The People's Perspective on Medicine

Can You Get All Your Vitamins from Your Diet?

To get all your vitamins from your diet, you'll need to pay attention to eating very nutritious food and avoiding medications that can block nutrients.

Do you take vitamin pills? How do you know you are getting all your vitamins? What about the time-honored advice to get the vitamins you need from your diet? Many doctors offer this advice. How well does it work?

How Can You Get All Your Vitamins from Your Diet?

Q. My husband asked his new doctor to review his medication. The physician okayed his blood pressure pills, statin, Prilosec and thyroid medicine. But he said to stop all vitamins except vitamin D.

This doctor said my husband should get his vitamins from his diet. He had been taking calcium, a multivitamin, folic acid, magnesium and fish oil for years.

My husband works full time and gets home late at night. As a result, he eats a quick snack rather than a real meal in the evening. My basic question is: could he be lacking any nutrients if he stops taking his supplements?

Will a Quick Snack Provide All Your Vitamins?

A. When we think of a quick snack, we think of something like cheese and crackers, a bowl of cold cereal with milk, possibly a sandwich or a burger. We don’t imagine a plate full of vegetables or a big bowl of salad.

Yet the vegetables (and some fruit, of course) are where the lion’s share of vitamins reside. So unless your husband has an unusual snacking style, he might not be getting all the vitamins he might need from what he is eating.

Medicines That Interfere with Getting All Your Vitamins:

It is also possible that his other medicines might be hampering his body’s ability to get adequate nutrients. Acid-suppressing drugs like omeprazole (Prilosec) or esomeprazole (Nexium) can deplete the body of vitamin B12 and magnesium.

Statins can reduce levels of coenzyme Q10, and ACE inhibitor blood pressure medicines can lower levels of zinc, coenzyme Q10, and magnesium. ACE inhibitors may also boost potassium levels.

We don’t know if your husband’s blood pressure pills include an ACE inhibitor like lisinopril. Other antihypertensive drugs such as calcium-channel blockers or diuretics can affect different nutrients. Any of these could make it more difficult to get all your vitamins from your diet. To learn more about these interactions, we recommend a book by Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, Fortify Your Life: Your Guide to Vitamins, Minerals, and More.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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I was excited to see this topic heading and hoped I might be able to get some good info, but alas, no…

Eley, from Alberta (above), succinctly states the same problem I have. I am simply almost NEVER HUNGRY anymore; and often I’m not just un-hungry but the thought of eating food almost nauseates me. Many times the ONLY reason I eat food is to take my supplements, which I’ve researched and tweaked relentlessly as I read study results, info on the web, etc. I’m very conservative with the dosages (less than per package directions); but that said, I do take a LOT of supplements — about 25 different ones per day. Many are herbs, greens, cranberry, bilberry, adaptogens, immune boosters, etc. — not just “vitamins.”

The food I eat is extremely healthy in every way, and nutrient-dense. I just don’t eat enough of it to even hope to meet the minimal “servings per day” requirements that you always hear about. So I take the supplements! And always with food, of course. But I really have no idea if my “total package” of food and supplements is optimal for me, or even sufficient, and it’s very very difficult to find anyone to answer such questions without spending boucoup $$$ to get a fancy nutritionist, expensive blood tests, etc.

To complicate the situation further, some drs recommend “intermittent fasting,” which just makes the nutritional situation even more dicey.

All the time we hear this: We should get 5 servings of this, 4 of that, 5 of the other, every day… And: We shouldn’t take supplements but get all our nutrition from food! I’m sure I’m not the only one who cannot possibly get all those servings under my belt every single day, yet really don’t know for sure which supplements to use, and in what dosages, to make up the difference. There are very few (if any!) articles which try to bring the whole thing together and give some general advice. The advice about any particular supplement is always in its own little contex and is quite often inconsistent with other articles about the same supplement. And, of course, all the info seems to change constantly. It takes a ton of work and time to even hope to get a basic take on something, and even then you can’t be sure if it’s right. Sheesh! Thank you and cheers from Seattle.

I’d like to find a multi-vitamin which does not stimulate my heart. Something’s in them, even the children’s size does not agree with me.

I wish there was list given that shows what vitamins are beneficial without all of the extra additives. I take so many it’s insane.

Medical schools are funded by pharmaceutical companies? That sounds like yet another conspiracy theory. Is there any evidence to support such a statement? If there is, please present it.

I take only non-GMO organic whole food and herb vitamins and supplements are from reliable companies with as few ingredients as possible. That way I know that whatever I am taking will be assimilated with or without food. I also drink filtered water and only use glass for food storage and water bottles to avoid hormone disrupters. Researching ingredients in supplements and herbs provides better understanding as to what is needed. It is important to pay attention to one’s body and what it is telling you.

What store or online store would you suggest for low Ferritin and Vitamin D?

Vitamins are not generated by the body. Vitamins come from food. Most people do not eat healthy foods. Where then, will they get vitamins and minerals? Answer: vitamin and mineral supplements. Don’t be misguided by people who have their own agenda. I am an engineer and worked in the oil industry my working career. I have no agenda other than promoting common sense.

People’s Pharmacy has published a number of articles about studies showing fish oil increased the likelihood of prostate cancer. I think that should have been mentioned in your response.

it would be nice if the vitamin you should take were put on here. I hardly eat any thing, and take a lot of vit. but are they the right ones?

Doctors receive their education in medical schools that are funded by pharmaceutical companies. They are trained to believe that supplements of all kinds are unnecessary while pharmaceutical medication is essential. It was back in the 1970s that I first heard that old line about a person getting all the vitamins one needs from one’s diet – and the average American diet has gotten a lot worse since then. No one eats that well!

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