Multivitamins sometimes get a bad rap in the paleo world, especially from hard core nutrition folks who prefer everyone to get all their nutrients from food.
I get it. I feel the same way in a lot of respects.
I absolutely value the “food first” philosophy and think nothing is better than getting all of one’s essential nutrients from the food we eat everyday.
I’m also realistic.
I know that even among those who eat “paleo”, there are many people not getting as much of a given nutrient as they need.
Among those who eat a standard American diet several nutrients (like potassium, folate, and even calcium) can be severely lacking.
So I thought it might be worthwhile to write a post on why YOU might need a multivitamin.
Obviously, multivitamins aren’t for everyone. I personally don’t take them because I tend to have unpleasant side effects to them and prefer to get all my nutrients from food.
But many of you have wondered about this topic, so here it is!
3 Reasons you might need a multivitamin
1.. You don’t eat enough leafy greens
Leafy greens are the backbone of a healthy diet and a paleo diet is meant to be mostly plant based, despite popular opinion.
Ideally, everyone would have copious amounts of spinach, kale, and collard greens with every meal.
But hey, this is the real world after all and many of us struggle to get even one serving of leafy greens.
Many people eat what they believe to be a healthy paleo diet without every touching a leafy green, a couple cups a day of cruciferous veggies, green beans, and sweet potatoes and they think they’re getting the nutrients they need.
Nothing gives you a more power punched dose of important vitamins than leafy greens and if you aren’t eating them regularly, every day, you may not be getting enough of important nutrients.
For those who are curious, a website called cronometer.com can give you a wonderful look into the nitty gritty of exactly what nutrients you are getting. It maps more vitamins and minerals than any other program, it’s free, and I highly recommend it.
Please DO NOT use this as a tool for food obsession.
I like to recommend that people track a few days eating how they normally do, just to see what nutrients they are low on. Then, if you’d like to fill that gap, you can see how much a cup of steamed spinach might help close the gaps.
These are situations where a multivitamin can help as well.
Maybe you can’t stomach enough leafy greens to fill the gap yet. Take your multi while you practice consuming more vegetable matter and changing up your diet.
2. You don’t eat enough variety
As much as we try not to, many of us fall into ruts.
We tend to eat the same things: same meats, same veggies, same fats over and over again.
Sameness can help cut costs and make complicated meal decisions more simple.
Our planet has fewer than half the species of vegetables and fruits we used to have, and even fewer than those arrive at many people’s local grocery stores.
Americans tend to have access to the same set of vegetables and the same meat choices.
Rarely do we encounter strange organ meats or unusual animals.
That’s unfortunate because variety is the true key to proper nutrition.
If that’s not possible you for whatever reason: where you shop, your appetite, your intolerances, a good multivitamin can help bridge those nutrient gaps.
3. You don’t eat enough calories
This is a BIG one for women.
I wrote a post getting into some of this here.
But honestly, you can’t get enough nutrition if you’re not eating enough food.
Plain and simple.
Still, the practice persists.
If you are subsisting on fewer than 1,800 calories a day as a woman, whether because you are dieting or it’s all you’re hungry for, it would be best for you to eat more.
If you can’t or won’t do that, at least consider a multivitamin to help you out for the time being.
How to Find a Good Multivitamin
Not every supplement is created equal.
You can go on websites like consumerlabs.com where they have tested supplement claims and tested the amounts of nutrients truly contained in dietary supplements.
Some supplement companies WILL try to take advantage of an ignorant populous.
That doesn’t mean that all supplements are without value.
When looking for a good multivitamin you should look for a couple of the most important things.
First, those who eat a paleo diet with high levels of protein generally get enough Vitamin A so it’s not necessarily a great idea to get a lot of extra Vitamin A from a multivitamin.
Second, women and men should take different multivitamins.
Women need a multi with iron while pre-menopausal because they lose significant iron every month during menstruation. Same goes for women with PCOS or other estrogen dominant conditions that often have heavy periods, though intermittent.
Men, on the other hand, do not lose much iron and should not take a multi with iron as it could lead to toxicity.
Women who are considering pregnancy in the not-too-distant future or those who are pregnant might consider taking a prenatal multi because pregnant, lactating, and pre-preganant women trying to conceive need more calcium and folate among other things.
Choose a multi also that contains methylated versions of folate (methylfolate) and B-12 (methylcolbamin) because they are easier to absorb if you have problems methylating, which many do, and especially if you have the MTHFR gene mutation or PCOS.
In particular, I like this brand of multivitamin for women. Find it here. For most people eating a fairly healthy paleo diet, I don’t think the full dosage is necessary here, so monitor your own dietary intake and make decisions from there.
Obviously each person is an individual. You know what nutrients are necessary for you, so be inquisitive and empowered to make your own decisions!
Always remember that multivitamins are meant to bridge nutrient gaps. They aren’t meant to prevent cancer, treat disease, or cover up for an unhealthy lifestyle.
Do you take a multivitamin? What brand do you like and why?