isn’t a bad idea, either!”

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