You can't depend on multivitamins to get the healthiest nutrients you need to thrive. In fact, University of Hawaii researchers looked at 180,000 men and women and found multivitamin users didn't live any longer or have lower rates of cancer and heart disease than people who didn't reach for the daily pills. Luckily, you can nourish your body, fight fatigue, and ward off disease by introducing the right nutrient-rich foods into your life.
Why You Need It: They act like powerful antioxidants, scrubbing away harmful free radicals that can damage cells, cause inflammation, and fuel chronic disease.
Your Daily Dose: Not established
Top Sources: Blueberries, red cabbage, eggplant, blackberries, black raspberries, cranberries, red grapes, strawberries, plums, purple potatoes, black currants, black rice, beets, cherries
Bonus Tip: Opt for organic anthocyanin-loaded produce whenever you can, especially berries. Environmental Working Group ranks nonorganic strawberries and blueberries among the most pesticide-contaminated fruits.
Why You Need It: Vital to bone health, proper calcium levels also help balance your hormones while maintaining artery, vein, and muscle function.
Your Daily Dose: 1,000 milligrams
Top Sources: Milk, cheese, yogurt, kale, tofu
Bonus Tip: Organic milk from grass-fed cows contains significantly higher levels of heart- and brain-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Why You Need It: Carotenoids may protect against cancer, keep plaque from building up on your arteries, and strengthen mucous membranes to keep harmful germs out of your body. Some carotenoids help protect your vision, too, warding off macular degeneration.
Your Daily Dose: Not established
Top Sources: Carrots, winter squash, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, spinach, kale, apricots, red bell peppers, mangoes, brussels sprouts, tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato juice, watermelon
Bonus Tip: Eat a collection of different carotenoid-containing foods listed above, since individual ones help protect your body in different ways.
Why You Need It: Fiber helps keep your digestive tract operating regularly, regulates blood sugar, and also binds with cholesterol in the gut, helping to ward off heart disease. Getting enough fiber helps you feel full and could prevent overeating and weight gain.
Your Daily Dose: 25 grams
Top Sources: Barley, pears, black beans and other beans, oat bran, oatmeal, apples, lentils, bulgur, artichokes, raspberries, pumpkin, broccoli, sweet potatoes
Bonus Tip: Avoid the temptation to reach for fiber-enhanced junk food. These convenience foods lack the phytonutrient, vitamin, and antioxidant advantages you'll get from fiber-rich whole foods.
Why You Need It: Cells can't multiple and divide properly without proper folate levels. Adequate levels eaten by pregnant women also help prevent birth defects. Folate could even protect against heart disease, depression, and Alzheimer's disease.
Your Daily Dose: 400 micrograms
Top Sources: Broccoli, spinach, asparagus, lentils, avocado, papaya, corn, peanuts
Bonus Tip: The Food and Drug Administration suggests getting folate that occurs naturally in certain foods, along with eating some foods fortified with folic acid, the synthetic form of the nutrient.
Why You Need It: Iron helps make the body synthesize DNA, regulate cell growth, and oxygenate muscle. Not getting enough iron could cause depression, trouble processing thoughts, and weight gain.
Your Daily Dose: 18 milligrams
Top Sources: Oysters, lentils, beef, turkey, tuna, chicken, pork, crab, beans, tofu, fortified cereals, oatmeal
Bonus Tip: To optimize iron absorption, pair iron-containing foods with vitamin C–rich foods or meat. (Note: Your body more readily absorbs heme iron, the type found in meat and seafood, than it does plant-based non-heme iron.)
Why You Need It: Essential for more than 300 cell reactions, magnesium keeps your nervous system happily firing messages off to your brain, builds bone, and regulates muscle contraction, 101 Recipes You Can't Live Without points out.
Your Daily Dose: 400 milligrams
Top Sources: Pumpkin seeds, edamame, Swiss chard, almonds, spinach, cashews, oatmeal, pinto beans, brown rice
Bonus Tip: Getting magnesium from food can help ease PMS, provide headache relief, and promote better sleep. Look for organic pumpkin seeds for an economical, potent source of magnesium.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Why You Need It: These all-star fats are required for healthy cell membrane functioning, and they help block the release of inflammatory compounds that can raise your risk of diseases like diabetes.
Your Daily Dose: 1,000 milligrams
Top Sources: Salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, sardines, trout, walnuts, flaxseeds, organic canola oil, dark leafy greens
Bonus Tip: When cruising the seafood aisle for omega-3s, stay away from salmon from the Atlantic or an unidentified source—it was likely farmed in filthy conditions. Instead, look for wild-caught Alaskan salmon. When looking for mackerel, choose Atlantic, not king or Spanish, which could be much higher in contaminants.
Why You Need It: This mineral helps regulate the among of sodium in your body, a process vital for healthy blood pressure. It also helps protect against stroke, and kidney stones.
Your Daily Dose: 3,500 milligrams
Top Sources: Beets, dates, white beans, raisins, lima beans, figs, salmon, mushrooms, chicken breast, clams, sweet potatoes, potatoes, apricots, avocado, cantaloupe, honeydew, nectarines, milk, yogurt, oat bran
Bonus Tip: While everyone things bananas are the go-to source for magnesium, look to things like little red potatoes. Compared to a large banana with 474 milligrams of potassium, a single small red baked potato packs 750 milligrams!
Why You Need It: This vitamin supports your metabolism, keeps your nervous system working properly, and helps with the formation of red blood cells, which you need to oxygenate your body. It also may help fight depression, alleviate migraines, and protect eye health.
Your Daily Dose: 6 micrograms
Top Sources: Clams, eggs, crab, beef, trout, salmon, tuna, haddock, milk, yogurt
Bonus Tip: Since vitamin B12 is bound to protein in food, seafood and animal products are the best sources. If you choose salmon, opt for wild-caught—it's higher in omega-3s and lower in contaminants typically found in farmed (aka Atlantic) salmon.
Why You Need It: Adequate vitamin C levels help reduce wrinkles, absorb damaging free radicals, and aid in neurotransmitter production, wound healing, and metabolizing of protein.
Your Daily Dose: 60 milligrams
Top Sources: Brussels sprouts, strawberries, red bell peppers, oranges, kiwi, green bell peppers, broccoli, grapefruit, tomato juice, cantaloupe, cabbage
Bonus Tip: Don't only rely on citrus for vitamin C. A red pepper contains nearly twice the vitamin C of a medium navel orange! Just choose organic to avoid pesticide residues inside and outside of the pepper.
Why You Need It: Vitamin D is essential for bone health, but it also may help keep cancer from spreading. Adequate D levels could protect you from developing type 2 diabetes.
Your Daily Dose: 400 IU
Top Sources: Sardines, wild salmon, milk, tuna, yogurt, eggs, Swiss cheese
Bonus Tip: Get your vitamin D levels checked at your doctor's office. If you're low, you may need a higher dose, likely through supplements, to bring your levels up.
Why You Need It: Vitamin E is like the cleanup crew, acting like an antioxidant that destroys free radicals, unstable molecules that can damage DNA and promote disease. That makes it a key nutrient to help neutralize the damage created by UV radiation and the everyday pollution we encounter.
Your Daily Dose: 30 IU
Top Sources: Peanuts, almonds, kiwi, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, mango, peanut butter, olive oil, spinach
Bonus Tip: Vitamin E has been shown to improve the response to vaccinations in older people whose immune systems don't always respond as robustly to the shots as needed.