This eating plan helps you consume the most popular vitamins for your health through your food. (Photo: Shutterstock)
I stopped by my friend Roseanna’s house the other day, but when I got there, I was totally confused; where the kitchen should have been, there was a miniature pharmacy instead. Bottles upon bottles of vitamins, minerals, herbal supplements — it looked like Elvis’s bathroom. “Where’s the actual food?” I asked.
“Oh, I don’t cook,” she said. “I make sure I’m covered with all my nutrients right here,” she said, pointing to a sea of plastic containers.
Well, I had some bad news for Roseanna: much of what she’s ingesting could be nothing more than vegetable dust and rice. According to four cease and desist letters filed earlier this year by the New York State attorney general’s office, many of the store-brand supps from popular retailers are stamped with falsified claims about key ingredients and health benefits.
What’s worse, some of the pills were found to contain substances that could be dangerous to those with allergies — one brand of “wheat- and gluten-free” supplements was made from little more than powdered radish and, yup—you guessed it — wheat. (Find out what’s really in your food with this Eat This, Not That! special report: 11 Secrets the Food Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know.)
What’s with all the chicanery? It’s simple: Dietary pills don’t go through the same strict regulatory FDA approval as traditional medications, so there’s no real oversight of what actually goes into those pills and powders. That’s why it’s so critical to focus on real food if you want to maximize your nutritional and weight loss benefits. To help you out, Eat This, Not That! checked in with Leah Kaufman, MS, RD, CDN, a New York City-based dietitian and Keri Gans, RD, author of The Small Change Diet, and created the dietary plan below that can help you consume some of the most popular vitamins and supplements through your food.
And make sure to stock up on the foods that will work hardest for your health, no proteins or pill required, with our definitive list of The 7 Healthiest Foods on the Planet!
Supp Swap #6: If You Take Calcium
Even if your supplement actually does contain all the bone-building mineral you need each day, but it’s not going to help; while you want to average about 1,000 mg daily, the body can only absorb 600 mg at a time, says Kaufman. Your solution? Consume foods rich in the nutrient all throughout the day. Mix oatmeal with a cup of 2% milk for breakfast, enjoy a Greek yogurt as an afternoon snack, make a kale and spinach side dish for dinner, or top some whole-grain crackers with two or three sardines and a squeeze of fresh lemon: Just 3 ounces serve up 325 mg, or 33 percent of the recommended daily intake.
Supp Swap #5: If You Take Fish Oil
Try: Chia pudding
You likely already know that belly-flattening, heart-healthy omega-3s are found in fatty fish like wild salmon, sardines and tuna. But seafood and supplements aren’t the only answer; the nutrient is also found in edamame, flax and chia seeds. To knock out 20 percent of your daily intake, try a simple pudding recipe: mix ¼ cup chia seeds, 2 Tbsp cocoa powder and 1 cup almond milk (add a dash of honey to sweeten), and let chill in your fridge for a few hours until it thickens. Fortified eggs and grass-fed beef are other great sources of this healthy fat—and grass-fed beef has more omega-3s than salmon! (And stock your kitchen with all of the 8 Best Fats for Weight Loss.)
Supp Swap # 4: If You Take Vitamin C
Try: Red bell pepper
You know about C-rich fruits like grapefruit and oranges, but in a recent study, red bell peppers were found to be the #1 most nutrition-packed piece of produce in the market (only leafy greens have more nutrients per volume). One cup will give you between 75 and 90 mg–that’s all the vitamin C you need for the day, and as much as you’d get from a large orange. Other sources of the nutrient include berries, dark green leafy veggies and tomatoes.
Supp Swap # 3: If You Take Biotin
Try: Chicken soup
“Biotin is generally used for hair, skin and nail growth,” explains Kaufman. However, instead of taking a supplement, she suggests sipping some hot broth made from chicken bones. Make a homemade batch (which is the most nutrient-dense bet) using the recipe in The 21-Day Belly Fix, or Pacific Foods makes a decent alternative that can be found at grocery and health food stores. Pair it with a salad as a quick grab-and-go lunch and you’ll have the 30 mcg you need for the day. And to perfect the rest of your looks—and to prevent the premature greying of hair, dull complexion, dark circles under your eyes and thinning hair—turn to this essential Eat This, Not That! list of 7 Foods That Make You Look Instantly Younger.
Supp Swap #2: If You Take Garlic Pills
Try: Fresh garlic and olive oil
Fresh garlic is a source of an antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral chemical called allicin. But because the chemical is also to blame for giving garlic its strong odor, some supplement manufactures age their garlic to rid it of its odor, which also reduces the chemical’s potency, explains Kaufman. Eating fresh garlic is always better because you will get the full protective benefits of allicin, she notes. Roast your favorite veggies in the oven and top with olive oil and crushed garlic to reap the benefits.
Supp Swap #1: If You Take Echinacea or Ginseng
Try: Herbal tea
If you’re one of the many people who pop an echinacea supplement at the first sign of the sniffles, we come bearing bad news: Consuming the flower may not be very effective. According to a 2015 study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, echinacea supplements have only a minor impact on the incidence of colds. Combine that with the unregulated contents of supplements, and you’re probably throwing hard-earned cash at nothing. A safer, more potent bet: an herbal tea that contains echinacea or ginseng tea. You’ll get the added benefit of blasting belly fat with every sip using one of our science-backed 5 Teas That Melt Fat.
By David Zinczenko
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