Multivitamins: Substitute for vegetables and fruits?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, less than a third of adults eat the recommended amount of vegetables each day. And although most Americans 2 to 3 years of age consume recommended amounts of total fruits, those over the age of 4 do not.

For some people, supplements may be a useful way to get some important nutrients if they can’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. But before you decide to quit eating vegetables and fruits, consider the facts.

Vitamins and Minerals

Vegetables and fruits contribute important amounts of valuable minerals including magnesium and potassium as well as vitamins including vitamins A, C, K, and folate. Eating adequate amounts of vegetables and fruits is important because these nutrients are underconsumed in the average American diet. For people with certain health problems or those on restrictive diets, supplements may be beneficial for meeting vitamin and mineral needs.

Chronic Disease Risk

Fruits and vegetables contain naturally occurring substances called phytochemicals not found in supplements. Because of the presence of phytochemicals, consumption of vegetables and fruits is associated with decreased risk of many chronic diseases including high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. Many vegetables and fruits are also good sources of antioxidants, substances that help to slow cell and tissue damage. Although some supplements contain antioxidants, vegetables and fruits contain an unmatchable array of antioxidants for maximum benefit.

Calories and Fiber

Most vegetables and fruits are naturally low in calories because they typically have high fiber and water content and low fat content. This means that eating them instead of higher calorie foods can help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Fiber is also beneficial because it helps to manage constipation and prevent type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Multivitamins lack the fiber to help with weight management, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.

My Conclusion

Multivitamins can be a good supplement (not replacement) for vegetable and fruit intake if you are unable to meet your needs though food alone. Before taking a supplement, contact me or another Registered Dietitian if you are concerned that you are not getting enough.

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